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Porter Goss resigns as CIA chief

'I honestly believe that we have improved dramatically,' he says



Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
White House
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Espionage and Intelligence

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- CIA Director Porter Goss is resigning, President Bush announced Friday.

"Porter's tenure at the CIA was one of transition, where he's helped this agency become integrated into the intelligence community, and that was a tough job," Bush said in a photo session with Goss at the Oval Office.

"He's got a five-year plan to increase the number of analysts and operatives, which is going to help make this country a safer place and help us win the war on terror," the president said. (Watch Bush's Oval Office announcement -- 2:38)

Goss told Bush: "I believe the agency is on a very even keel, sailing well, I honestly believe that we have improved dramatically."

No reason was given for Goss' resignation, but the White House has been in the midst of an administration shakeup since Josh Bolten took over as chief of staff.

Goss' deputy, who may take over in the interim, is Vice Adm. Albert M. Calland.

Policy fights

There have been weeks-long policy disputes between Goss and John Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, over the future of the CIA, sources who were close to the discussions told CNN.

According to sources, Negroponte's decision to transfer certain functions from the CIA to his office were fiercely resisted by Goss, who believes the moves would diminish the agency's power and ability to function. ( The Incredible Shrinking CIAexternal link)

After the White House sided with Negroponte and his deputy, Gen. Michael Hayden, it was a mutual decision that Goss would resign, the sources said.

"Porter Goss is standing up for the CIA," one intelligence source told CNN. "He believes the Central Intelligence Agency should be just that: central."

No permanent replacement for Goss was announced.

Goss became CIA chief in September 2004. He previously had served 16 years as a Republican congressman from Florida. During his congressional tenure, Goss served as chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

From 1962 to 1972, Goss was a CIA clandestine service officer.

Rocky tenure

A senior staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee told CNN that lawmakers and congressional staffers were caught off guard by the "bizarrely sudden" resignation.

In fact, the committee had a closed-door hearing with the DNI's office yesterday, and "no one got any hint this was coming," the staffer said.

Initial reaction by lawmakers to the news emphasized that the CIA needs to continue to change, regardless of who takes the reins. (Ex-CIA deputy director on Goss's rocky tenure)

"Director Goss took the helm of the intelligence community at a very difficult time in the wake of the intelligence failures associated with 9/11 and Iraq WMD," Sen. Pat Roberts, a Republican from Kansas who is chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a written statement. "Porter made some significant improvements at the CIA, but I think even he would say they still have some way to go."

Sen. John Rockefeller of West Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said in a written statement: "Regrettably, Porter Goss's tenure as director of the CIA was a tumultuous one. His chief mission was to reform the operations of the CIA and to lead the agency with foresight and vision, yet his tenure was marked by an exodus of talented and respected intelligence officers and a demoralized staff."

Former CIA Director Stansfield Turner told CNN that Goss may have resigned because he was passed over for the position of director of national intelligence, which went to Negroponte.

Former Georgia Rep. Bob Barr agreed with Turner's speculation and added, "I think there's going to be more coming out; we don't know the whole story."

"This is a devastating blow, the importance of which really cannot be overestimated," Barr told CNN. "It indicates again a continuing downward slide in the intelligence capabilities of our government, it indicates again the disorganization on the part of our intelligence agencies at a time when we can ill afford to see that happen."

The agency was recently rocked when Mary McCarthy was fired, reportedly over alleged leaks about secret prisons to The Washington Post. McCarthy's lawyer denies that she was the source for the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting.

McCarthy's firing was seen as part of a crackdown by Goss on the leaking of classified information.

There has also been media reports of dissatisfaction with Goss' leadership among the rank-and-file within the agency and the exodus of several high-level staff members.

CNN's John King, John Roberts and Andrea Koppel contributed to this report.

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