Why did the CIA’s chief resign so abruptly?
Posted on Monday, May 8, 2006. By Ken Silverstein.
SourcesWhy did CIA chief Porter Goss resign on Friday? There are several theories, and one of the most widely circulated holds that Goss quit after losing a simple turf war with John Negroponte, the Director of National Intelligence. And yes, Negroponte and Goss have been feuding over turf, but it seems unlikely that this is the sole explanation for Goss’s exit.
As UPI reporter Shaun Waterman has written, “There may be underlying reasons for Goss’s departure that are . . . prosaic—he was seen by some as lacking vision and criticized by others as a lousy manager—but the rumor–mill was stoked by the fact that his departure on Friday had the unconvincing choreography of the Andropov-era Soviet Union.” In fact, people I've talked to say that the resignation is not only the result of a feud with Negroponte but is also at least indirectly connected to potential fallout from the Duke Cunningham scandal.
That scandal continues to unfold. Dusty Foggo, Goss's once-surprise pick for the CIA's number-three post (who reportedly quit today), has acknowledged attending parties thrown by Brent Wilkes, the defense contractor who allegedly bribed Cunningham, at the Watergate Hotel. Foggo is now under investigation, and his ties to Wilkes are being scrutinized by Cunningham-case investigators and internally at the CIA. Foggo has denied having any knowledge regarding the prostitutes who allegedly attended the parties. Goss, through the CIA press office, claims never to have attended the parties at all.
The names of two other people with ties to Goss have surfaced in connection with the Cunningham scandal. One of them is a man nicknamed “Nine Fingers,” whom Newsweek identified as Brant Bassett. “An eyewitness,” reads the article, “(who asked not to be identified commenting on sensitive matters) told Newsweek that in 1999, Foggo, Cunningham and [Bassett] attended an all-male Wilkes poker party at the Westin Grand Hotel in Washington.” I was also told by one well-connected former CIA officer that Bassett is one of the agency’s old Soviet hands who “always managed to get himself into trouble.”
“This,” said the former CIA officer of Goss's resignation, “was not expected. No one, including Goss, knew it was coming.”
Meanwhile, I double-checked with my sources regarding who attended Wilkes’s parties, and all of them repeated what they had said before: over the years, at least six former and current members of Congress were said to have been at events sponsored by Wilkes, and their names have apparently been provided to investigators in the Cunningham case. Also, it wasn't only congressmen who were at the parties; intelligence officials, businessmen, and assorted hangers-on also attended. (As we previously noted, some of the attendees may have simply dropped by for a drink.)
I've been told by several sources that one of the people in attendance at the parties—not a current or former member of Congress—has a long international track record of Bill Clinton–style sexual indiscretions. A person with direct knowledge of the matter told me that this man—let me put this delicately—once, some years ago, while in Europe, kept company with an acquaintance whose work attire resembled Halle Berry’s in the film Catwoman. (Ma’am, if you are out there reading this, please contact email@example.com immediately, as I have many questions. A translator will be provided if needed.)
In related news, members of Congress have announced they will investigate the $21.2 million contract between the Department of Homeland Security and Shirlington Limousine of Alexandria, Virginia. As I first reported here on April 27, Shirlington is the firm that is deeply implicated in the Cunningham scandal and got the DHS contract despite being headed by a man with a lengthy criminal record. “The information we've obtained,” GOP Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, who chairs the House subcommittee that oversees DHS, told the New York Times in a story that ran yesterday, “raises a number of serious questions, from the contracting process to possible security concerns.” Today, two members of Congress sent a letter to Homeland Security Inspector General Richard Skinner, requesting further investigation into the DHS contracts with Shirlington Limousine.
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Note: the best coverage of the Goss/ Foggo/ Cunningham story has been provided by Laura Rozen at War and Piece, who has rounded up all the most interesting theories and added analysis of her own. If you’re looking for more on this investigation, you should visit her site.
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Two corrections: I previously reported, attributing the information to an account from an insider, that Shirlington's DHS contract was sole-source. The insider had everything else right about the contract, but he was wrong about that issue. There were other bidders; indeed, according to the Washington Post, Shirlington did not offer the best price but got the deal based on “best value.”
Second, I said on May 3 that Jerome Foster—a defense contractor and one-time director for Shirlington—formerly held a teaching position at San Diego State University. That factoid came from a 1992 profile of Foster in the San Diego Business Journal, and was presumably provided by Foster himself. I'm still checking but the university apparently has no record of Foster ever teaching there. If that's so, I'm wondering if Foster might have inflated his resume in other ways as well. Public records show a long string of liens and court judgments against him and Pentech, the defense company he headed. Pentech's Washington lobbyist was former Rep. Bill Lowery, who also represented a company owned by Brent Wilkes.
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This is The Loss of Goss by Ken Silverstein, published Monday, May 8, 2006. It is part of Washington Babylon, which is part of Harpers.org.