As an undergraduate, John Loring ’60 never dreamed that friend and fellow Timothy Dwight resident Porter Goss ’60 would go on to assume one of the most influential and controversial roles in the United States government — that of director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
“You just can’t predict when someone is a teenager that they’re going to be director of the CIA,” Loring said.
Forty-four years after the two parted ways, Loring said he was “very proud” when he picked up a newspaper on Sept. 22 and read that Goss had received confirmation from the U.S. Senate, in a 77 to 17 vote, to succeed George Tenet as the nation’s new CIA Director.
But Loring, senior vice president and design director of Tiffany & Co. in New York, said Goss’ new job will not be easy. The nation’s eyes will be on Goss for the next few months, as Congress ponders the future of an agency under fire for its purported failure to prevent the Sept. 11 attacks and for the reports it generated containing faulty information regarding Iraq’s weapons capabilities.
Those who support Goss’ appointment contend that his personal experiences in the CIA will help him to rebuild and strengthen the agency. Diplomat-in-Residence Charles Hill said Goss’ work as both CIA officer and congressman will mitigate the tension that has historically existed between the agency and Congress.
And because Goss has been on both sides of the fence, Hill said, he is wise enough to know that policy and intelligence should never get “mixed up.”
“The CIA director has got to analyze [the data], and then step out of the room during the decision-making process,” he said.
Goss’ affiliation with the CIA can be traced all the way back to his time at Yale. Goss, who was born in Waterbury, Conn., majored in Classics and was a member of the Reserve Officer Training Corps as an undergraduate. A chance meeting with a CIA recruiter on campus during his senior year eventually led to a position as a CIA officer stationed in Miami in 1962. While occupying this post, Goss was among 400 officers assigned to Operation Mongoose, designed to help Cuba overthrow Castro’s communist regime. Operation Mongoose was headed by Robert Kennedy and initiated in 1961 after the Bay of Pigs incident.
After the Cuban Missile Crisis and subsequent negotiations with the Soviets, Operation Mongoose was terminated and Goss found himself working as a specialist in the infiltration of trade unions and other labor movement organizations in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Western Europe. In 1970, Goss contracted a severe bacteriological infection, which led to his retirement from the agency in 1972.
Goss retreated to Sanibel Island, Fla. to recover and establish a home life. During his time on the island, his involvement in politics intensified, culminating in his election to Congress as a Republican representative of Florida in 1988. Goss has served as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence since 1996.
Despite Goss’ broad range of governmental experience, his nomination as CIA Director by President George W. Bush ’68 provoked strong opposition from Democrats, who charged that Goss was too partisan — a criticism that was likely prompted by Goss’ comment in 2002 to a Washington Post reporter that “left-wingers” were “splattering mud” on the CIA.
But Assistant Director of International Security Studies Minh Luong said Goss’ political orientation has not caused him to shy away from being critical of the CIA.
“If you look at his record, he has been critical of the agency where criticism was appropriate,” he said.
And, Luong said, there is a “very short list” of individuals qualified for the position of CIA Director.
“I’m not convinced Kerry would have chosen anyone different,” he said.
Due to the criticisms leveled by the Sept. 11 Commission, the CIA is an agency in flux — a situation that has strong implications for Goss’ position as CIA Director. The Commission has proposed creating a National Intelligence Director, a new position that would supersede Goss’ authority by granting one official control of all 15 intelligence agencies.
It is not clear whether Goss would assume this position if Congress were to create it. This uncertainty alone, said Luong, may help ensure Goss’ nonpartisanship.
“History is going to judge [Goss] by his record,” he said. “If Goss wants to be appointed to that position, the reforms he implements will have to be effective and nonpartisan.”
Luong said he thinks the national demand for substantial reform will augment Goss’ effectiveness in proposing and enacting change. The CIA is in need of many fundamental reforms, including the need to build a balanced intelligence apparatus, Luong said.
“We’ve been too dependent on satellites,” he said. “We haven’t emphasized the human aspect of intelligence. We’ve needed people on the ground, in the field.”
He also said the agency’s oversight process needs to be streamlined — a reform he believes Goss, as a representative who has expressed his frustration with the oversight process in the past, will be fully devoted to actualizing.
“He will implement these reforms because he’s been on the other side,” Luong said.
But Luong stressed that Goss and the CIA have a long way to go before the agency is “back into full capacity.”
“It’s going to take at least seven to 10 years,” he said. “The American people are going to need to be patient.”