Porter Johnston Goss (born November 26, 1938) is an American politician and the current Director of the Central Intelligence Agency . A CIA operative in Latin America during the Cold War, he served as a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1989 until he took up his post at the agency ¹.
Goss represented the 14th congressional district of Florida, which includes Lee County, Fort Myers, Naples, and part of Port Charlotte. He served for a time as the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Goss was a co-sponsor of the controversial USA PATRIOT Act and was a co-chair of the Joint 9/11 Intelligence Inquiry.
Following the June 3, 2004 resignation of CIA director George Tenet, Goss was nominated to become the new director on August 10 by President George W. Bush. The appointment was challenged by some prominent Democrats, including Al Gore, Sen. Robert Byrd (WV). Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (WV), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, expressed concerns that Goss was too politically partisan, given his public remarks against Democrats while serving as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Another Democratic member of the committee, Ron Wyden (OR), expressed concerns that given Goss's history within and ties to the CIA, he would be too disinclined to push for institutional change. In an interview on March 3, 2004 Goss described himself as 'Not qualified' for a job within the CIA, although he was referring to a position as a case officer. (See below)
The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee endorsed his nomination by a 12-4 vote on September 20, 2004, and on September 22 he was confirmed by the Senate in a 77-17 vote. Opposition to his nomination came entirely from Democrats; the Republican senators unanimously backed him, along with many prominent Democrats, including the two Democratic senators from Florida, Bob Graham and Bill Nelson, and the Senate Minority Leader, Tom Daschle.
Biography and CIA career
Rep. Goss talks to the press.
Goss was born in 1938 in Waterbury, Connecticut and was educated at Hotchkiss and Yale University, where he majored in ancient Greek. (Goss also speaks Spanish and French). In his junior year at Yale, Goss was recruited by the CIA; immediately after graduating in 1960, he began serving in both the Army and the CIA in intelligence operations.
Goss spent much of the 1960s — roughly from 1960 until 1971 — working for the Directorate of Operations, the clandestine services of the CIA. There he first worked in Latin America and the Caribbean and later in Europe. The details are not known due to the classified nature of the CIA, but Goss has said that he had worked in Haiti, Santo Domingo, and Mexico.
Goss, who has said that he has recruited and trained foreign agents, worked in Miami for much of the time. It is speculated that there he took part in the recruitment of Cuban exiles and emigres for the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961, which was crushed by Fidel Castro. Goss was also involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, telling the Washington Post in 2002 that he had done some "small-boat handling" and had "some very interesting moments in the Florida Straits."
Towards the end of his career Goss was transferred to Europe. There his career as an agent ended in 1970, when he collapsed in his London hotel room because of a blood infection in his heart and kidneys. Goss says he does not know what happened, but says that he was not poisoned. Some sources now say that Goss suffered a staph infection. In any case, Goss's health was severely damaged in the incident, and he retired from the CIA.
Business and political career
Goss later went into business with two fellow ex-CIA members, investing and founding the Island Reporter newspaper. Goss also made a fortune in the Florida real estate market.
He began his political career in 1974, when he was elected to the Sanibel City Council and was elected mayor by the council. In 1983, Bob Graham, then Florida governor, appointed Goss to the Lee County Board of Commissioners. In 1988 he ran for the U.S. House and was elected. While in the House, he has been chair of the House Intelligence Committee since 1997 and the Vice-Chairman of the House Rules Committee. He also helped establish and served on the Homeland Security Committee.
Most of his major legislation has been intelligence appropriations bills, with some local constituent-services bills. He sponsored a constitutional amendment to establish term limits limiting Representatives to no more than 3 consecutive terms of four years (http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c105:H.J.RES.16:); he has been in Congress for 16 years but is not seeking reelection. Major bills sponsored by Goss include a bill to limit Congressional pay raises to no more than Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c106:H.R.1669) (unpassed), The Public Interest Declassification Act of 1999 (http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c106:H.R.3152:) (unpassed), and the USA PATRIOT Act.
Goss has a consistently right-wing voting record, with the exception of his views towards the environment — Goss supported the Kyoto Protocol and strengthening the Environmental Protection Agency:
- "What we really loved him for was his stand on the environment," [longtime friend Starr Thomas of Sanibel] said. "We moved here from Miami, and we didn't want to see Sanibel go that way." (http://www.news-press.com/news/local_state/040811gosslocal.html)
Goss ran unopposed in the 2002 general election. He has never received less than 70 percent of the vote in his district in any of the elections he has contested since 1988.
As a congressman, Goss has historically defended the CIA and supported strong budget increases — some of Goss's critics, even in the Republican party, see him as a believer in the idea that "intel problems can be solved by throwing money and personnel at them." However, in mid-2004, Goss's public statements changed sharply, saying that the CIA is on its way to becoming "a stilted bureaucracy incapable of even the slightest bit of success."
September 11 and Joint Inquiry
In August 2001 Goss, Senator Bob Graham (D-Fl.), and Senator Jon Kyl visited Islamabad, Pakistan. Meetings were held with President Pervez Musharraf and with Pakistan's military and intelligence officials including the head of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) General Mahmoud Ahmad, as well as with the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef. Ahmed's network had ties to Osama bin Laden and directly funded, supported, and trained the Taliban (Human Rights Watch,  (http://hrw.org/reports/2001/afghan2/Afghan0701-02.htm#P350_92934)). They met with Musharraf and Zaeef on the 27th. As reported by Agence France Presse on August 28, 2001, Zaeef assured the US delegation that the Taliban would never allow bin Laden to use Afghanistan to launch attacks on the US or any other country.
On the morning of September 11, Goss, Graham, Kyl and members of the House Intelligence Committee were having breakfast with General Ahmed in a top-secret conference room on the fourth floor of the U.S. Capitol. After discussing the opium poppy problem, they were talking about Afghanistan-spawned terrorism with Ahmed when a member of Goss's staff handed a note about the attacks to Goss, who handed it to Graham. Ahmed had arrived in Washington on September 4 and had met with George Tenet and other administration officials. (http://globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO407A.html) Goss fully defended the CIA and the Bush administration. With the White House and Sen. Graham, his counterpart in the Senate Intelligence Committee, Goss rebuffed calls for an inquiry in the weeks immediately following September 11. After growing pressure, Congress established the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001, a joint inquiry of the two intelligence committees, led by Graham and Goss. Goss and Graham made it clear that their goal was not to identify specific wrongdoing: Graham said the inquiry would not play "the blame game about what went wrong from an intelligence perspective,", and Goss said, "This is not a who-shall-we-hang type of investigation. It is about where are the gaps in America's defense and what do we do about it type of investigation." (http://www.wsws.org/articles/2002/mar2002/prob-m06.shtml)
The Washington Post reported statements made by Goss of May 17, 2002. Goss said he was looking for "solutions, not scapegoats." He called the uproar over the U.S. White House briefing on terror threats of August 6, 2001 "a lot of nonsense." He also said, "None of this is news, but it's all part of the finger-pointing. It's foolishness." The Post also reported that Goss refused to blame an "intelligence failure" for September 11, preferring to praise the agency's "fine work."(Washington Post, May 18, 2002, "A Cloak But No Dagger; An Ex-Spy Says He Seeks Solutions, Not Scapegoats for 9/11")
The inquiry's final report was released in December 2002 and focused entirely on the CIA and FBI's activities, including no information on the White House's activities. Ray McGovern, a 27-year veteran of the CIA and a frequent commentator on intelligence issues, believed the report showed that Goss gave "clear priority to providing political protection for the president" when conducting the inquiry.
Events following Inquiry Report
The Herald Tribune reported his take on the Valerie Plame leak in October 2003: "Somebody sends me a blue dress and some DNA, I'll have an investigation" (a sarcastic reference to the Monica Lewinsky scandal). Goss said he has no evidence that the controversy is more than a product of "wild and unsubstantiated allegations, which are being obviously piled on by partisan politics during an election year."
As MSNBC (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5305214/site/newsweek/) and CNN (http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/06/24/cia.goss/) reported, in June 2004 Goss's demeanor became markedly more partisan — attacking Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the Democratic presidential nominee, for a 1977 quote arguing for intelligence budget cuts and calling Kerry's proposals on nuclear security "dangerously naive."
At the same time, in a sharp turn from his earlier statements defending the CIA, Goss said the agency has "been ignoring its core mission activities" and the clandestine service is on its way to being "a stilted bureaucracy incapable of even the slightest bit of success." He called the CIA's human intelligence gathering apparatus "dysfunctional" and adverse to change, and charged that its intelligence analysts were timid and lacked proper focus. Tenet called the attacks "ill-informed" and "absurd." Goss also used House rules to keep Democrats from attaching their amendments to the intelligence appropriations bill.
Response to nomination
With Tenet's announced resignation, Goss became the immediate frontrunner to replace him.
On the same day Goss was nominated, documentary filmmaker Michael Moore released a transcript and video clip  (http://reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=5954929)  (http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/index.php?id=128) from an interview Moore's team conducted with Goss on March 3, 2004 (the material was gathered for, but not included in Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11). In the interview, Goss states that he "couldn't get a job with [the] CIA today" in reference to serving as a clandestine operative and goes on to say:
- "It is true I was in CIA from approximately the late 50's to approximately the early 70's. And it's true I was a case officer, clandestine services office and yes I do understand the core mission of the business. I couldn't get a job with CIA today. I am not qualified. I don't have the language skills. I, you know, my language skills were romance languages and stuff. We're looking for Arabists today. I don't have the cultural background probably. And I certainly don't have the technical skills, uh, as my children remind me every day, "Dad you got to get better on your computer." Uh, so, the things that you need to have, I don't have."
Plans to improve CIA
Rowan Scarborough of The Washington Times reported:
- "Mr. Goss, who chaired the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, publicly has criticized the CIA for a lackluster operations branch that has failed to recruit agents who can penetrate Islamist groups. Critics say Mr. Goss needs to change the culture at Langley."  (http://www.washtimes.com/national/20041117-123335-5881r.htm)
¹ Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution stipulates that no member serving in the legislative branch of the government (that is, in the House or Senate) may serve in a civil service concurrently: Goss had to resign his House seat in order to assume office as the Director.