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White House Orders CIA Shakeup to Get Rid of “Soft Leakers and Liberal Democrats”

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Reports have emerged over the weekend that the White House has ordered the new CIA director, Porter Goss, to purge the agency of officers believed to have been disloyal to President George W. Bush or of leaking damaging information to the media about the conduct of the Iraq war and the hunt for Osama bin Laden. We speak with former CIA analyst Melvin Goodman. [includes rush transcript]

Reports have emerged over the weekend that the White House has ordered the new CIA director, Porter Goss, to purge the agency of officers believed to have been disloyal to President George W. Bush or of leaking damaging information to the media about the conduct of the Iraq war and the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

One former senior CIA official told Newsday “The agency is being purged on instructions from the White House.” The official went on to say, “Goss was given instructions … to get rid of those soft leakers and liberal Democrats. The CIA is looked on by the White House as a hotbed of liberals and people who have been obstructing the president’s agenda.”

One of the first casualties appears to be Stephen R. Kappes, deputy director of clandestine services, the CIA’s most powerful division. The Washington Post reported yesterday that Kappes had tendered his resignation after a confrontation with Goss’ new chief of staff, Patrick Murray. On Friday, the deputy director of the CIA, John McLaughlin, resigned after a series of confrontations over the past week between Murray and senior operations officials. McLaughlin is a 32-year CIA veteran who was acting director for two months this summer until Goss took over. When he resigned, McLaughlin warned that the agency risked widespread resignations. The Washington Post reports that several other senior clandestine service officers are threatening to leave.

  • Melvin Goodman, former CIA and State Department analyst. He is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and director of the Center’s National Security Project. He is the author of the book: “Bush League Diplomacy: How the Neoconservatives Are Putting the World at Risk” (Promethues)

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Melvin Goodman joins us now, former CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) and State Department analyst, now a Senior Fellow at the Center for International Policy, and Director of the Center’s National Security Project. He has a new book out. It’s called, Bush League Diplomacy: How The Neoconservatives Are Putting The World At Risk. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Mel Goodman.

MELVIN GOODMAN: Good morning, Amy. Good to be with you.

AMY GOODMAN: Good to have you with us. You can talk about what’s going on at the CIA, the shakeup?

MELVIN GOODMAN: It’s clear that the CIA has been dysfunctional for a significant period of time. I don’t think they’re criticism of the white house has anything to do with what’s happening now in terms of the current charges. Porter Goss was a cynical nomination for the post of CIA Director given the fact that he was a chairman of a dysfunctional House Intelligence Committee for the six years that George Tenet was the steward of CIA intelligence and responsible for some of the worst intelligence failures in the history of the CIA. The CIA Has very serious problems, but I don’t think Porter Goss is going to come in, surrounded by a palace guard of four very inexperienced and in some cases rather junior officials and really be responsible for any significant change. Reform is necessary, but the white house has never shown any real interest in reforming the CIA reform has always been imposed on the White House, and I think until we get very serious about the very serious systemic problems at the CIA we’re going to be extremely burdened in any battle or campaign against terrorism. We’re in a terrible mess here.

AMY GOODMAN: What about overall, the fierce criticism of the CIA that has completely failed on so many different issues from weapons of mass destruction, just a lot of false information coming out, and that if there are a lot of resignations, so be it?

MELVIN GOODMAN: Well, there’s no question that there’s been nothing but failure at the CIA in terms of what we have seen with 9/11, which was a very serious analytical failure and the war in Iraq in which the CIA went out of its way to give the White House all of the phony intelligence slanted intelligence and tailored intelligence that the White House wanted. This is a question of getting the CIA to tell truth to power, which is never something that the white house has been interested in. So, reform is certainly called for, and probably an outsider is needed, but not someone with the reputation of Porter Goss, who did nothing as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee in the wake of the 9/11 disasters, and in the wake of the phony intelligence on weapons of mass destruction. One final point: Porter Goss is certainly guilty of a real conflict of interest here. He was one of the four Chairmen of the Intelligence Committees who signed a Joint Inquiry in December 2002, asking for a CIA accountability report on responsibility for 9/11. That report has been done since last summer, last June or July. John McLaughlin as acting director has sat on the report for two months and Porter Goss has been sitting on it since late September when he took over the reigns of the Central Intelligence Agency. I don’t see Porter Goss showing any real interest in this at all.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Mel Goodman, who worked for the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency. In the last paragraph of the Newsday piece, headline say White House sources have asked the CIA to eliminate officers disloyal to Bush. Some of the most damaging leaks came from Michael Shoyer. He wrote a book that criticized what he said was the administration’s lack of resolve in tracking down the Al Qaeda chieftain, Osama Bin Laden, and the reallocation of intelligence and manpower from the war on terrorism to the war in Iraq. He announced Thursday that he will resign from the agency.

