Monday, September 26, 2005

Are These Two Items Somehow Related? 

Personal and political feuding at CIA headquarters is turning into a soap opera. Morale has declined for months as CIA chief Porter Goss has purged senior managers and critics have assailed the agency for fumbling intelligence on Al Qaeda and unconventional weapons in Iraq. And last week frustrations at Langley, Va., boiled over as career spies lobbed broadsides against Goss's stewardship . . . .

Asked why veteran officers like [Rob] Richer were walking out, Goss said, "I don't do personnel," and blamed the media for inaccurate reporting, say three sources with firsthand knowledge of the proceedings who requested anonymity since the broadcast was private. The CIA's operations chief, known as Jose because he works under cover, then stated that Richer "had good reasons for leaving" . . . Another member of the audience, say the sources with first-hand knowledge, asked Goss about why the director brought a former congressional staffer with him to the CIA who, as a junior CIA officer, once got into trouble for shoplifting food. Goss responded that people make mistakes.
The White House makes no apologies for organizing government in a way that makes it easier to carry out Bush's agenda. Johnson says the centralization is "very intentional, and it starts with the people you pick ... They're there to implement the President's priorities." Johnson asserts that appointees are chosen on merit, with political credentials used only as a tie breaker between qualified people. "Everybody knows somebody," he says. "Were they appointed because they knew somebody? No. What we focused on is: Does the government work, and can it be caused to work better and more responsibly? ... We want the programs to work." But across the government, some experienced civil servants say they are being shut out of the decision making at their agencies. "It depresses people, right down to the level of a clerk-typist," says Leo Bosner, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA's) largest union. "The senior to mid-level managers have really been pushed into a corner career-wise."

Some of the appointments are raising serious concerns in the agencies themselves and on Capitol Hill about the competence and independence of agencies that the country relies on to keep us safe, healthy and secure. Internal e-mail messages obtained by TIME show that scientists' drug-safety decisions at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are being second-guessed by a 33-year-old doctor turned stock picker. At the Office of Management and Budget, an ex-lobbyist with minimal purchasing experience oversaw $300 billion in spending, until his arrest last week. At the Department of Homeland Security, an agency the Administration initially resisted, a well-connected White House aide with minimal experience is poised to take over what many consider the single most crucial post in ensuring that terrorists do not enter the country again. And who is acting as watchdog at every federal agency? A corps of inspectors general who may be increasingly chosen more for their political credentials than their investigative ones.

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