Week in Review: Goss, Moussaoui, Darfur

A discussion of highlights of the week's news, with topics including the departure of CIA chief Porter Goss, the life sentence delivered to Zacarias Moussaoui and a tenuous peace deal in Darfur.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Mr. PORTER GOSS (CIA Director): I would like to report back to you that I believe the agency is on a very even keel, sailing well. I honestly believe that we have improved dramatically your goals for our nation's intelligence capabilities, which are in fact the things that I think are keeping us very safe.

SIMON: CIA director Porter Goss speaking from Oval Office on Friday. He is resigning his post after 18 months of heading Central Intelligence Agency.

NPR's senior news analyst Dan Schorr joins us.

Hello, Dan.

DANIEL SCHORR reporting:

Hi, Scott.

SIMON: And this resignation on Friday afternoon...

SCHORR: Mm-hmm.

SIMON: ...was certainly not expected. All kinds of speculation as to why he decided to leave, or was decided that he should leave. What are some of the answers that make sense to you?

SCHORR: Well, what I would like to believe, but I don't, is that it's because he fired Mary McCarthy just on the verge of her retirement, alleging that she had leaked a story to the press, which she denies having done. It is more likely, however, that when he took the staff that he had in Congress over to the CIA, they turned out not to be what the CIA needed. And he demoralized a large part of the agency, and people began leaving one after the other. He simply didn't perform terribly well.

SIMON: Now, how is Mr. Goss' departure likely to affect the agency, particularly now when the CIA is not, at the same time, head of overall intelligence gathering?

SCHORR: Well, that is exactly the point. The person who use to be Director of Central Intelligence, meaning all intelligence, now is director of the Central Intelligence Agency, meaning he becomes number two to the real chief in charge of everything, who is John Negroponte. It's John Negroponte who in the first place has to brief the President every morning. He is the direct contact. He understands what the administration is doing and where it wants to go. Which leaves Porter Goss kind of hanging out there.

SIMON: Dan, what do you hear about a possible successor?

SCHORR: Well, Scott, the name that's being mentioned by all the great mentioners is Air Force General Michael Hayden, top deputy to John Negroponte. He's also former director of the National Security Agency, the great eavesdropper. So when General Hayden has defended warrantless eavesdropping before Congress, and that ought to make for, well, an interesting confirmation hearing.

SIMON: Immigration rights advocates called Monday the Day Without An Immigrant. Immigrants and supporters nationwide were asked to stay home from work or school to demonstrate the economic impact of immigrant labor on the U.S. economy. Do you think the demonstrations and the people staying home had any kind of impact?

SCHORR: Well, that's interesting. Impact, yes. The only question is what does the impact do? I'm sure that starting after these massive demonstrations last Monday, that people in Congress began saying, Wow, there must be some votes there. But the question is, what do you do about it? The people who take an interest in this are almost evenly divided between those who want to have this cheap labor and those who want to have stricter enforcement of our borders.

And between the two, it is very difficult to get in a compromise. The Senate almost did before they went away on their holiday. And whether they can start where they left off, or whether there is simply one of these perennial struggles to do something that everybody wants to do, we'll have to see.

SIMON: Well, but what does have influence in the Congress? Is it the demonstrations? Or is it nowadays emails, and personal visits, and letters, for that matter?

SCHORR: Oh, I think, all of the above. I mean, whatever evidence people give that they are interested in paying attention, which Americans don't always do when it comes to Congress, if they're paying attention, especially if they indicate that their next vote might be influenced by what happens, you'll get a hearing.

SIMON: Zacarias Moussaoui will spend the rest of his life in prison. A federal jury could have given him the death penalty for his role in the September 11th attacks. Instead, he'll serve six life sentences at a maximum-security prison. The judge said to him, You will go out with a whimper. What's your reaction to the decision of the jury?

SCHORR: What's my reaction? I find this whole thing very, very painful. Here we had this very long trial, trying somebody who probably had no connection with 9/11, although he apparently knew some of their people. And because when these symbols and metaphors to express our anguish and anger over what happened there, you had this very, very long trial, which he uses in his own way to make himself more famous than he ever will be again.

And there was enormous amount of surprise. I was surprised by it. I was sure there was going to be capital punishment here. And I was quite surprised that they gave him a life sentence instead. But as they say, he'll go with a whimper.

SIMON: I want to ask you about a peace agreement that was signed in Nigeria on Friday...

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: ...that is being hailed and, of course by some people, criticized. The Sudanese government and the main rebel group in Darfur have signed a ceasefire agreement.

SCHORR: Mm-hmm.

SIMON: The deal says it will disarm the Jinjaweed and other militia groups. It also guarantees some political representation for rebel groups. Two smaller rebel groups pointedly did not sign that agreement. Does this agreement have the impact of being the beginning of the end of one of the worst humanitarian disasters of our time?

SCHORR: I don't know. I would love to believe. But there again, I'm not exactly sure that this is also a result of the nationwide demonstrations that were held last Sunday, in support of the poor people of Darfur who have lost 100,000; 180,000 killed and about two million have been forced into refuge from the country. There was a truce before, two years ago, and it didn't work. And so, will this one work? Well, keep your fingers crossed.

What may help is that the African Union is taking a more positive role in this. And President Bush sent somebody, Bob Zoellick, who is Deputy Secretary of State, over to give a final little push. And maybe all of those got an agreement in which maybe this time may work.

SIMON: Let me ask you about the journeys of Vice President Cheney. He's attending events in Kazakhstan and Croatia this weekend.

SCHORR: Mm-hmm.

SIMON: Earlier this week in Lithuania, the Vice President had some very strong words for Russia...

SCHORR: Yeah.

SIMON: ...reproaching their human rights record. He has also accused Russia of trying to intimidate its neighbors by threatening to withhold some energy supplies.

SCHORR: Right.

SIMON: How do you analyze what seems to be really some growing points of diversions between the U.S. and Russia?

SCHORR: Yes. I don't think that anybody is looking into Putin's soul anymore. I think that in one way, they're getting ready for the G8 Summit in July, where Russia will be in the chair. And I think the United States is a little unhappy about how that may be used. As to the rest, what Cheney said was all true, of course. Why he went to Lithuania to say it is something else, considering that the United States needs Russia right now. Particularly to get some support on a plan for what to do about Iran. And at a time like this to pick a fight with Russia, I find surprising

SIMON: Dan, thanks very much.

SCHORR: Any time.

SIMON: Dan Schorr.

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