Republican loyalist named as CIA chief

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The Independent US

President George Bush picked a Republican loyalist and former covert intelligence operative yesterday to head the CIA - hoping to end the controversy and uncertainty that has rocked the agency.

President George Bush picked a Republican loyalist and former covert intelligence operative yesterday to head the CIA ­ hoping to end the controversy and uncertainty that has rocked the agency.

Speaking in the Rose Garden of the White House, Mr Bush said he had selected Porter Goss because he knew the agency "inside and out".

"He is well prepared for this mission," he said. "He's the right man to lead and support the agency at this critical moment in our nation's history."

The nomination of Mr Goss, who is chairman of the intelligence committee of the House of Representatives, came as little surprise. The Florida congressman has been lobbying for the job since the former CIA director, George Tenet, resigned last month after continuing controversy and allegations about the accuracy of intelligence about Iraq's weapons capabilities provided by the agency.

But it is not clear how easy a passage Mr Goss will receive when he seeks confirmation on Capitol Hill. Democrats have previously said that Mr Bush should not appoint a partisan figure to such a sensitive position. Mr Goss is said to be very close to Vice-President Dick Cheney, himself blamed by many for pushing false claims about Iraq's WMD, and critics said his appointment would not end executive interference in intelligence gathering.

"It's interesting that they have appointed someone who has been a staunch defender of the CIA in Congress. I think it says 'no great shake-up'," said David MacMichael, a former CIA analyst and a member of the group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

Last month, a report by the Senate Intelligence Committee strongly criticised Mr Tenet and said claims that Iraq possessed WMD were based on flawed and faulty intelligence.

Mr Goss, 65, yesterday simply said he was looking forward to the confirmation process. "I think every American knows the importance of getting the best possible intelligence we can get to our decision-makers," he said.

"The essence of our intelligence capability is people and we have some wonderful Americans doing a great job. I used to be part of them when I worked for the CIA. I'm very proud to be associated with them again and I look forward to the challenges of the future."

Precisely what role Mr Goss will have is unclear but it is unlikely he will be as powerful or influential as his predecessor.

Bowing to one of the recommendations made by the committee that investigated the attacks of 11 September 2001, Mr Bush said he was going to appoint an "intelligence tsar" who would co-ordinate the various agencies that make up the intelligence community. It is likely that position will held by a senior official, not by Mr Goss.

* The Secretary of State Colin Powell will not attend the Republican convention in New York on 30 August ­ another likely indicator of his intention not to serve in a second term if President Bush is re-elected. A State Department spokesman said Mr Powell believed he had a duty not to take part in "parochial debate".

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