Modern Love: Hayden, Negroponte & Goss Spy A Scandal

Central Intelligence AgencyThe story goes like this: Negroponte is unhappy with Goss. Negroponte goes to Bush for help in getting rid of Goss. Bush approves. Goss is fired. Hayden is looked upon as a likely replacement. Bush will announce on Monday that Hayden is the new CIA Director.

That is the story that the major news outlets are peddling based on some high octane spin coming from the White House. Karl Rove must be losing what hair he has left burning the midnight oil.

I have one major problem with this story line. The problem is that Porter Goss dropped everything on Friday and ran to the White House with virtually no notice to quit. That is simply not done when you are the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency in the middle of an intelligence driven War on Terror. His hasty exit has left the CIA in turmoil. If he was pushed out as a result of a power struggle the Administration would have had a successor at the ready to smooth the transition. Not having a successor ready is either monumentally irresponsible or an indication of a scandal that is big enough that all other considerations seemed not to matter to Goss and the President.

Adding fuel to the fire, asked about his resignation Porter Goss was decidedly unhelpful:

Porter Goss said Saturday that his surprise resignation as CIA director is "just one of those mysteries," offering no other explanation for his sudden departure after almost two years on the job.

It looks like Porter Goss is not on board with the program. Look for Goss to sing like a canary in the near future.

We are also to believe that John Negroponte was involved in a power struggle with Goss.  To buy into this spin, we would have to believe that Mr. Negroponte takes his job seriously. Unfortunately, Mr. Negroponte is so engaged in his job as the Director of National Intelligence that he spends three hours of his busy workday relaxing at a ritzy private club:

On many a workday lunchtime, the nominal boss of U.S. intelligence, John D. Negroponte, can be found at a private club in downtown Washington, getting a massage, taking a swim, and having lunch, followed by a good cigar and a perusal of the daily papers in the club’s library.

“He spends three hours there [every] Monday through Friday,” gripes a senior counterterrorism official, noting that the former ambassador has a security detail sitting outside all that time in chase cars. Others say they’ve seen the Director of National Intelligence at the University Club, a 100-year-old mansion-like redoubt of dark oak panels and high ceilings a few blocks from the White House, only “several” times a week.

But there seems to be a new, relaxed John Negroponte. And some close observers think they know why.

He’s figured out the job. Which is to say, he really doesn’t have much control over the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies.

It does not appear that Negroponte was struggling with much of anything let alone struggling with the Director of the CIA.

If there was a power struggle, it might have been between the Defense Department and the CIA. The Defense Department appears to be usurping most of the intelligence budget and activities from the CIA. Mr. Negroponte is a hapless bystander in this power struggle as the following exchange with Senator Diane Feinstein illustrates:

“We appointed you to be the person to (run) all intelligence,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., lectured Negroponte at a Feb. 28 hearing of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee. (CQ Transcripts: Senate Select Intelligence Committee hearing, Feb. 28, 2006)

Feinstein asked Negroponte about “recent media reports [that] have spotlighted a number of activities that appear to be related to intelligence collection or covert action, but that well may be outside of the official intelligence community’s channels.

“For example,” Feinstein continued, “military databases of suspicious activity reports . . . by the (domestic military) counterintelligence field activity, or CIFA; and, secondly, a Pentagon program to secretly pay Iraqi newspapers to run pro-American articles.

“Were these activities subject to your approval and oversight?”

Negroponte’s answer was short-circuited by an unidentified voice, according to the CQ transcript, quite possibly his deputy, former Air Force general and NSA chief Michael Hayden.

“Ma’am, I don’t believe that either of those activities would fall into Mr. Negroponte’s area. They are Department of Defense programs, I believe.”

“Now, let me raise this problem then,” Feinstein continued.

“Now, I know how tough it is. But if you didn’t know and you didn’t give a go-ahead [to domestic military spying], it indicates to me that, for 85 percent of the budget, which is defense-related, that you’re not going to have the controls that you should have,” Feinstein said.

“You want to comment?”

Negroponte, who not long ago in Baghdad was dismissing senior military officers with the wave of his hand, had to be feeling an acute wave of heartburn.

The Director of National Intelligence was forced to concede that the U.S. intelligence activities Feinstein was asking him about had “not risen to the level of my office.” In any event, they came “under the direction of the undersecretary of defense for intelligence” — a pipsqueak, relatively speaking.

