WASHINGTON – CIA Director Porter Goss (search) sketched out his vision for the spy agency in a speech to employees Thursday and took some heat from the audience about high-level departures and other concerns.
Goss spoke for just under an hour in the agency's auditorium, covering such issues as new methods of protecting the identities of clandestine officers and a push to rely less on information from friendly intelligence services. A transcript of the speech was provided to reporters Thursday evening.
In questions later, which were not made public, Goss found himself in some awkward moments, facing queries about the recent departure of a high-level clandestine operative and his plans for the agency's best-known division, the clandestine service, according to former officials familiar with the session. All spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the exchange was not made public.
Goss, a former Republican congressman from Florida who was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee (search) and a one-time CIA officer, has overseen the agency for one year. At the urging of the White House and a series of intelligence commissions, Goss is making changes to fix problems related to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the prewar intelligence on Iraq.
When Goss took office last fall, a number of high-level agency personnel departed. This month, another senior manager in the clandestine service, Robert Richer (search), also left over differences about Goss' changes. Goss was pressed for details Thursday.
"It was a very candid meeting," said his spokeswoman Jennifer Millerwise Dyke. But "he wouldn't answer specifics about Mr. Richer's departure."
She said Goss made clear that staff have a right to confidentiality.
In addressing change, Goss said the agency will "not rely solely" on information from friendly intelligence services. Without ignoring those "vital relationships," Goss said the agency will do more on its own.
He said he encourages calculated risks. "And when it goes wrong, I will support you," he said.
He was also critical of "surging," or sending numerous CIA personnel into trouble spots, as has been in the case in countries including Iraq. Instead, the CIA (search) should establish a foothold in countries to gain expertise. "We are not in all of the places we should be," he said.
Former clandestine service chief Jim Pavitt said deep budget cuts and other policies during the 1990s have had a devastating effect on the agency and forced such moves after Sept. 11.
"No one wanted to surge," Pavitt said. But "there was no other way to deal with the issues that had become presidential priorities than to surge to meet the intelligence challenges."
Goss' speech comes as the intelligence community is in the midst of an overhaul, including major changes at the top with the newly created national intelligence director's office.
That chief, John Negroponte (search), has been embroiled in a number of decisions that will test his ability to oversee all 15 agencies of the intelligence
In one of his first major moves, Negroponte this week decided to shift parts of a major satellite contract from Boeing Co. to Lockheed Martin Corp., putting his stamp on a contentious debate over a highly classified government program.