The Central Intelligence Agency announced on Friday that it was calling back from retirement a controversial former operations officer to head the National Clandestine Service, three years after he left the Agency to protest reforms being put in place by then-CIA Director Porter Goss.
Michael J. Sulick was associate deputy director for operations at the time he resigned in November 2004 along with his boss, Stephen R. Kappes.
The Wall Street Journal called their bitter fight with Porter Goss and his aides over Agency reform “an insurgency,” although both Kappes and Sulick were praised by Rep. Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, who became a fierce critic of Goss and his reforms.
Sulick’s return was praised by John McLaughlin, who as acting CIA director in July 2004 was involved in his earlier appointment, prior to the clash with Goss.
“Mike Sulick’s return is a big plus for the agency,” McLaughlin told NewsMax. “He is open to new ideas, but espionage in the classic sense has been around since biblical times and — while novelty is always welcome — there's a lot to be said for the proven experience that Mike Sulick brings to the table. “
The National Clandestine Service, formerly known as the Directorate of Operations, is the Agency’s elite corps of spies.
When Goss took over the Agency in September 2004, he sought to revitalize the clandestine service and weed out “dead wood” operators who were the product of an “old boys network” that failed to recruit spies in difficult overseas environments.
But he ran into fierce opposition from Kappes, Sulick and other products of the CIA “old guard,” who objected to Goss’s efforts to reform the operations directorate and bring it under his control.
As I will reveal in my upcoming book, "Shadow Warriors: Traitors, Saboteurs, and the Party of Surrender," Kappes had been implicated in a serious security breach at a CIA station overseas, but was never disciplined by the Agency.
Furthermore, both he and Sulick were engaged in activities to lobby members of Congress in their own districts that violated U.S. law. When Goss tried to discipline them, the two men resigned in protest.
Sulick’s message sends a “terrible message” to CIA officers who are trying to do their job and stay out of politics, and suggests that the CIA bench is so thin they have no other candidates for the critical job as head of the Clandestine Service, former agency officers said.
Goss was trying to change the “culture” of the DO, where Clandestine officers were promoted for the number of foreign sources they recruited, not the quality of their information.
Sulick and Kappes earned a reputation as political infighters, who fiercely opposed the policies of the Bush administration in the war on terror and the war in Iraq.
“Sulick’s appointment is an unbelievable slap at the president,” a congressional source told NewsMax over the weekend.
Gen. Michael V. Hayden replaced Goss as CIA director last year under circumstances never before made public that I reveal in my new book.
Gen. Hayden’s first move was to bring back Sulick’s old boss, Stephen Kappes, as deputy director of the Agency, a move that Goss supporters in Congress viewed as a “disaster.”
Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R, Mich., then chairman of the House intelligence panel, said that Kappes was guilty of “gross insubordination,” and complained that neither Hayden nor the White House had consulted him before naming Kappes to the No. 2 slot at CIA.
“You would think that on the number two person they might have just said, 'Hey, what do you think of this guy?' but they never did,” Hoekstra said.
Other congressional sources told me that Kappes “would never make it through a confirmation hearing” because of operational lapses while he was in the directorate of operations that I describe in "Shadow Warriors."
But in an effort to placate the old guard and end the CIA “insurrection” against the Bush administration, Gen. Hayden agreed to bring in Kappes last year as his deputy, a position that no longer requires Senate confirmation under the new rules of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.
The 2004 legislation enacted many of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, including the creation of a national director of Intelligence, a position now held by Adm. Mike McConnell.
But Richard Haver, who helped restructure the Pentagon’s massive intelligence operations under the direction of former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, told me that the 2004 legislation was just about “rearranging the deck chairs,” not real reform.
“Real reform requires too much work,” and depends more on leadership than organization boxes, he said.
After leaving the Agency in November 2004, Kappes went to work for ArmorGroup in London, eventually becoming the security firm’s chief operating officer.
ArmorGroup is one of the largest private contractors today working in Iraq, and recently came under scrutiny for lobbying practices against a competitor for a half-billion dollar Pentagon contract in Iraq.
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