Skip to main content

Goss: CIA resignation 'one of those mysteries'

Bush expected to tap former NSA chief as replacement



Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
White House
Military Intelligence
Espionage and Intelligence

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Porter Goss said Saturday that his surprise resignation as CIA director is "just one of those mysteries," offering no other explanation for his sudden departure after almost two years on the job.

Although the ex-congressman declined to comment, intelligence sources have told CNN that Goss' resignation on Friday was triggered by differences with National Intelligence Director John Negroponte over plans to move staff, including analysts from the CIA's counterterrorism center, to other intelligence agencies.

As for Goss' replacement, President Bush has settled on Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden as his choice, senior administration officials told CNN, and an announcement is planned for Monday. ( The Incredible Shrinking CIAexternal link)

Hayden, 61, is the principal deputy to Negroponte and former director of the super-secret National Security Agency.

The new CIA director must be confirmed by the Senate, which may bring Hayden's tenure as NSA director in 2001 under scrutiny, after Bush authorized a controversial anti-terrorism spy program.

Without court warrants, the NSA monitored the communications of people inside the United States who were in contact with suspected terrorists outside the country.

Critics -- many of whom are members of the Senate -- charge the surveillance program is a violation of law and an assault on civil liberties.

Hayden has defended it, insisting that it is a necessary tool to thwart terrorists and that the process of obtaining warrants is too slow and cumbersome to deal with "a lethal enemy."

'Mutual understanding'

An intelligence source with detailed knowledge of the discussions surrounding Goss' departure told CNN that after Goss resisted the changes, Negroponte sought White House backing to resolve the impasse.

Hayden was involved in the decision that Goss must go, the source said.

A senior administration official said Goss' resignation was based on a "mutual understanding" between Bush, Goss and Negroponte.

"When you ask somebody to do very difficult things during a period of transition, it often makes sense to hand off the reins to somebody else to take the agency forward," the senior administration official said.

An intelligence official told CNN that while there were differences of opinion between Goss and Negroponte, suggestions of any harsh exchanges between the two men were "just ridiculous, not remotely true."

In April, a senior administration official told CNN that Goss would likely be out of the CIA post before the end of the summer.

Goss and other senior intelligence officials have recently been interviewed by the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, which is looking into concerns that change was happening too slowly at the CIA.

Goss said he would remain at the helm of the CIA for the "next few weeks" to oversee the transition to a new director.

Former critic led shake-up

Goss, 67, a former CIA officer and Republican congressman from Florida, was tapped by Bush in June 2004 to come in and shake up the agency at a time when its performance was under intense scrutiny due to intelligence failures prior to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the invasion of Iraq.

Some of the most blistering criticism came in a report from the House Intelligence Committee -- which Goss then chaired -- that called the CIA "dysfunctional."

But two months after Goss was nominated, Bush asked Congress to implement a recommendation from the 9/11 commission to create an overall national intelligence director, which would oversee the CIA and 14 other intelligence agencies -- a change that diluted the authority of the CIA director.

Negroponte, the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, was confirmed as national intelligence director in April 2005. After the restructuring, Bush began receiving his daily intelligence briefings from Negroponte rather than Goss.

Goss made good on his promise to shake up the CIA, bringing in his own management team to implement changes. A number of top CIA officials left during the transition, after personality and policy clashes with Goss' lieutenants.

However, in October, the White House decided to make Goss the manager of all U.S. human intelligence-gathering operations, which was widely seen as a way to restore some of the prestige the CIA lost after Congress created the post of national intelligence director. (Full story)

Former intelligence officials told CNN that many people inside the CIA are "relieved" that Goss and his aides -- called "the Gosslings" by CIA insiders -- are going, a reflection of the ill will that still persists over the earlier departures of senior officials.

'That was a tough job'

Goss' abrupt resignation Friday took Washington by surprise. Reporters were summoned in early afternoon to the Oval Office, where Bush -- with the CIA director seated next to him -- announced the change.

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] offered his resignation as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. I've accepted it," Bush said.

"Porter's tenure at the CIA was one of transition, where he's helped his agency become integrated into the intelligence community," the president said. "That was a tough job, and he's led ably." (Watch Bush's Oval Office announcement -- 2:38)

CNN's Pam Benson, David Ensor, John King, Kathleen Koch, Elaine Quijano, Fran Lewine and Suzanne Malveaux contributed to this report.

Story Tools
Subscribe to Time for $1.99 cover
Top Stories
Get up-to-the minute news from CNN gives you the latest stories and video from the around the world, with in-depth coverage of U.S. news, politics, entertainment, health, crime, tech and more.
Top Stories
Get up-to-the minute news from CNN gives you the latest stories and video from the around the world, with in-depth coverage of U.S. news, politics, entertainment, health, crime, tech and more.

© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines