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Inside Politics

Bush nominates Goss to head CIA

Democrats raise objections to pick

U.S. Rep. Porter Goss
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Reaction to Porter Goss' selection as CIA chief is mixed.

President Bush announces Goss is his choice for CIA chief.

Goss speaks in the White House Rose Garden.
  • Eight-term Republican congressman from Florida
  • Agent in CIA's clandestine service, 1960-71
  • Chairman, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, since 1997
  • Not running for re-election this fall
    Porter Goss
    George J. Tenet
    Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
    George W. Bush

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Tuesday nominated U.S. Rep. Porter Goss to lead the CIA, an intelligence agency that has been under fire and under the microscope since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

    "He knows the CIA inside and out," Bush said of Goss, an eight-term Republican congressman from Florida, a former CIA officer, and until Tuesday, the House intelligence chief . "He is the right man to lead this important agency at this critical moment in our nation's history."

    Goss's nomination was praised by Republicans, but key Democrats objected to Bush's choice, questioning whether any lawmaker could bring non-partisan objectivity to the post.

    And some questioned whether Goss was too close to the CIA to shake things up at the agency, which was the focus of some critical comments in a recent report by the independent 9/11 commission. The agency has also been faulted for its pre-war intelligence on Iraq.

    Goss' nomination is subject to Senate confirmation.

    Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, described himself as "disappointed" by Goss's nomination.

    In a written statement, Rockefeller stated we "need someone who is objective and independent" to lead the CIA. Rockefeller believes "we should not be nominating any politician to this job," one of the senator's staff members told CNN.

    But Sen. Bob Graham, a former Democratic presidential candidate, praised the nomination of his fellow Floridian. He predicted that Goss would be a "vigorous and visionary leader" and urged prompt confirmation by the Senate. Graham once headed the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

    Goss, 65, has been chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence since 1997, but he stepped down from that post Tuesday afternoon. Last month, the committee released a scathing report on operations at the CIA.

    A replacement for Goss, who will remain a member of the committee, will be named by the House GOP steering committee, chaired by House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

    Goss had been widely seen as a leading contender for the top job at the CIA, which opened after George Tenet announced his resignation in June.

    Tenet's top deputy, John McLaughlin, is serving as the acting director.

    The nomination comes less than three months before a presidential election in which U.S. intelligence and anti-terrorism efforts are issues on the campaign trail.

    Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nomination, called for "fair, bipartisan and expeditious confirmation hearings" for Goss, but he stopped short of endorsing the congressman for the job.

    Kerry also pointed out that a new intelligence post is in the works, a national intelligence director. The 9/11 commission recommended the creation of that job and Bush has endorsed the idea.

    But what kind of independence and budget authority a national intelligence director would have is not clear, and Bush has not tapped anyone for that post.

    Asked whether Goss might be in line for the more senior post, White House spokesman Scott McClellan left open that possibility.

    "I just think it's premature to speculate about any decision on the national intelligence director, and I wouldn't rule anything in or out," McClellan told reporters.

    Bush announced his choice in the Rose Garden. He stressed Goss' own experience with the agency, saying the lawmaker "understands the importance of human intelligence. He was a CIA field officer on two continents." Goss was with the CIA from 1960 to 1971.

    Accompanying Bush in the Rose Garden, Goss said he was "deeply honored" and "extremely grateful for the opportunity" the president had offered him. And he said he looked forward to the confirmation process.

    "As a member right now on the Hill, I know the value of that and the importance of that," Goss said.

    Democrats have accused the White House and congressional Republicans of moving too slow on implementing recommendations from the 9/11 commission report.

    Goss has said that he supports one of the recommendations -- the creation of a national intelligence director position -- but in hearings last week, he urged caution in considering legislation on the issue.

    "We cannot afford to make changes blindly, or in unnecessary haste," Goss said August 4.

    Goss has also said he supports full budget authority for national intelligence director, but Bush has only suggested budget coordination authority for that post.

    Thomas Kean, the Republican chairman of the 9/11 commission, said Goss is a "good choice" for CIA director, and said he hopes Goss will embrace the commission's recommendations.

    Lee Hamilton, Democratic vice chairman of the commission, also called Goss a good choice, but was noncommittal when asked if Goss should serve as CIA director if he doesn't embrace all of the commission's recommendations.

    In June, Goss' committee attached a scathing report to an intelligence appropriations bill passed by the House. The report called the CIA's human intelligence gathering apparatus "dysfunctional" and averse to change, and charged that its intelligence analysts were timid and lacked proper focus.

    In response, Tenet fired off a letter to Goss, characterizing the committee's criticisms as "ill-informed" and "absurd."

    Administration sources had earlier indicated it was unlikely that the president would move to find a replacement for Tenet during the election season to avoid a potentially contentious confirmation process.

    Goss represents a district in southwest Florida and is not running for re-election in the fall.

    Goss had planned to retire from Congress at the end of his last term, but Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney asked him to remain. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R- Illinois, arranged for a change in House rules that limit committee service to allow Goss to stay on the committee and to chair it.

    CNN's Ted Barrett, Jill Dougherty, Ed Henry, Joe Johns and Suzanne Malveaux contributed to this report

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