Saturday, May 06, 2006

CURSOR.ORG'S TOP STORY TODAY is really two connected stories: CIA Director Porter Goss's sudden and unexpected resignation, and the humongous corruption and sex scandal in which a California defense contractor named Brent Wilkes traded money, sex, invites to wild parties, free limousine services, all-expenses-paid luxury hotel stays, and more, with Republican members of Congress and "the nation's highest-ranking intelligence officials," in exchange for lucrative defense contracts and access to business and political contacts who could help him get more contracts.

When some of the nation's top military officers called for Pres. Bush to fire Donald Rumsfeld, Bush dug in his heels and refused. When Porter Goss out of the blue announced his resignation, Bush accepted it immediately. The contrast there is obvious and cries out for explanation -- and no, I do not think a turf war between Goss and John Negroponte cuts it.

In fact, while most of the MSM has been exclaiming about how nobody knows why Porter Goss resigned, and speculating on possible reasons -- personality conflicts, Goss's leadership style, Iraq intelligence failures, bureaucratic infighting, the failure to capture Osama bin Laden, secret prisons, torture, the Valerie Plame leak investigation, and now those power struggles with John Negroponte -- none saw fit to give serious space to the curious timing of Goss's departure: a scant week after news broke about Goss's possible connection to a sex and bribery scandal that is turning out to be "[t]he most extensive federal corruption scandal in a century. ..."

So the blogosphere, as usual, has been doing the major news organization's job for them.

Here's Josh Marshall's wild guess on what this DCI resignation thing might be about:

Here at TPM HQ we were listening to the president's announcement. And the talking heads on CNN were speculating whether Goss's departure might be part of Josh Bolten's "new blood" shake up in the Bush administration. I don't suppose it has anything to do with the fact that Goss is neck deep in the Wilkes-Corruption-and-Hookers story that's been burbling in the background all week. We don't know definitely why Goss pulled the plug yet. But the CIA Director doesn't march over to the White House and resign, effective immediately,unless something very big is up.

Barbara O'Brien refers us to Larry Johnson, who says that his CIA contacts think it very unlikely that Goss took any part in the corruption and sex scandal; however, some of his high-ranking hires may have:

Today's surprise announcement by Porter Goss comes on the heels of press stories that members of Congress received sexual favors from prostitutes allegedly procured by Brent Wilkes, an entrepreneur implicated in the bribery of Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Wilkes, we are told, hosted poker and hooker parties at the Watergate Hotel. Wilkes also happened to be an old high school buddy of the CIA's number three man, Dusty Foggo.

Speculation in the blogosphere suggested that Porter Goss selected Foggo because of his ties to Wilkes and may be implicated in the sexscapades. I'm told by a friend who used to work at the Agency that Goss, on this charge is clean. In fact, Goss may be a victim, guilty only of selecting some lousy staff.

A former CIA buddy tells me that Porter's main problem, however, is a key staffer who is linked to both Brent Wilkes and the CIA's Executive Director, Dusty Foggo. My friend also said that it is highly likely that the Goss staffer did participate in the hooker extravaganza. Goss, politician that he is, probably recognized that even though he did not participate in the sexual escapades and poker games, his staffer's participation created a huge problem for him that would be difficult to escape.

Laura Rozen compares the abruptness of Goss's departure with the administration narrative over the past months and weeks, and concludes that they do not mesh:

According to the WP, the NYT, Time, etc. Goss was forced out yesterday after months of tension between him and John Negroponte over the CIA's reduced turf, and that President Bush lost confidence in Goss "almost from the beginning" (WP).

So then he was forced out on very short notice? No notification to the House Intelligence committee? What about the months of press about the suddenly well-known tension between Goss and Negroponte, with Negroponte ascendant? Not really. (Indeed check out the recent coverage about Congressional raised eyebrows over the empire Negroponte is building, and his alleged frequent lunchtime visits to a fancy DC club for swim and cigar breaks).

