In Latest Setback, No. 2 Man at CIA Quits
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The number-two official in the CIA's clandestine service is leaving. Robert Richer is the latest to join an exodus of senior agency officials. Several dozen have left in recent months. NPR's Mary Louise Kelly has more on this latest departure.
MARY LOUISE KELLY reporting:
Robert Richer is a seasoned spy, an ex-Marine with 35 years under his belt at the CIA, including tour as a station chief in Jordan and Oman. He took over as the second-ranking leader of the agency's spying branch just last year. But according to former colleagues, 10 months in the job have been long enough to cause Richer to lose confidence in CIA Chief Porter Goss. Phil Giraldi is a former CIA operations officer.
Mr. PHIL GIRALDI (Former CIA Operations Officer): What I'm hearing about the resignation is it's symptomatic of the continuing problems that are going on at the agency, with Porter Goss having trouble selling his agenda, particularly to the operations directorate.
KELLY: The operations directorate, as the CIA's clandestine service is known, has been in upheaval since at least last fall. That's when Richer's predecessor and his boss stormed out, also citing concerns about the CIA leadership and personality clashes with Goss' top aides. CIA insiders say, if anything, morale has gotten worse since then, and they wouldn't be surprised to see still more departures. Milton Bearden served as CIA station chief in Moscow, Islamabad and Khartoum. Bearden believes the ongoing turmoil is taking a toll and that the middle of the war on terror isn't the wisest time to allow so much turnover.
Mr. MILTON BEARDEN (Former CIA Station Chief): You could make the case that CIA was a Cold War institution and has more or less lived its normal life pattern and it should be replaced. But I think it's a tricky time to start a revolution within a revolution within a revolution.
KELLY: This month marks a year on the job for Porter Goss. It's been a rocky tenure so far. Aside from the staff departures, the president's intelligence commission has aimed withering criticism at the CIA. This spring the commission advised President Bush that Goss' plans for expanding the agency are inadequate and vague and that the DO, the directorate of operations, won't meet its hiring goals even by 2011. But Goss' spokeswoman, Jennifer Millerwise Dyck, insists the CIA is on the right track.
Ms. JENNIFER MILLERWISE DYCK (Goss Spokeswoman): Over the past year Director Goss has led this agency through a number of necessary reforms. So it's been a year of a lot of accomplishment and a lot of changes and a lot of reforms. And in the upcoming year he looks forward to instituting changes that will continue to strengthen our capabilities.
KELLY: Is he concerned that so many of his senior officials keep leaving?
Ms. MILLERWISE DYCK: Well, (laughs) I don't think that I would agree with you on that assertion. We continue to have strong leadership throughout all of the directorates, including in the DO.
KELLY: One question hanging over the CIA is how long Goss himself intends to stay. A number of intelligence veterans tell NPR his departure might be the only way to staunch the hemorrhaging of top officials. But Millerwise Dyck says right now leaving is not on Goss' agenda.
Ms. MILLERWISE DYCK: This is a place that he loves. This is a place that he believes in. This is a place that he began his career, and he loves being back here, and he loves leading the CIA.
KELLY: As to Robert Richer, Millerwise Dyck dodged questions as to the exact reasons for his departure, saying only, `Director Goss and the rest of the CIA family have been honored to call him one of our own, and he will be missed.' Mary Louise Kelly, NPR News, Washington.