This article was last modified on December 7, 2004.

Porter Goss: The Wrong Man For The Job

After the resignation of George Tenet as Director of Central Intelligence on June 3, the man who took the front of the line to replace him was none other than Porter Johnston Goss. Goss, a former CIA employee and then-politician, was a favorite of George W. Bush and was appointed to Tenet’s chair in August 2004. By November, it became increasingly clear to those in the media that Goss was the wrong man for the job, and even his Deputy Director, John McLaughlin, resigned due to the difficulties of working with Goss. My contention is not only that Porter Goss is not fit to be the Director, but the right man was none other than the man he forced out — John McLaughlin.

Too Political

The biggest and most glaring issue with Goss is his directing a strictly apolitical organization while continuing to hold staunch Republican views. The issue is not being Republican or Democrat, but simply politics in general. While the CIA is designed as primarily an intelligence gathering agency, there exists little doubt the information gathered can be skewed one way or another depending on the light in which it has been presented. And don’t doubt for a moment that Goss would not favor an interpretation in line with the President, as his allegiance to the president (rather than objectivity) has been evident.

On November 15, 2004 Goss e-mailed his staff the following note. “We support the administration, and its policies, in our work as agency employees. We do not identify with, support or champion opposition to the administration or its policies. We provide the intelligence as we see it — and let the facts alone speak to the policy-maker.” CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano assured the media this message was taken out of context , calling this memo, “a statement about the nonpartisan nature of what this agency does.” But others had their doubts.

Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, feels the memo needs “to be explored.” She added that, “I think it was not an even-handed memo. As I look at the intelligence community, it should not ‘support’ or ‘oppose’ an administration. It should be professional, factual and give the best possible analysis, regardless of where the chips may fall.” She points to news reports that Goss has been asked to remove people he felt were too liberal for a CIA position (again, the emphasis should be “too extremist” rather than a partisan preference).

Another sign his political views are coming with him is the porting over of his aides from his office in Congress rather than using aides from the CIA. These new aides have lead to disagreements with CIA officials, at least two of which have resigned. Both Steven Kappes and Michael J. Sulick (top leaders in the CIA’s clandestine branch) resigned hours before the memo was sent out. And Deputy Director John Michael Scheuer, the head of CIA’s team in search of bin Laden, quit four days prior. A few days later, John McLaughlin resigned. If nothing else, this is a disturbing trend and a shakeup of necessary figures in the intelligence community when we need them most.

The list of opportunities Goss took in his role as an intelligence leader to be partisan is daunting.

McLaughlin, my pick for Director, was by contrast almost completely unconnected to the political field and his only known interest was in the Central Intelligence Agency. His only political venture was both brief and long ago: serving as an aide for one year of a Democratic representative.

The USA Patriot Act

Along with the political affiliation issue, there remains the fact that one of his greatest achievements in recent years was the USA Patriot Act. This Act, which has close ties to the intelligence community through its broadening of the way in which our government can collect information, has been widely condemned by many people as an illegal encroachment on our civil liberties. Again, the issue here is not whether or not the Patriot Act infringes on our liberties (that could be discussed in detail by itself), but simply the fact that his role in creating and pushing for this law has made Goss a controversial and polarizing figure.

Porter Goss In His Own Words

What might be the most damning (or at least thought-provoking) evidence against the appointment of Goss are his own comments on the matter of him rejoining the CIA. In an interview with Michael Moore on March 3, 2004 he stated, “It is true I was in CIA from approximately the late 50’s to approximately the early 70’s. And it’s true I was a case officer, clandestine services office and yes, I do understand the core mission of the business. I couldn’t get a job with CIA today. I am not qualified. I don’t have the language skills. I, you know, my language skills were romance languages and stuff. We’re looking for Arabists today. I don’t have the cultural background probably. And I certainly don’t have the technical skills, uh, as my children remind me every day, ‘Dad you got to get better on your computer.’ Uh, so, the things that you need to have, I don’t have.” While one could rationalize that this statement only applies to entry-level positions, the fact remains Goss does not have the basic skills to deal with today’s terrorist networks. Furthermore, if he retired in 1970, he could hardly claim to know how things operate anymore.

