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CIA Director Porter Goss resigns from the troubled spy agency

WASHINGTON—CIA Director Porter Goss resigned suddenly Friday, but gave no reason for quitting the spy agency.

The CIA has been trying to recover from a stream of departures of senior officers over Goss' leadership style, low morale and fallout from intelligence failures over Iraq and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

His departure after less than two years threatened to prolong the turmoil roiling the CIA as it helps lead U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan, capture Osama bin Laden and crush al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations.

Goss sat next to President Bush as Bush announced the resignation in the Oval Office. Director of National Security John Negroponte, Goss' immediate superior, was also present. Neither the White House nor the CIA gave a reason for Goss' resignation.

"He's led ably," said Bush, describing Goss' tenure as "one of transition."

Bush praised Goss for helping "make this country a safer place" by overseeing a plan to hire more CIA analysts and field officers and guiding the agency through an overhaul of the U.S. intelligence community.

Goss said he believed that the CIA "is on a very even keel, sailing well. I honestly believe that we have improved dramatically your goals for our nation's intelligence capabilities."

Goss is a former Republican congressman who was a covert CIA officer from 1962 until 1971. He later made millions in the property business.

Some CIA employees welcomed Goss' announcement, said several U.S. intelligence officers and knowledgeable U.S. officials, all of whom declined to be identified because they weren't authorized to speak publicly. They said that the employees see it as a chance for Bush to tap someone with stronger leadership abilities who could replace former Republican congressional staffers whom Goss brought in as senior managers.

Goss was embroiled in controversy almost from the day he took over as CIA director in October 2004 because he appointed Republican congressional staffers to senior management posts in place of long-serving officers.

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said Goss' resignation wasn't linked to the friendship between CIA Executive Director Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, the agency's third-highest official, and businessman Brent Wilkes. The FBI is investigating whether Wilkes provided prostitutes, limousines and hotel rooms to former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a California Republican who's serving a more than eight-year prison term for accepting bribes.

Foggo has acknowledged attending "occasional card games" organized by Wilkes, but denied any further involvement, according to a CIA statement.

Foggo has acknowledged attending "occasional card games" organized by Wilkes, but denied any further involvement, according to a CIA statement.

Goss' appointments of Republican congressional staffers damaged morale at an agency that already was hurt by charges that it might have been able to foil the Sept. 11 attacks and over its erroneous assessments that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs.

The resignations and retirements of veteran CIA officials turned into a flood, according to current and former CIA officials and members of Congress.

Rep. Jane Harman of California, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, recently said that the CIA was in "freefall" after losing veteran officers with a combined experience of 300 years.

"There was a lot of discontent," said one U.S. official. "Morale was dangerously low."

A White House official who asked not to be further identified said Bush could nominate a replacement for Goss as early as Monday. One possible choice was said to be Frances Fragos Townsend, the director of the National Homeland Security Council.

"Whomever the president selects must be able to gain the respect of intelligence professionals," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "I hope he will name an experienced and knowledgeable intelligence professional, someone who is a skilled manager in very difficult circumstances."

After delivering his resignation to the president, Goss announced it over the CIA's internal television system and said there had been "great strides" in analytical, intelligence-gathering and technological capabilities.

Acting on a recommendation of the independent Sept. 11 commission, Bush had reduced the CIA director's power by creating Negroponte's post and transferring to him what had been Goss' job of managing the 16 agencies of the U.S. intelligence community. Negroponte also took over other duties that had belonged to the CIA director, including Bush's morning intelligence briefing.

Two U.S. intelligence officials said Goss had complained privately for months about becoming subordinate to Negroponte. They said they believed that one reason Goss resigned was because of recent decisions by Negroponte that reduced the CIA's role in terrorism analysis and the supervision of relations with foreign services on which the CIA relies—critics say far too heavily—for intelligence.

Goss also had expressed frustration over tensions between his professional intelligence officers and his political superiors, particularly concerning CIA analyses on Iraq, said two other U.S. intelligence officers.

"We have been unable to tell the president, the vice president, the secretary of defense and others what they seem to want to hear, which is a more optimistic assessment of political progress in Iraq" and an upbeat estimate of "the inroads we're making against the Sunni insurgency and the Shiite militias," said one of the officials.

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(Knight Ridder Newspapers correspondent John Walcott contributed to this report.)

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(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

ARCHIVE PHOTOS on KRT Direct (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): PORTER GOSS

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