Goss seems likely to get OK as CIA chief

Fla. representative eases through last questioning

vote by Senate likely soon

September 21, 2004|By Bob Drogin | Bob Drogin,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - The Republican congressman chosen by President Bush to head America's battered intelligence community sailed through a final day of questioning yesterday and appeared headed for quick confirmation this week by the full Senate.

Rep. Porter J. Goss, a Florida Republican, told members of the Senate Intelligence Committee that, if confirmed as CIA director, he would protect intelligence analysts from pressure from the White House or other outside sources to tailor analyses to support political goals.

"I feel very strongly that it destroys the credibility of the intelligence if it is thought to be contaminated by the policy-making process," Goss said.

`Safeguards'

He said the analysts need additional "safeguards" to prevent abuses, and said he would encourage any intelligence official facing undue pressure to "call your friendly director" to complain.

A Senate committee investigation this year into flaws in America's flawed prewar intelligence on Iraq concluded that CIA and other analysts had faced intense pressure from White House and Pentagon officials during the run-up to the war.

But investigators found no one at the agency who had buckled or shifted positions because of outside interference.

If confirmed, Goss would become head of the CIA and director of central intelligence, which makes him the nominal chief of America's 14 other spy agencies.

Both roles probably will change under intelligence reform proposals now under consideration on Capitol Hill.

But Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, the committee chairman, told reporters after the hearing that Goss probably will remain the nation's top intelligence official if Bush is re-elected.

Goss also said he intends to work quickly to improve communication among analysts at the CIA and other intelligence agencies, and between experts who work in different specialties, including counterterrorism, narcotics trafficking and weapons of mass destruction.

Goss described the system of cooperation as "broken."

`Forthright witness'

Roberts praised Goss as a "forthright witness" and said he expected the panel to approve Goss' nomination today.

No strong political opposition to Goss has emerged, although some Democrats probably will vote against him when the nomination goes to the full Senate this week.

During eight hours of hearings over two days, Democrats chiefly attacked Goss for what they described as partisan statements on behalf of Republican positions that he made in his 16 years in Congress, including the last eight as head of the House Intelligence Committee.

Several questioned whether he would be sufficiently independent if he becomes the nation's top spy.

Goss, who began his career as a clandestine CIA officer in Europe and Latin America in the 1960s, repeated earlier pledges to leave politics behind if confirmed as CIA chief. But he said no intelligence official should be held responsible for what political leaders do once the CIA has made its best effort to collect and analyze intelligence.

"I do not think it's appropriate ... to go and tell a policymaker how to use product," he said. "That would scare me a lot. ... There has to be a clear delineation between delivering unvarnished product and allowing policy-makers to do their job in the way they see fit."

Yesterday's hearing was less confrontational than the session a week ago. But efforts by Democrats to portray Goss as a partisan drew protests from Republicans.

The New York Times contributed to this article. The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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