The story line until today has been far different: that much of the operative camp of the Agency perceived Goss as a political enforcer, someone who wasn't seen to be looking out for them but for the White House's interests; that Goss was rather passive and out of touch and overly delegated day to day affairs to his staff, "the Gosslings," led by the fiercely partisan Patrick Murray. I don't believe I have ever heard from people in that world a sense that Goss was looking out for them. The newspaper coverage has suggested rather that a lot of the experienced bench strength cadre at the Agency had left in fights with Goss and his staff during his rocky tenure, and that the Agency had never been more demoralized. So all that time, during all those departures, Goss was covertly fighting for his folks against the new intel reorganization? He was a misunderstood champion of the Agency?

Does something about this story line that Goss suddenly left because of his long-standing tension with Negroponte, his fraternity brother from Yale, over Goss fighting to hold CIA turf seem a bit canned to you?

The main question is why Goss's departure suddenly became a matter of the deepest urgency yesterday.

Think back to yesterday morning. The top news after the Patrick Kennedy crash was that Bush's poll numbers were at an all time low, and that he was starting to see a real erosion of support from conservatives. Gas prices and immigration and Iraq. So Bush gets briefed by his staff that day, and decides: hey, let's fire Porter Goss. He's killing morale at the Agency. He's just seen as far too political. And John Negroponte is threatening to quit if he stays. He's given me an absolute ultimatum. Let's get this out today.

Come on. That's just not how this White House has responded to these sorts of tensions in the past. They never move fast. They withstand criticism of appointments for months. They resist criticisms of unpopular agency heads for weeks (Michael "heckuva job" Brown), months (Snow), years (Rumsfeld). Think how much speculation there was in the press before Card's and McClellan's announced retirements, and how warm and friendly were those departures. It's hard not to believe that something moved very quickly on the radar this week that prompted an unusually quick decision. One that took a lot of people who would normally have been advised by surprise. (It's my understanding that the heads of Congressional intel committees were not informed in advance).
Comments a knowledgable former Hill staffer:

I understand that Negroponte went to the President early last fall and said that Goss and Co. were doing irreparable damage to the agency and our government wide collection capabilities. One explanation for Negroponte's 3 hour lunches was his disillusionment with his job over his inability to get the President to move on Goss.

The question that is not being asked is what changed in that long running standoff at 1:00 pm on Friday. My guess is the IG investigation on Foggo -- a bizarre appointment for which Goss was fully responsible.

That would be my guess too. And don't miss that Foggo has telegraphed his retirement from the Agency as well, in the papers overnight. And how the Agency press staff has bent over backwards to disconnect the two departures. "Today is about Goss" they told my colleague Spencer Ackerman yesterday. "Don't connect the two." Right.

Agitprop says, if you want George W. Bush out of the White House well before 2008, Hookergate looks like the ticket:

Poor Porter -- some say he resigned over a turf battle with John "Jacuzzi" Negroponte, the Supreme Director of All Intelligence. Some say he's involved in Fornigate along with his number three, a spy named (no really) K. Dusty Foggo. Two camps have sprung up around the Fornigate -- one says the hookers were women, one says they were men (the last not a good thing if you're a rabid conservative). Others say Goss has wrecked the CIA with his heavy-handed partisanship.

At Agitprop, we're rooting for the hookers -- a blow job seems to be the only thing that reliably takes administrations down. ...

*Hookergate: Dramatis Personae:

Randy "Duke" Cunningham: Former Republican member of Congress from California, who pleaded guilty to giving out lucrative defense contracts in exchange for $2.4 million in bribe money. He was sentenced to eight years in federal prison in March.

Brent Wilkes: A California defense contractor who gave Cunningham over $630,000 in cash and favors in exchange for helping Wilkes get defense contracts worth millions of dollars. Wilkes also cultivated political and business contacts while doing high-level fundraising both for Pres. Bush's campaigns and for Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was running for governor in California.

Kyle "Dusty" Foggo: CIA Executive Director, who has admitted to attending poker parties arranged by Brent Wilkes. Others knowledgeable about the corruption scandal say prostitutes were provided for attendees at these parties, but Foggo claims he never saw any at the parties he attended.

Porter Goss: Former CIA Director. He either hired Foggo directly, or hired another high-ranking staff member who pushed for Foggo to be hired.

Dramatis Personae information culled from Alternet.

1 comment:

zelduh said...

alternative reason for Goss departure that I have never seen before: