WASHINGTON – President Bush has chosen Rep. Porter Goss (search), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, to be the new director of the CIA and to lead the spy agency in thwarting terrorist attacks.
Bush announced the selection of the 65-year-old one-time Army and CIA intelligence operative at an 8:30 a.m. announcement in the White House Rose Garden.
"Porter Goss is a leader with strong experience in intelligence and the fight against terrorism," Bush said with Goss at his side. "He knows the CIA inside and out. He's the right man to lead this important agency at this critical moment in our nation's history. The work of the CIA is vital to our security."
The United States faces "determined enemies" who are more than willing to attack without warning, Bush said. "This threat is unprecedented, and to stop them from killing our citizens, we must have the best intelligence possible."
The CIA must be able to penetrate closed societies, overcome language barriers and cultures and "learn things that our adversaries don't want us to know," the president added.
Goss is "well prepared for this mission" and has "broad experience" to help him fulfill his new role, Bush said.
"The CIA will have another strong leader in Porter Goss," he continued. "He knows the agency and he knows what's needed to strengthen it. ... He'll help to get to know the enemy firsthand."
For his part, Goss hailed the men and women working at the CIA, saying he looks forward to being back at the agency.
"I think every American knows the importance of getting the best possible intelligence we can get to our decision-makers," Goss said. "I look forward to the challenges of the future."
A Human Intelligence Believer
Goss, a Republican from Florida, had been mentioned prominently in speculation about a successor to departed CIA Director George Tenet (search), who left amid a torrent of criticism of the agency's handling of prewar intelligence on Iraq. Tenet said he left for personal reasons. Goss also served on the Select Committee for Homeland Security.
"I think the president has made an excellent choice for a nation that's involved in a shooting war against terrorism," Calif. Rep. Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told FOX News. "Porter Goss is the kind of guy who pulls agencies together but probably, most importantly, Porter Goss believes in human intelligence."
Bush's decision also comes in the wake of the president's embrace of a key recommendation of the commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks: creation of a new intelligence czar to oversee the activities of the CIA and more than a dozen other intelligence agencies.
The commission recommended the position be Cabinet level but Bush said that wasn't necessary to be effective and said it would just require going through more red tape if installed at that level.
Bush said Goss will advise him on how to implement the Sept. 11 panel's recommendations.
Speaking last week of the pleas for change by the 9/11 commission, Goss had said, "we cannot afford to make changes blindly or in an unnecessary haste. We can ill-afford to rush to judgment any more than we can tolerate needless delay."
Democrats are cautiously negative in their reactions to the Goss nomination, in part because of those comments.
They are questioning whether his nomination is, as one Democrat told FOX News on Tuesday, "a back-door way of blocking the 9/11 reforms."
One Democrat said Goss is supposed to chair a House Intelligence Committee hearing Wednesday concerning the president's call for a national intelligence director; although the Democrats are not, as of yet, calling for Goss to recuse himself from the hearing, they are suggesting that there is something wrong with Goss, whose role as CIA director would be directly affected by the creation of a national intelligence director, chairing a hearing on the subject.
Although Goss was among the leading candidates mentioned when Tenet announced his resignation earlier this year, there had been some recent speculation that his prospects had dimmed, due at least in part to the unavoidable controversies that surround a leading player in Congress.
"These days, just about everything has a little bit of politics in it so I'm sure there will be questions about policies and issues" during the confirmation process, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., told FOX News on Tuesday. "But I've found Porter Goss to be a fine congressman and I'm sure he'll do a fine job."
Michigan Rep. Peter Hoekstra said Goss has "excellent relations on a bipartisan basis," which may help quell any criticism that may come his way for being a congressman-turned-spy chief.
"Porter Goss is an excellent choice by the president to take over the CIA at this critical time," said the Republican lawmaker. "I think his chances [of getting confirmed] are very, very good ... they will accept the leadership he will provide."
Added Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas: "I believe he has the capability to provide the agency and our intelligence community with new thinking, combined with experience and a steady hand."
Tenet's last day was July 11, and the much-criticized agency since then has been under the leadership of acting Director John McLaughlin (search).
McLaughlin congratulated Goss, saying he's "no stranger to the rigors and complexities of foreign intelligence in our democracy. And he understands the crucial role intelligence plays in defending our freedoms."
The administration was believed to have debated internally whether to choose a permanent successor to Tenet before the fall elections, thus putting itself in the position of having to defend its choice in confirmation hearings held in a politically charged atmosphere.
"I think the president is being forward-leaning here, and if he didn't nominate somebody now, he would certainly be susceptible to criticism that he didn't put leadership in place at the CIA," former CIA intelligence officer Peter Brookes told FOX News.
Brookes added that if Goss were to be confirmed, it would be unclear whether McLaughlin would act as director of central intelligence or would be put in some other role.
Tenet served as both CIA chief and director of central intelligence.
Who Is Porter Goss?
The Connecticut-born Goss graduated from Yale in 1960 and launched a clandestine career, working for Army intelligence for two years and eventually the CIA's most well-known division, the Directorate of Operations.
Goss has served in Congress for 16 years, including eight years as House Intelligence chairman. He planned on making his 2000 election bid his last, but decided to stay on after the Sept. 11 attacks — with encouragement from Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. The opportunity was sweetened when Republicans waived a rule limiting his chairmanship to six years.
Along with fellow Floridian, Democratic Sen. Bob Graham, then the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Goss led an joint congressional inquiry into the attacks, which identified numerous miscalculations that prevented authorities from derailing the attacks.
Only one CIA director was also a member of Congress: former President George H.W. Bush.
FOX News' Liza Porteus, James Rosen and The Associated Press contributed to this report.