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President soothes CIA over ‘uncertainty’

President Bush told CIA employees Thursday that an intelligence reorganization that created a new overall director for intelligence services would not cost them any influence.
U.S. President George W. Bush and CIA Director Goss walk in the lobby of the CIA headquarters in Langley
President Bush and CIA Director Porter Goss walk Thursday into the lobby of CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., where they spoke to the spy agency's staff members. Jason Reed / Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

President Bush sought to reassure CIA employees on Thursday that they would not lose influence under an intelligence reorganization that created a new overall director for intelligence services.

“The reforms will help the CIA do its job better,” Bush told reporters after touring the spy agency.

The president spoke a day after CIA Director Porter Goss complained that the new law would create “ambiguities” between his authority and that of Bush’s nominee to be national intelligence director, John Negroponte, and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Bush said he recognized that there were some ambiguities and some CIA employees were uneasy about the changes.

“I know there is some uncertainty,” he said, but “I’m confident the process will work.”

Bush, who took questions from reporters with Goss at his side, said one of the reasons he came to the agency was to reassure employees that their work was “vital.”

An effort to boost morale
Bush’s trip was seen as an effort to boost morale at the agency amid concerns about its role now that the agency’s director will no longer be the lead U.S. intelligence officer. The head of the CIA has enjoyed that position of primacy in intelligence affairs for over 60 years.

In a rare public appearance Wednesday in Simi Valley, Calif., Goss said the new law left him unclear on his own 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 H. Rumsfeld or other top officials involved with intelligence, he said.

Goss, who has made few public comments beyond congressional testimony, also said he was overwhelmed by the many duties of his job, including devoting five hours out of every day to preparing for and delivering intelligence briefings to 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.”

Unclear on his future role
Goss said the legislation creating a national intelligence director, which had been urged by a national commission that studied the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, left him unclear on his future role.

Goss praised Negroponte, the career diplomat, who is expected to be confirmed by the Senate, and will take over several of the duties currently assigned to Goss, including the presidential briefing.

“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’ California remarks came during an hour-long 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.