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Bush nominates Goss for CIA director

By Wolf Blitzer

U.S. Rep. Porter Goss
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
Porter Goss
George W. Bush

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush made his announcement Tuesday in the White House Rose Garden: "I'm pleased to announce my decision to nominate Congressman Porter Goss as the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency."

The president was effusive in his praise.

"Porter Goss is a leader with strong experience in intelligence and in the fight against terrorism. He knows the CIA inside and out. He's the right man to lead this important agency at this critical moment in our nation's history," Bush said.

Bush's nomination must be approved by the Senate. Former Director George Tenet stepped down last month.

"I used to be part of them when I worked for CIA. I'm very proud to be associated with them again and I look forward to the challenges of the future. I also look forward to the confirmation process with the Senate," Goss said Tuesday.

Under normal circumstances, this presidential nomination probably would sail through the confirmation process. Goss, after all, is generally highly respected by his Republican and Democratic colleagues.

Democratic Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, a former chairman of the Intelligence Committee, was quick to endorse him.

But these are not normal circumstances.

For one thing, this nomination comes as Congress considers the 9/11 commission recommendations to restructure the entire U.S. intelligence community.

"Many of us were very troubled when the president sort of gave a lukewarm endorsement to the 9/11 commission recommendations that the intelligence director have full budgetary and hiring authority. If you don't have that, you're a toothless tiger," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York said Tuesday.

Several Democrats are likely to use the Goss confirmation hearings as a vehicle to question the president's commitment to intelligence reform.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has endorsed all 41 recommendations. And in a statement Kerry said Goss deserves a "fair, bipartisan and expeditious" confirmation hearing adding: "We need to move urgently on this and other recommendations by the 9/11 commission to make America safer."

Wendy Sherman was an assistant secretary of state during the Clinton administration and is now a foreign policy adviser for John Kerry. She says, "What we need to hear is this nomination in the context of the 9/11 hearings. I hope that the Congress and the president will move as quickly on the 9/11 recommendations as he appears to want to move on this confirmation process."

Other Democrats worry that Goss might be too political to run the CIA.

They pointedly note the president made the announcement on the day he began a campaign swing through Goss' home state of Florida -- a key battleground in this election.

Former CIA director Stansfield Turner, who served under President Jimmy Carter, told the Associated Press that Goss' selection marked "a bad day for the CIA," charging he was chosen "to help George Bush win votes in Florida."

Turner went on to say, "This is the worst appointment that's ever been made to the office of Director of Central Intelligence because that's an office that needs to be kept above partisan politics."

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