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Goss Isn't Done With Housecleaning at CIA

Sources close to the spy agency say the new director will address the analytic branch, where assessments on Iraq weapons were flawed.

November 18, 2004|Greg Miller | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — In the wake of high-level departures in the CIA's clandestine service, intelligence officials are bracing for an even more aggressive overhaul of the agency's analytic ranks by Director Porter J. Goss.

Current and former intelligence officials said Goss planned to replace the head of the CIA's analytic branch, Jami A. Miscik, with a veteran analyst who already runs one of the agency's major offices.

Miscik heads the CIA's Directorate of Intelligence, the division that drew much of the blame for erroneous assessments of weapons programs in prewar Iraq.

Goss also is said to be planning to replace other senior officers in the analytic branch and to push through changes designed to encourage analysts to be more aggressive in their assessments of developments on terrorism, weapons proliferation and other priority topics.

Although Goss has focused much of his attention during his first two months as director on the CIA's spying cadre, an agency official close to Goss and his leadership team said: "They had the D.I. in their sights [when they arrived] and still do."

The Directorate of Intelligence is the branch of the CIA responsible for analyzing trends and producing reports delivered to the president and other senior policymakers.

"They haven't gotten to the D.I. yet, but when they do, there will be more people screaming bloody murder," the official said, referring to the outcry this week in Washington over the resignations of the two top officials in the CIA's clandestine service. "There's going to be a new deputy director for intelligence, and there's going to be many senior-level positions that are going to be reassigned."

Goss alluded to a series of pending moves in an internal memo Monday, telling employees via e-mail: "In the days and weeks ahead of us, I will announce a series of changes -- some involving procedures, organization, senior personnel and areas of focus for our action."

Miscik has not indicated that she intends to resign, current and former intelligence officials said. But after making an effort to keep her job under Goss, she is widely expected to leave.

"Jami was trying to hang on by her fingernails and it wasn't working," said a former high-ranking official in the CIA's Directorate of Intelligence who has worked with Miscik.

A CIA spokesman declined to comment.

A departure by Miscik and other senior analysts would add to the turmoil at an agency that has seen several senior officials retire or resign, some following clashes with the CIA's new leadership.

But although Goss has faced criticism over departures from the clandestine service, there is broader support for sweeping changes in the analytic branch, largely because of its erroneous prewar assessments on Iraq's alleged stockpiles of banned chemical and biological weapons.

One criticism of Goss has been that in clashing with top officials in the CIA's clandestine service, he has focused on the wrong target.

"The directorate of operations ... is not the crowd that wrote the national intelligence estimate on Iraq that was wrong, and it's not the crowd that lost the clues leading up to 9/11 either," Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a television interview this week.

The main estimate on Iraq's weapons programs was produced by a panel representing multiple spy agencies, but the CIA played a leading role.

Goss also faced criticism over portions of the Monday memo that were interpreted by some as ordering the CIA's rank and file to back the Bush administration. Outlining what he termed "the rules of the road," Goss said, "We support the administration and its policies in our work as agency employees."

The language troubled officials who see the agency's role as providing objective intelligence, whether it conforms to policymakers' agendas or not. Said one former CIA official of the Goss e-mail: "We're going to toe the line folks, so suck up -- that is basically how I read it."

A CIA spokesman said that was not the intent.

"When the CIA is asked to provide intelligence on a topic, we do so without shading or shaping information in any way," the spokesman said. "Support means intelligence support -- not taking a position on policy pro or con."

CIA officials said Goss had not made any changes so far in the agency's analytic branch. But they said his plans reflected views contained in a scathing report he issued this year while still chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

The report criticized CIA analysts for producing assessments "so caveated that they are of little use" to policymakers.

Miscik, who grew up in Redondo Beach and attended Pepperdine University, joined the CIA in 1983. A close ally of former CIA Director George J. Tenet, Miscik has led the Directorate of Intelligence since May 2002, a period that encompasses much of the erroneous prewar reporting on Iraq.

At an agency often known for rejecting outside criticism, Miscik was credited for acknowledging problems at the CIA after of its Iraq failures and implementing reforms.

But others fault her for not being aggressive enough, and many Democrats and Republicans agree that fresh leadership may be necessary.

Miscik's former deputy, Scott White, recently left the CIA and took a senior position at the National Geospatial Agency, which is responsible for analyzing satellite imagery.

The CIA official close to Goss' team said there was already a "leading candidate" to succeed Miscik, describing the official as someone who has worked at the agency for more than 25 years. The official declined to name the individual.

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