President George W. Bush's nomination of Rep. Porter Goss as the next CIA director could lead to tense confirmation hearings, with plenty of questions about the president's national security record and goals, just weeks before the Nov. 2 election.
Even as some Democrats praised the nomination of Goss, a Florida Republican who gave up his role Tuesday as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, others criticized him as inappropriately partisan for a job that requires relaying objective advice to policy makers.
"You must keep the politics out of intelligence," said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California. "I'm not sure that has been done here."
"The selection of a politician — any politician from either party — is a mistake," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. "Having independent, objective intelligence going to the president and the Congress is fundamental to America's national security."
The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts, said he was mystified by complaints that Goss was partisan.
"You can disagree with somebody as to the issues from time to time; I don't think that makes them partisan," said Roberts, of Kansas. "I don't consider him to be partisan. I've known him for 16 years; that's not a word I would use to describe Porter."
Appearing Wednesday on NBC, Roberts said, "I think we're all politicians in Congress" and said service in the national legislature shouldn't be a disqualifying factor.
"We're going to have hearings the first week of September. We're going to try to expedite this. I think he will be confirmed," he said. "The Democrats have questions. We'll keep it civil."
Appearing on the same program, Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat who is a member of the Intelligence Committee, said, "I believe the White House may be playing this with a political angle. If they are, it's unfortunate. We still have a responsibility, despite the elections, to ask the hard questions."
Sen. John McCain, and Arizona Republican, told ABC TV's "Good Morning America" that Goss "has shown not only the ability but the willingness to point out the failures that existed in our intelligence agencies prior to" Sept. 11.
On Wednseday, Mr. Bush took his campaign to the battleground state of Florida, shortly after nominating Goss.
The White House said the trip to Goss' home state was pure coincidence, but as CBS News Correspondent Bill Plante reports, former CIA Director Admiral Stansfield Turner, who supports Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry, criticized Goss' appointment as pure politics.
"The appearance is there of turning this very important, apolitical job of director of CIA into some kind of political ploy," Stansfield said.
In making the announcement Tuesday, Mr. Bush ignored advisers who had favored allowing acting director John E. McLaughlin to remain on the job until after the November elections.
Mr. Bush praised Goss, a former CIA officer, as someone who "knows the CIA inside and out" and said he was "the right man to lead this important agency at this critical moment in our nation's history."
Goss, 65, worked as a CIA officer overseeing spies in Central America and Western Europe during the 1960s until a mysterious infection forced his retirement. He rose in local and then national politics after his recovery.
He has never disclosed details of his CIA employment except to reveal that he worked in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Mexico — all tumultuous countries during that decade of the Cold War.
Mr. Bush's nomination of Goss could deflect criticism from Kerry that the administration wasn't moving quickly enough to make important changes affecting U.S. intelligence agencies. Among the proposals being worked out is creation of a new national intelligence director — a job Goss could ultimately inherit.
The complexities of such reforms were underscored Tuesday when Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld suggested there are legitimate reasons against sharing too much information across U.S. intelligence agencies. Rumsfeld opposes the creation of a new national intelligence chief, partly because the Pentagon currently controls more than 80 percent of the nation's intelligence budget.
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