On another occasion in mid-2004, he claimed the CIA was becoming “a stilted bureaucracy incapable of even the slightest bit of success,” which would make one wonder why he would agree to head the organization.

Bad Policies Lead To Bad Agencies

That Goss will be running a much more destructive and covert spy network is easy to deduce from his past and possibly current institution of immoral policies. While chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (a position Goss held from 1996 through 2004), he made one of his priorities the laxation of a law banning the assassination of foreign leaders. The CIA having a long history of assassinations (primarily in South America) and propping up of failed puppet governments would seem to scream that this practice is not only blatantly immoral and illegal, but almost always leads to failure regardless.

An interesting fact is that Goss himself was an agent in Central and South America through the 1960s and 1970s. While sworn to secrecy on the exact nature of his work, he had admitted he was assigned to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico. According to a 2002 interview with the Washington Post, he did some “small-boat handling,” which led to “some very interesting moments in the Florida Straits.” And his time in the CIA was not simply as a spy, but allegedly as a member of an assassination squad known as Operation Forty. A photo from 1963 shows Goss dining at a table with known assassins like Felix Rodriguez, drug smugglers like Barry Seal, Watergate burglar Frank Sturgis, and Bay of Pigs provocateurs (connecting him, at least indirectly, to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy). Goss has been claimed to have preferred car bombs as his method of attack, which is even more startling given what happened recently in South America.

Al Martin, a whistleblower for the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal, alleges Goss had a hand in the death of the lead Venezuelan investigator Danilo Anderson on November 18, 2004. Anderson was investigating the connection between the CIA and the failed coup of Hugo Chavez on April 12, 2002. His car exploded a day before he was set to make a press statement to the BBC. This connection is also suggested by Toni Solo, who notes the similarity between this bomb and the one which killed Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffit in Washington in 1976. That earlier bomb was set “by Cuban terrorists working for Augusto Pinochet and protected by the CIA.” Martin also connects Goss to the car bomb deaths of the Italian investigator who connected Michele Sindona to the CIA in 1983 and a prosecutor named Koch who connected Gerald Bull to the CIA in Belgium. If these allegations are true, is this the sort of man we want running our foreign intelligence gathering?

Relationship With Cuba

America’s relationship with Cuba is closer to a peaceful pact now than ever before. In recent years, the borders were opened briefly to travelers and even former President Carter made time to meet with Fidel Castro. But could Porter Goss reverse this trend? If the reports are true, the time Goss spent in the Florida Straits were largely devoted to assisting in assassination plots (as alluded to above through Operation Forty). Is it reasonable to assume that a man who spent much of his time trying to kill Castro would suddenly become objective about that man’s country? Furthermore, is Castro likely to trust us, knowing what he knows about Goss? [1]


If his past actions are any indication, Goss will continue to make decisions leading American intelligence into a more clandestine and politicizing alley. While some may hail this as the return of a long-lost CIA tradition, I see it as the catalyst that could turn potential foreign allies against us. Following in the footsteps of those who recruited Osama bin Laden, Manuel Noriega, and Allawi, Goss is the wrong man for the job.


[1] Some might consider this point rather weak keeping in mind Castro’s failing health. But the point has merit indefinitely depending on who replaces Castro. Currently, the top pick is Fidel’s brother Raul, who would be very similar in almost all respects.


Dowbenko, Uri. “Porter Goss: Was He a CIA Killer in Mexico?”, viewed December 7, 2004.

Ensor, David. “Goss continues effort to reshape CIA.”, November 16, 2004.

Ensor, David. “Officials: CIA memo not an order to ‘back Bush’.”, November 18, 2004.

Hopsicker, Daniel. “CIA Nominee in Pic of Agency’s 60’s Assassination Squad.”, August 24, 2004. (more detail on this can be found at

Moore, Michael. “‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ Interview Outtake of CIA Director Porter Goss”, MichaelMoore.Com, August 10, 2004.

Solo, Toni. “The Murder of Danilo Anderson and Condoleeza Rice.”, November 27, 2004.

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