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12/04/2004

Goss Managing CIA Personnel with Neutron Bomb

Jason Vest has a must read article on the CIA catastrophe in the Boston Phoenix. He provides background, analyzes President Bush's new proposal for increasing CIA operative manpower by 50%, and breaks all sorts of new info. on "Dusty." Vest's scoop:

In lieu of Kostiw, Goss has chosen as the next ExDir one K. Dusty Foggo. The good news is that unlike Goss’s staff cronies — most of whose CIA experience was brief and long ago — Foggo has been a DA officer for the past 22 years, and belonged to the late MG service. But while many old hands consider this an improvement over Kostiw, they’re somewhat underwhelmed with the choice of Foggo.

"Dusty came into the agency through the Presidential Management Intern program, and he was one of four interns brought into the MG service, and turned out to be the weakest of the four — his contemporaries did better than him," says an intelligence officer knowledgeable about Foggo’s career. "He’s never gotten the big jobs, like chief of administration in an area division of the DO or up in the DA hierarchy, even after Buzzy ‘reorganized.’ He’s only served in a variety of small and midlevel stations and as the number-two or -three man on some administrative staffs, and hasn’t had enough experience managing large staffs or interacting with people outside the agency to prepare him to be ExDir. And while he’s smart enough to get some things, his personality is going to be what undermines him."

According to the officer and others with both CIA and State Department experience, Foggo — who until recently was running the agency’s approximately 200-strong Middle East support base in Frankfurt, Germany — does not have a history of getting on easily with others. In one tour as station executive officer, his relationship with the station’s top case officer was so hostile that Langley "had to send a senior officer out to sit Dusty down and read him the riot act"; in another post he so antagonized a US embassy administrative counselor that no small amount of inter-agency diplomacy was required to preserve the CIA station’s ability to operate.

While Foggo reportedly had been discussing putting the DA back together along traditional lines but with never-implemented innovations recommended by in-house studies, many are skeptical that he can pull it off. "He’s something of a loose cannon who thinks he can do everything on his own, and you just can’t do that as ExDir," the veteran officer says. Some speculate that Foggo’s "loose cannon" quality could be a force for good if he puts institutional concerns before Goss’s political ones, but that’s a dubious notion, given that Foggo owes his elevation to Goss. Unfortunately for the nation, Goss’s unflinching support for his Hill imports, and their own two-fisted partisan backgrounds, augurs little good for the CIA.
Update, 12/04/04, 4:13 PM EST: Alexander Cockburn has published in Counterpunch (also in the Nation) a rejoinder of sorts to a previous column by Mr. Vest:
I wrote this column for The Nation print edition that went to press last Wednesday. The previous week the Nation ran an odd piece by Jason Vest claiming that the previously politically neutral post of the DCI was now being disfigured by an "unparalleled" political appointment. Vest appeared to claiming that the evictions of the chief and assistant chief of the CIA's clandestine wing, Sulick and Kappes, were somehow a blow to the forces of decency. It's surely no function of left commentary to start supporting any faction on the covert side of an agency that has carried out assassination, terrorism and torture as a matter of routine policy for the past 55 years.

CounterPunch's editorial position is that the more overt the political reconfiguring of the Agency by each new director, the better off we are. Let's suppose that one day a leftist president settles in behind his desk in the Oval Office, sticks a portrait of W.E.B. DuBois on the wall and then reaches for the phone, fires the heads of the CIA's covert side, appoints no successors ande shifts the entire complement of covert officers into monitoring soil erosion in the Great Plains, a real national security threat. Wouldn't that be a step forward?
Cockburn is correct to the degree that we should be wary of assuming that Goss is tainting something otherwise pure. But by saying Goss' behavior is just more of the same, he is missing two major considerations: Goss is being more overtly partisan than anyone since Schlesinger, and the CIA is more central to post 9-11 security strategy than at any point in its history. We actually need the CIA, yet Goss is nonetheless blowing it up.

 

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