WASHINGTON – Senior managers at the CIA are rebelling against new CIA Director Porter Goss (search), opposing his efforts to shake up the agency's intelligence-gathering capabilities as some former agents complain that the agency is in a state of turmoil.
Goss, a former CIA agent, is being blamed for causing a dangerous distraction to the War on Terror by launching a turf war that has drawn the nation's spy service into a partisan battlefield.
Goss, who as a Republican congressman headed up the intelligence panel that intensely scrutinized the CIA's activities and pre-war intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, appears unconcerned about stepping on toes as he seeks to institute major bureaucratic reforms.
"Porter Goss has been given a mandate by the president to fix things, there seems to be a widespread agreement that things need to be changed so there's going to be some grinding of gears when you're changing policy, personnel or practices," said Peter Brookes of the Heritage Foundation.
Former acting director John McLaughlin (search), who took over when George Tenet (search) resigned as head of central intelligence this summer, resigned last week. While McLaughlin's departure was expected, sources told FOX News that McLaughlin volunteered to help Goss through the transition, but was told somewhat icily that his services weren't needed.
On Monday, the agency's top spy, Stephen Kappes, who is deputy director for operations, resigned as did his chief deputy, Michael Sulick. The two headed the agency's clandestine services department. Kappes and Sulick have been involved in heated debates — some have described them as feuds — with senior aides to Goss.
Kappes, who has been at the CIA for 23 years and is considered a specialist on the Middle East, quit after a heated meeting with Goss' senior aides. He refused to reconsider and started moving his belongings out of his office over the weekend.
A former senior intelligence official credited Kappes with being "principally responsible" for the operation that resulted in Libya's leader, Moammar al-Qaddafi, turning over his weapons of mass destruction to the United States.
Sulick headed the agency's counterintelligence division before becoming Kappes' deputy. Both rose to their positions this summer.
CIA critics say change, even one that provokes high-level resignations, is long overdue.
"This is a dysfunctional agency and in some ways, a rogue agency," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., on a Sunday morning news show.
Some Republicans have privately accused the CIA of leaking damaging stories about the War on Terror and progress in Iraq to undercut President Bush's bid for re-election. The CIA originally told Bush that finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was a "slam dunk."
Another issue shaking up the agency is the president's current negotiations with Congress on the range of power to be given to a new position, the national director of intelligence. McCain said the rebellion is an effort to tarnish Goss so the new powers don't fall to him.
"Porter Goss is on the right track. He is being savaged by these people who want the status quo and the status quo is not satisfactory," McCain said.
But key Democrats accuse Goss of allowing his former congressional staff to run roughshod over top CIA managers.
"There is no doubt that changes needed to take place at the CIA, and people should be held accountable for past failures. However, the departure of highly respected and competent individuals at such a crucial time is a grave concern," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, of West Virginia, ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
"Porter Goss assured the Senate that he would separate himself from his partisan past. His decision to take with him several staff with reputations for partisanship was very troubling, and he now faces rumors of a partisan purge at the CIA. Goss must take immediate steps to stabilize the situation at the CIA," Rockefeller said in a written statement.
Distractions are never welcome, even less so amid fresh news that Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden desires to attack the United States with a nuclear weapon. That's the report given by the CIA's top bin Laden expert, who also resigned last week.
"Bin Laden is remarkably eager for Americans to know why he doesn't like us, what he intends to do about it, and then following up and doing something about it in terms of military actions. He's told us that 'we are going to acquire a weapon of mass destruction, and if we acquire it, we will use it,'" former agent Michael Scheuer said on CBS' "60 Minutes" on Monday night.
A front-runner for Kappes' job heading the clandestine service is the current director of the CIA's counterterrorist center, who cannot be publicly identified because he is undercover, said an intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Major Garrett.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.