Negroponte's Porter

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
May 6 2006 6:15 AM

Negroponte's Porter

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post all lead with the forced resignation of CIA Director Porter Goss after only 18 months on the job. President Bush is expected to appoint a replacement next week. The NYT and Post seem pretty certain that the replacement will be Air Force General Michael V. Hayden, who is currently a deputy for John Negroponte, the director of national intelligence.

A former GOP congressman, Goss was CIA director for only a few months before Bush effectively demoted him by making Negroponte his boss. Negroponte, not Goss, now gives the president his daily intelligence briefing, and Goss' resistance to Negroponte's turf encroachment is cited as the ostensible reason for his departure. (The Post notes that Goss and Negroponte were once frat brothers at Yale.)

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But the real reason, as revealed in dozens of criticisms and backhanded compliments in both the Post and NYT, is that Goss was a terrible manager. "Goss could not overcome a reputation as a partisan politician who worked congressional hours and appeared disinterested in his overseas intelligence counterparts," writes the Post. Around a dozen senior agency officials either resigned in protest or asked for reassignment under Goss' leadership. The LAT adds that Goss left the running of the agency largely to his former congressional aides. According to the Post, Goss' staff used to ask about the party affiliations of analysts who made negative assessments of the Iraq situation. An anonymous "friend" of Goss tells the NYT, "I think he was in over his head." The ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee has this to say: "Porter made some significant improvements at the C.I.A., but I think even he would say they still have some way to go." Ouch.

A NYT analysis of Hayden notes that, if nominated, he is likely to have a tough confirmation hearing. Until last year he ran the National Security Agency's eavesdropping program, and he continues to be a vocal defender of its necessity. A sharp analysis in the LAT argues that Negroponte's real rival was never Goss but Donald Rumsfeld. Negroponte may give Bush his daily briefing, but the Department of Defense controls more than 85 percent of the national intelligence budget and has expanded its covert activities.

The largest of the Darfur rebel groups has signed a peace agreement with the Sudanese government. The pact calls for disarmament of militias and power sharing. The leaders of two smaller rebel groups did not sign, although several commanders in one of the two groups indicated their agreement with the terms of the peace, which is to begin in seven days. Both the Post and NYT place this story above the fold.

Rep. Patrick Kennedy announced he will seek treatment at the Mayo Clinic for addiction to prescription medication. "I simply do not remember getting out of bed, being pulled over by the police, or being cited for three driving infractions," he said. "That's not how I want to live my life." Kennedy also revealed that he had just left the Mayo Clinic in December after being treated for addiction to "prescription pain medication." The medicines that he said were involved in his car crash at the Capitol Wednesday night, Ambien and Phenergan, are not pain meds—although the NYT says that the FDA is investigating the role of Ambien in car crashes. A police report revealed that Kennedy drove the wrong way down a street without his lights on. He nearly hit a police car head-on before crashing into a security barrier. A source tells the NYT that a Capitol police officer has been reassigned as punishment for not giving the congressman a breathalyzer. 

The LAT fronts a piece on increasing anti-Americanism among Shiites in Iraq (a trend the paper noted in passing last week). In the immediate aftermath of Saddam Hussein's fall, Shiites were generally sympathetic to the U.S. military presence. Part of the recent Shiite turnabout can be attributed to the natural ebbing of a grace period; Shiites feel more secure and powerful than they did in 2003, so they don't need to lean on U.S. power and can indulge in nationalistic pride. But part of their frustration is rooted in resentment at daily intrusions by American soldiers, who randomly accost suspected militia members on the street. Shiites see these militias as their primary defense against Sunni violence, so attempts by the American ambassador (a Sunni muslim) to reform Iraqi security services are seen as threats to Shiite safety.

The LAT spotlights a group of 56 House Republicans who want to do away with translation services at the polls by letting a provision of the 1965 Civil Rights Act expire. Translating ballots for voters, say the lawmakers, "encourage[s] the linguistic division of our nation and contradict[s] the 'melting pot' ideal." Meanwhile, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger lambasted the federal government for having ignored the problem of illegal immigration for so long.

Back to the Sudan story. Why is it that the newspapers call warriors against the Sudanese government "rebels," while warriors against the Iraqi government are labeled "insurgents"? Certainly both of these groups deliberately kill civilians. Perhaps "insurgents" operate from underground, whereas "rebels" organize proper armies and control territory? If this is really the distinction that matters, then why did TP hear a reporter on today's All Things Considered refer to Maoist forces in Nepal as "insurgents"? *   

A Post reporter, hanging out in the NYT's backyard, pens a fascinating account of a modern-day Houdini who has immersed himself in a round Plexiglass tank of saltwater in Lincoln Center. David Blaine, a 33-year-old who is, for lack of a better term, an "endurance artist," has been living in the tank 24/7 since May 1. He inhales through an oxygen mask, ingests through a feeding tube, and excretes through a catheter. He waves at onlookers and periodically inspects his wrinkling, blistering skin. On ABC television Monday evening he plans to discard his oxygen mask after being tied in chains, then break the world record for "static apnea" (holding your breath without moving), currently at 8 minutes, 58 seconds.