Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, had harsh words for the new head of the National Clandestine Service, the CIA’s top spy, in an exclusive interview with NewsMax.
Michael J. Sulick, whose appointment was quietly announced 10 days ago, was called back to the agency after three years in the private sector, where he had gone following a bitter dispute with then-CIA Director Porter Goss and his top aides.
Both Sulick and his immediate boss, Stephen Kappes, resigned in November 2004 after Goss' aides caught them in an illegal intelligence operation aimed at countering and undermining Bush administration policies with which they disagreed. I detail this previously-undisclosed CIA covert operation in my new book, "Shadow Warriors: Traitors, Saboteurs, and the Party of Surrender," which will be released in early November.
Kappes was called back last year by Goss' successor, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, to become deputy director of CIA. Now Hayden has called back Sulick as well.
"Sulick and Kappes were disloyal," Hoekstra told NewsMax in an exclusive interview.
"They were guilty of insubordination, and never should have been brought back," the congressman said. "These appointments are a slap at the president, and a slap in the face of Porter Goss by those who didn’t want to follow the path of reforming the agency."
Sulick was "the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time," he added.
Hoekstra realizes that his criticism is not shared by the new Democratic chairman of the intelligence committee, Rep. Sylvestre Reyes.
"Mike Sulick is a man of high integrity, beloved by the workforce, and someone who understands the unique challenges of human intelligence collection," Reyes told NewsMax. "I look forward to working with him."
In announcing his appointment on Friday, Sept. 14, CIA Director Hayden called Sulick "a seasoned operations officer [who] earned a reputation for superior tradecraft and sound judgment."
Hayden said that Sulick planned to focus on "innovative operational platforms, information sharing – within CIA and beyond – cover, technology, and liaison relationships." He called him "a powerful addition to our agency leadership team."
Asked why President Bush would reappoint Sulick and Kappes to top CIA positions after they had tried to undermine Bush administration policies, a White House spokesperson ducked the issue.
"The CIA has their own hiring authority – so we are not involved in the hiring process with the exception of the statutory political slots," Emily A. Lawrimore told NewsMax.
But a senior White House official acknowledged that president Bush "was aware" of the appointments, and that Sulick "is this administration’s pick" for the top spy job.
CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield also praised Sulick, and insisted that his appointment had been fully vetted within the administration.
"The CIA is part of the executive branch,” Mansfield told NewsMax. "It would be wrong to assume the administration did not know of this vital appointment in advance. That’s not the way the relationship works."
Sulick’s appointment has caused some Bush supporters to wonder if the president is really in control of his own administration.
Hoekstra believes the CIA has a long way to go to reform its human intelligence capabilities.
"Sulick and Kappes represent the 'old guard' of the Directorate of Operations, the culture where officers advanced on the number of reports they filed, not the quality of their information," Hoekstra told NewsMax.
"These were the guys who couldn’t recruit sources, who wouldn’t talk to defectors, who wouldn’t investigate Iraqi WMD in the past and refuse to investigate it now," he added.
Hoekstra is not alone in his criticism.
Duane (Dewey) Clarridge, an old Middle East hand who was indicted because of his involvement in the Iran-Contra affair and later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush, frequently talks to agency insiders and former case officers.
"Kappes' philosophy is that liaison [with foreign intelligence services] is the most important part of intelligence, that we don’t do unilateral operations. This is pure lunacy!" he told NewsMax.
The reliance on liaison operations has led to spectacular intelligence failures, including several surrounding the pre-war intelligence on Iraq’s WMD programs that I will detail in "Shadow Warriors."
"This is how we get taken to the cleaners," Clarridge said. "This is how we get fed lies by other services for their own reasons."
Over-reliance on foreign intelligence services "prevents you from recruiting your own sources, because you get used to only taking intel that is offered to you by liaison services," Clarridge added.
Hoekstra noted dryly that he was out of the country – visiting Pakistan, Afghanistan, and making his ninth trip to Iraq – when Hayden announced Sulick’s return to the agency.
"Hayden told us that Kappes' role [as deputy CIA director] would be limited, and that he wouldn’t get involved in HUMINT. I wouldn’t have expected Kappes to come back to the agency to put Sulick back in."
Hoekstra is concerned that the message sent by these appointments will demoralize some of the younger case officers he met during his recent South Asian tour.
"What this does is say to the bureaucracy that drove out Porter Goss, we will reward you who opposed change."
Hayden has stated repeatedly his commitment to change the way the CIA does business. "Our enemies are always learning and adapting. So is the CIA," he wrote in his strategic blueprint for the agency.
Hoekstra’s criticism was not aimed at Hayden’s intentions, but at the entrenched bureaucracy he feels has been resistant to change and is stuck in a Cold War mentality.
At a meeting on Tuesday with bloggers at the Heritage Foundation, Hoekstra expanded on his earlier remarks to NewsMax.
Kappes and Sulick "are the same kind of people who were there with the Deutch doctrine" of the mid-1990s, which limited the CIA from going out and recruiting people who had criminal records or were suspected of human rights violations.
"And we wondered why there was nobody sitting around the table with Saddam who was a paid informer of the CIA," he said. “We wondered why we didn’t have anybody in the cave with Bin Laden. In the 1990s, the message went out, don’t recruit people with backgrounds that would embarrass the administration."
That "politically correct" culture "has to change," he said.
Under Goss' leadership, the mandate went out, "recruit the people you need who will keep America safe, to prevent the next terrorist attack."
With the return of Sulick and Kappes, Hoekstra fears that CIA case officers in the field "will start self-selecting" in their agent recruitment and their reporting.
During his recent tour of agency hot spots, Hoekstra heard first-hand from field operatives that they were "lawyering up" in anticipation of a return to the bad old days of political correctness.
"One of these days, it’s going to catch up to them," he said. "That is no way to run the agency."
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