MELVIN GOODMAN: I read the book. He had an obsessive concern with Al Qaeda and terrorism. He ran the Bin Laden unit for about three years, which didn’t have a great deal of success in trying to track down Bin Laden, and certainly, he’s critical of White House policy, but I don’t think that the charges with regard to policy are the key matter. There are questions why the CIA let him publish the book as a CIA official it was a sensitive and substantive book and this kind of a thing is kept from publication by CIA public affairs people. But the real problem is the analytical failure. Of course, Michael Shoyer was part of that. He was a member of the analytical corps. He was never a part of the operational corps. The analytical failure with regard to 9/11 is still the key. That’s the story we have never really been told. It’s a story that’s probably partly discussed in the accountability report, but that’s the report that the white house won’t let out of its own building.

AMY GOODMAN: And what about as this whole issue of those disloyal — I mean, is this cleaning up the issue of 9/11 failures, of weapons of mass destruction, misinformation, when they’re going after people who they’re calling disloyal?

MELVIN GOODMAN: Well — in the past several months, really, nobody can be accused of being disloyal. George Tenet is the one who told the president of the United States that getting intelligence to the white house would be a slam dunk, not something that the white house would have to worry about. So, he has left the deputy director of central intelligence and the deputy director of operations, the executive director and his deputy have left. The head of Congressional Affairs, the chief lawyer of the CIA has left. Frankly, these were people who were sick of offence as far as the white house was concerned. These were not people who were disloyal and tried to challenge the White House on policy, when there should have been a challenge. The CIA should have offered more honest intelligence, not only about weapons of mass destruction, but the issue of links to terrorism, and also the decrepit state of Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi society and Iraqi economy. The intelligence failure on all levels of the CIA is fundamental and must be understood before you can begin to reform the CIA. What is outrageous now is we’re discussing all sorts of intelligence reforms on the hill. There’s the 9/11 proposal, the Senate proposal, a House bill, a White House bill, and not one of them is based on the real systemic problems of the Central Intelligence Agency. Clearly, a real dialogue and debate has to take place, but until we’re honest about the things that have gone wrong at the CIA, I think we’ll be reforming for the very wrong reasons.

AMY GOODMAN: Last question, Mel Goodman. That is the issue that came out this week that the CIA is now involved in the largest domestic surveillance operation, working with the FBI, that we have seen in decades. CIA agents are working with FBI agents, and we’re talking about surveillance of U.S. citizens, something that the CIA has been barred from doing for a long time. Can you talk about this?

MELVIN GOODMAN: Yes. My knowledge on that is that the CIA is sending briefers around the country into small communities and large communities to brief them on the problem of terrorism. This is very dangerous. For one thing, the CIA shouldn’t be involved in any kind of domestic work that’s clear this their charter, and we know about the abuses of the 1960’s and 1970‚s that Seymour Hersh exposed that led to the so-called reforms of the Church Committee and Pike Committee. The CIA is now delivering briefs around the country, particularly in the Midwest. These are worst case briefings. It was that briefing given up on the hill that led senator Mark Dayton to send his entire staff home. These are worst case briefings. These are CIA briefers trying to cover their behinds on the intelligence they’re collecting on terrorism. It probably has nothing to do with the reality of the threat. The CIA has no role to play on domestic affairs. This must be understood clearly and probably the cooperation with the FBI and certainly CIA’s access to grand jury testimony has certainly gone too far, and that’s why the patriot act has to be re-examined.

AMY GOODMAN: Mel Goodman, I want to thank you very much for joining us. Mel Goodman is co-author of Bush League Diplomacy, worked with the CIA and State Department for years. This is Democracy Now!

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