Saturday, May 6, 2006

CIA Director Porter J. Goss resigned abruptly yesterday, leaving a post he held for less than two years and becoming the latest high-level administration official to be ensnared in a White House shake-up.

Mr. Goss, widely unpopular among senior officials in the intelligence community and blamed for repeated leaks in recent months, called President Bush yesterday morning to offer his resignation. “I’ve accepted it,” the president said.

Yesterday’s announcement was hastily arranged, with the two men speaking briefly to reporters in the Oval Office, just before Mr. Bush departed for an afternoon bike ride.

Mr. Bush dodged questions about a possible successor, but Time magazine reported on its Web site late last night that the president planned to name Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden to the post, possibly as soon as Monday.

Gen. Hayden, the principal deputy director of national intelligence, previously served as director of the National Security Agency and was one of the chief architects of the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretap program.

Among others mentioned as possible replacements were Richard Armitage, the former deputy secretary of state who administration officials say has been lobbying for the job; Frances Fragos Townsend, Mr. Bush’s homeland security adviser; David Shedd, chief of staff to Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte; and Mary Margaret Graham, Mr. Negroponte’s deputy for intelligence collection.

The president yesterday praised the departing CIA director for his service.

“I appreciate his integrity. … Porter’s tenure at the CIA was one of transition, where he’s helped this agency become integrated into the intelligence community. And that was a tough job, and he’s led ably,” Mr. Bush said. “He honors the proud history of the CIA, an organization that is known for its secrecy and accountability.”

Mr. Goss was equally gracious.

“It has been a very distinct honor and privilege to serve you, of course, the people of the country, and the employees of the Central Intelligence Agency,” he said, seated next to the president. “I can tell you the trust and confidence you’ve placed in me and given me, the latitude to work, is something I could never have imagined, and I am most grateful for it.”

A senior administration official said Mr. Goss’ resignation came after Mr. Negroponte, with the support of the president, raised with the CIA director the possibility of his departure.

One U.S. official said the resignation was related to “tensions” with Mr. Negroponte over proposed reforms within the agency.

“Director Goss was standing up for the CIA because it should remain just that — central,” the official said. “There was a concern about the erosion of capabilities that is essential to the agency’s ability to accomplish its mission.”

Mr. Goss also clashed with senior CIA officials within the directorate of operations, the agency’s espionage branch. Operations officials regarded the former Republican congressman from Florida and his group of aides, many of whom came to the CIA with him from Capitol Hill, as political appointees who were politicizing the agency.

Two former senior administration officials who worked closely with Mr. Bush said they had heard Mr. Goss had grown frustrated by being demoted to second-in-command for U.S. intelligence. Although he had briefed the president daily after he took the top CIA post in September 2004, Mr. Goss was replaced in that role two months later by Mr. Negroponte, when the position of national intelligence director was created.

“For Porter Goss, it’s not the same deal he took when he first signed up,” one former senior administration official said. “This was part of the growing pains for the agency, and he didn’t fit in.”

Another former Bush official said Mr. Goss “was simply caught up in the changes going on across the administration, but especially at the CIA.” The official said that Mr. Bush continues to be unhappy with the quality of U.S. intelligence, not only the faulty information on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, but also failures that led to the September 11 attacks.

“The president still doesn’t have confidence in intelligence, and he’s looking to the top of the CIA to change that,” the official said. Still, the official added that Mr. Negroponte had worked to consolidate power and had pressed Mr. Bush for the removal of Mr. Goss.

Mr. Goss’ resignation comes as his executive director, Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, is being investigated by the CIA’s inspector general. The IG is probing agency contracts awarded to companies owned by Brent Wilkes, who is at the center of an FBI bribery investigation that netted a guilty plea from former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, California Republican. Cunningham served on the House Appropriations and Intelligence committees.

Mr. Goss had promoted Mr. Foggo, who served as a midlevel procurement official, to executive director, the No. 3 post in charge of agency administration. Mr. Foggo is a longtime friend of Mr. Wilkes.

Cunningham admitted taking bribes from Mr. Wilkes, defense contractor Mitchell Wade and two other co-conspirators. He is serving more than eight years in prison. Mr. Wade has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the FBI.

Mr. Foggo, through a CIA statement, denied any wrongdoing and said all contracts were properly awarded.

“Mr. Foggo has overseen many contracts in his decades of public service. He reaffirms that they were properly awarded and administered,” the CIA said.

Mr. Wilkes’ attorney told the Wall Street Journal his client is innocent.

A senior administration official, who asked not to be named, said yesterday that Mr. Goss’ resignation was not linked in any way to the Foggo or Cunningham investigations. The official said the White House did an extensive check and was assured that Mr. Goss is not under suspicion.

“Allegations that there’s any connection are false,” White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino added.

Mr. Goss’ resignation follows other high-level departures, including that of Andrew H. Card Jr. as chief of staff and press secretary Scott McClellan.

• Rowan Scarborough contributed to this article.

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