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This way to the egress

May 6, 2006

There may be unsightly reasons for Porter Goss’s unseemly haste in departing the CIA. Perhaps Negroponte put the hammer down when Goss refused to fire his old friend Dusty Foggo. (A delicious name, that, which does sound fitting for a Senate aide who doled out earmarks in exchange for poker nights out with the boys and all the rented girls. But doesn’t it sound more like a hobbit? One of that unsavory crew who acted as enforcers for Sharkey, in the days before the scouring of the Shire?) Or perhaps one of the many old-time spooks, up in arms over Goss’s mission to make the CIA a pliant arm of the RNC propaganda mill, applied a blackmail lever.

But Billmon has a perspicacious reading of the long term significance of the event. Porter Goss was destined for the door soon in any case, if only because he has accomplished what he was appointed to do.

However, just because the Night Porter is carrying his own bags out the door, that doesn’t mean the White House’s war on the agency is over. The leak investigations and political purges no doubt will continue, if more discreetly. The people who have been purged — taking with them something like 300 years worth of cumulative experience — aren’t coming back. The CIA isn’t the new FEMA; it’s the new New Orleans, flooded and gutted and left to mold in the mud.

I’d say it would take years for the agency to recover, but my suspicion is that it will never recover, as its missions and resources continue to flow towards the Pentagon, like stars being sucked down a black hole. Rather than being a hatchet man, like Schlesinger, or a caretaker, like Carter’s CIA director, Stansfield Turner, Goss’s successor may be more in the nature of an undertaker, charged with the continued, gradual dismantling of the agency — taking the C out of CIA.

And that may be the bigger story here. What’s been happening over the past decade — or longer, according to Andrew Bacevich — has been a relentless expansion in the authority and functions of the military services, and of their civilian overlords in the Secretary of Defense’s office, at the expense of the CIA, the State Department, the NSC and the other bits of alphabet in the national security soup. Years ago I saw an editorial cartoon that showed the Pentagon attached to the White House as its new west wing. We may be nearing the day when it’s actually the other way around. And Porter Goss has done his part to bring that day closer.

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