Harman And Goss: “Not … Good Friends”

April 30, 2009 1:10 p.m.

Building off our post from yesterday — in which we noted the interesting timing of the original 2006 report about the investigation into Jane Harman’s AIPAC ties — Foreign Policy‘s Laura Rozen has put together, on her personal blog, what amounts to a complete theory of the case. And it’s a theory that implicates the Porter Goss camp right from the start.

So we thought we’d follow that road a bit further. It’s not news that Harman and Goss haven’t exactly been best buds, either while Goss chaired the House intelligence committee and Harman was its ranking Democrat, or later when Goss led the CIA from 2004 to 2006.* One former intel committee staffer explained the relationship to TPMmuckraker this way: “Jane is an assertive person. And Porter struck me as someone who wanted to avoid conflict. I would not say they were good friends.”Still, when we took a quick look at news accounts of the Goss-Harman relationship over the years, we were nonetheless a bit surprised by the level of animosity between them.

In particular, Harman seems to have deeply disdained Goss’s staff, many members of which he took with him to CIA. In November 2004, a few months after Goss had taken over the agency, Harman told the New York Times that his retinue was so sub-par that it could drive top CIA staffers to quit.

“What’s going on here, sadly, I think is mostly the product of a highly partisan, inexperienced staff that came over to the C.I.A. with Porter Goss,” she said.

She called Mr. Goss “capable” and said he deserved a chance to make changes at the C.I.A.

But to do so, Ms. Harman added, he needed “an experienced staff, and he doesn’t have one.”

“Many of us worked with that staff in the House,” she said. “Frankly, on both sides of the aisle in the committee, we were happy to see them go.”

Separately, Harman warned:

The direction set by this highly partisan, inexperienced management team which Porter Goss brought over with him to the CIA may cause the wrong people to resign in protest and may hurt our efforts to win the war on terror.

Those fears were borne out a month later, when several top CIA officials, including Steve Kappes resigned as deputy director for operations, reportedly after clashing with Goss’s chief of staff, Patrick Murray.

Before all this, Goss and Harman had clashed over how to set up the 9/11 hearings, with Harman writing to Goss at one point: “If we go forward with the hearings as you have set them up, our committee will miss the critical opportunity to fix the problems and make America safer.”

And they sparred over Goss’s bid to declassify Richard Clarke’s testimony to the commission. Harman accused Goss of bypassing regular committee procedures, saying:

This is a stunning violation that can only feed the impression that sensitive materials are being selectively declassified for political reasons, rather than national security or the public interest. The message this sends is that for partisan political reasons, classified material can be reviewed and selectively released.

Even given the intensity of the partisan wars under President Bush, that’s not exactly a cozy relationship — especially considering the tradition of bipartisan cooperation that tends to exist on committees that oversee aspects of national security.

Next: we’ll take a look at those staffers — reportedly known to their detractors as the “Gosslings” — that Goss took with him from the committee to the CIA…

* This sentence has been corrected from an earlier version.

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