CIA in disarray as Rumsfeld starts turf war with rival

(Gold9472: The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).)

By Andrew Buncombe in Washington and Stephen Khan
Published: 07 May 2006

President George Bush is expected to reveal who will be the new head of the Central Intelligence Agency tomorrow, following the dramatic resignation of Porter Goss late on Friday.

It appears that the President will turn to a close ally of his National Intelligence Director, John Negroponte, to fill the position. White House sources were quoted yesterday as saying that Air Force General Michael Hayden, Mr Negroponte's senior deputy, is likely to get the nod.

Such a move would bring further power to Mr Negroponte, a rising star of the administration. But it could also prompt a potentially explosive stand-off between him and another major White House figure - the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.

Both men were key players in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, Mr Negroponte having served as ambassador there until being promoted last year. But now both are poised to wrestle for ultimate control of the US intelligence community.

Yet the role of the organisation that was once at the heart of that community has been severely curtailed. The autonomy of the CIA and the position of its director as the most senior intelligence official in the US was long taken for granted. That is no longer the case. Last night, the CIA appeared to be in turmoil after the sudden departure of Mr Goss - whose relationship with his one-time friend Mr Negroponte had become increasingly strained.

There was also speculation yesterday that he may have gone partly as a result of a lobbying scandal involving some of his senior staff. An FBI investigation is under way into the activities of the agency's third ranking official, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo. He is accused of fraternising with a lobbyist who stands accused of hiring prostitutes for the entertainment of politicians. Administration officials firmly denied that Mr Goss's departure was in any way connected with that investigation.

An intelligence official, meanwhile, claimed that Mr Goss had been standing up for the agency as its power ebbed to the National Intelligence Director's office, and was holding firm against "micromanagement". Tensions came to a boil when Mr Negroponte decided that many analysts from the CIA should be moved to the new National Counterterrorism Center.

Mr Goss had been in the job since September 2004. His departure is the third major Bush administration personnel change in a month.

The announcement was made in the Oval Office, with Mr Goss and Mr Negroponte by the side of the President."Porter's tenure at the CIA was one of transition. He's helped this agency become integrated into the intelligence community," Mr Bush said.

That community might now appear to be firmly under the auspices of Mr Negroponte, but Mr Rumsfeld's Department of Defence controls more than 80 per cent of the nation's intelligence budget and is busy expanding its role. And while Mr Negroponte has sought to push through changes that would affect the Defence Department, "they told him to take a flying leap", one intelligence source told The Los Angeles Times yesterday.

For his part, Mr Rumsfeld made it clear even before the intelligence director's job was created that he thought its power should be limited. He lobbied successfully in Congress to curtail much of its influence.

But Mr Rumsfeld does not have to seek out problems. In recent weeks he has faced calls for his resignation from a series of retired military generals over his handling of the Iraq war.