Negroponte said he “understood” that the Pentagon was doing an internal review of spying programs because of a congressional uproar.

“But will you get the results of that review?” Feinstein asked.

“Yes,” promised Negroponte, dismissed like a schoolboy, “I will get those results.”

Enter General Michael Hayden. He apparently is the forerunner to be the new CIA Director. If he is nominated it will be a victory for Dick Cheney and will further diminish the power of the CIA vis-à-vis the Defense Department. Michael Hayden after all is Dick Cheney’s go to guy for warrant-less eavesdropping. The former Director of the National Security Agency was the implementer and chief public defender of the Administration’s warrant-less domestic spying program. General "Bill of Rights" Hayden of course famously excised the "probable cause" clause from the Fourth Amendment:

QUESTION: Jonathan Landay with Knight Ridder. I’d like to stay on the same issue, and that had to do with the standard by which you use to target your wiretaps. I’m no lawyer, but my understanding is that the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution specifies that you must have probable cause to be able to do a search that does not violate an American’s right against unlawful searches and seizures. Do you use —

GEN. HAYDEN: No, actually — the Fourth Amendment actually protects all of us against unreasonable search and seizure.

QUESTION: But the —

GEN. HAYDEN: That’s what it says.

QUESTION: But the measure is probable cause, I believe.

GEN. HAYDEN: The amendment says unreasonable search and seizure.

QUESTION: But does it not say probable —

GEN. HAYDEN: No. The amendment says —

QUESTION: The court standard, the legal standard —

GEN. HAYDEN: — unreasonable search and seizure.

QUESTION: The legal standard is probable cause, General. You used the terms just a few minutes ago, "We reasonably believe." And a FISA court, my understanding is, would not give you a warrant if you went before them and say "we reasonably believe"; you have to go to the FISA court, or the attorney general has to go to the FISA court and say, "we have probable cause." And so what many people believe — and I’d like you to respond to this — is that what you’ve actually done is crafted a detour around the FISA court by creating a new standard of "reasonably believe" in place in probable cause because the FISA court will not give you a warrant based on reasonable belief, you have to show probable cause. Could you respond to that, please?

GEN. HAYDEN: Sure. I didn’t craft the authorization. I am responding to a lawful order. All right? The attorney general has averred to the lawfulness of the order.

Just to be very clear — and believe me, if there’s any amendment to the Constitution that employees of the National Security Agency are familiar with, it’s the Fourth. And it is a reasonableness standard in the Fourth Amendment. And so what you’ve raised to me — and I’m not a lawyer, and don’t want to become one — what you’ve raised to me is, in terms of quoting the Fourth Amendment, is an issue of the Constitution. The constitutional standard is "reasonable." And we believe — I am convinced that we are lawful because what it is we’re doing is reasonable.

He is just the guy we need to head our spy agency.

WatergateMichael Hayden, the Defense Department and Dick Cheney (even perhaps Negroponte) may be jockeying to take advantage of the power struggle caused by Goss’s departure but it is not plausible to conclude that they were the primary cause of his departure. The New York Daily News asserts today that its "all about the Duke Cunningham scandal" (better known as Hookergate). The Wall Street journal also reports that Goss’s number 3, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, may be under federal criminal investigation for his involvement in Hookergate. Josh Marshall widens the net by looking at possible misdeeds at the DHS related to Hookergate contracting. No one however has yet connected Porter Goss directly to the scandal. The involvement of Foggo with Hookergate does not explain the abruptness of the Goss exit. Something else must have spooked Goss. Whatever caused his sudden flight probably involves him directly, not tangentially.

There is way too much smoke here for there not to be fire. There is much original reporting to do here. I trust that our worthy investigative reporters will leave no stone unturned to unearth the roots of this scandal. The Nixon Watergate scandal started with a third rate burglary. The reality challenged G. Gordon Liddy has always claimed that the real story involved hookers. Mr. Liddy may finally get his wish in that the new Watergate scandal is starting with hookers. Where it leads is anyone’s guess. However, it does promise to be a hot summer in Washington.

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11 Responses to Modern Love: Hayden, Negroponte & Goss Spy A Scandal

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  4. Mash says:

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