In a rare public appearance Wednesday, CIA Director Porter Goss said he is overwhelmed by the many duties of his job, including devoting five hours out of every day to prepare for and deliver intelligence briefings to President Bush.
“The jobs I’m being asked to do, the five hats that I wear, are too much for this mortal,” Goss said. “I’m a little amazed at the workload.”
Goss praised Bush’s choice for the new job of national intelligence director, John Negroponte. The career diplomat, who is expected to be confirmed by the Senate, will take over several of the duties currently assigned to Goss, including the presidential briefing.
Goss, who has made few public comments beyond congressional testimony, also said the legislation creating the position of director of national intelligence left him unclear on his future role.
“It’s got a huge amount of ambiguity in it,” he said. “I don’t know by law what my direct relationship is with John Negroponte,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or other top officials involved with intelligence.
Despite the confusion, Goss praised Negroponte’s selection.
“I hold him in the very highest regard,” he said, noting that the two attended Yale at the same time. “The intelligence community is going to be strengthened and unified and more effective than it has ever been.”
Goss’ remarks came during an hourlong address at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, before an audience of more than 200 that included former first lady Nancy Reagan. Tickets to the event were sold to the public for $45.
Goss, a CIA clandestine officer for 10 years who retired in 1972, said it takes him five hours every day to prepare and deliver the president’s daily briefing, calling Bush “a voracious consumer of intelligence.”
Legislation signed by Bush in December creates a national intelligence center and the powerful new position Negroponte is nominated for. He will oversee the nation’s 15 separate intelligence agencies.
Goss will remain head of the CIA but under the legislation loses his title as director of central intelligence. He said his role under the overhauled system will likely depend on Bush.
“Any president … is going to pick the way he or she wants the intelligence community to serve him or her,” he said.
Even after the nation’s intelligence overhaul, he said, “the CIA is going to continue to be the flagship of the intelligence community.”
Goss succeeded George Tenet, the CIA chief for seven years who was criticized for intelligence failures leading up to the Iraq war. Tenet also reportedly assured Bush there was “slam dunk” evidence showing Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Such weapons have not been found.
Since Goss arrived at the CIA in September, more than a dozen senior officials have left and some critics complain he has politicized the agency by hiring Republican aides.
Goss said reforms were needed and the “agency is pretty much around the corner.” He said the CIA is “substantially increasing” its number of analysts and field officers.
Goss also was asked about the government’s official position on torture. Recent reports – including that an Iraqi who died under CIA interrogation had been suspended by his wrists with his hands cuffed behind his back – have brought increased scrutiny to the agency’s techniques.
Goss said torture was not something “we abide, tolerate or want,” but added that it was problematic for the government to publicly discuss torture and terrorism.
“Right now, I’ll put it this way: Justice is being properly served with all people” who are in U.S. custody, Goss said.
“I know of no instances of torture going on,” he said, adding that all reported instances of torture were under investigation. However, Goss said, he expects “there will continue to be reports about abuse, prison abuse.”