WASHINGTON – Democrats were generally cautious but negative Tuesday in their reactions to President Bush's nomination of Rep. Porter Goss (search), R-Fla., to head the CIA.
The position of CIA director has traditionally been non-partisan, and the nomination of Goss, a moderate Republican, has caused concern among some Democrats. Goss, chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, opposed the establishment of the Sept. 11 commission, and some Democrats say they are concerned that as head of the CIA, he will resist reforms called for by the panel.
"The selection of a politician — any politician, from either party — is a mistake," said ranking member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Sen. Jay Rockefeller (search), D-W.Va.
"Having independent, objective intelligence going to the president and the Congress is fundamental to America's national security. The Intelligence Committee's findings in our investigation of prewar intelligence made that abundantly clear," Rockefeller continued.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., also a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he holds Goss in high regard, but questions the appointment of a partisan to the post.
"I have often said that reliable and unbiased intelligence is our country's first line of defense in the War on Terrorism. I am therefore concerned about the president's decision today to nominate a partisan politician in a role that demands a non-partisan professional," Durbin said in a statement.
Sen. Carl Levin (search), D-Mich., avoided criticizing Goss specifically, but also took the opportunity to slam the administration for its use of intelligence and for allegedly having too much influence over the conclusions reached by the intelligence community. He also seemed to raise doubts as to whether Goss, a former Army and CIA (search) intelligence operative, could be independent from the White House.
"Some of our greatest failures in the intelligence area over the last several years — particularly the massive intelligence failures before the war in Iraq — appear to have been the result of the shaping of intelligence reporting by the intelligence community to support the policies of the administration in power.
"I believe that objective, independently arrived at intelligence assessments, are a matter of vital national importance. That will be a major focus for me both in the consideration of proposed reforms of the intelligence community and in my assessment of the Goss nomination," Levin, also a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.
The Sept. 11 commission was established to determine intelligence failures prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and to develop recommendations for enhancing operations and communications in the intelligence community.
Among the recommendations was the suggestion to create a director of national intelligence (search), who would be responsible for the coordination and budgeting of the 15 different intelligence units now spread throughout the executive branch. The panel also called for a National Counterterrorism Center (search) to facilitate sharing of gathered intelligence.
During a hearing last week to go over the commission's recommendations, Goss suggested that moving quickly to enact the reforms — as many Democrats have suggested doing — could hinder efforts to fix existing problems.
"We cannot afford to make changes blindly, or in unnecessary haste. We can ill afford to rush to judgment. These issues are too critical and too significant. We must pay attention to the details," Goss said, adding that he does agree with the commission that the intelligence community needs to be more creative in uncovering information.
Goss also mentioned that he introduced a bill in June that would restructure the intelligence community "under a different organizational construct than what is now operating."
Noting that Goss cautioned against rushing "blindly" into making changes to the intelligence apparatus, one Democratic partisan asked FOX News whether the nomination is "a back-door way of blocking the 9/11 reforms."
Out on the campaign trail, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said "the most important thing" the United States can do is to "reform and strengthen our intelligence services as the 9/11 commission has recommended.
“I hope that Congressman Goss shares this view and will now support the creation of this important post," Kerry said, urging quick confirmation hearings on Goss.
As an adjunct to the nomination, one Democrat suggested that it may not be appropriate for Goss to chair a House Intelligence Committee hearing scheduled for Wednesday. The topic of the hearing is the president's proposal for a director of national intelligence. President Bush has suggested that a DNI, who would be in charge of the director of central intelligence, should not be in a Cabinet post, so as to eliminate the impact of political influence on the job.
Rockefeller said Goss will have to clearly explain his opinion of the role and independence given to a national intelligence director.
"Porter Goss will need to answer tough questions about his record and his position on reform, including questions on the independence of the leader of the intelligence community," he said.
Even with concerns about Goss' nomination clearly and quickly stated, not all Democrats were critical of the choice.
Sen. Bob Graham (search), D-Fla., former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, praised Bush for his selection.
"My close work with Congressman Goss on the House-Senate joint inquiry into the events of 9/11 and his support for the joint inquiry's recommended reforms of our intelligence community give me confidence that he will be a vigorous and visionary leader," Graham said in a statement.
Bush announced Goss' appointment at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday in the Rose Garden. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, who strongly supports Goss' nomination, said confirmation hearings could begin as early as next week.
FOX News' James Rosen contributed to this report.