Sidelining the CIA

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Sidelining the CIA A new White House memo excludes CIA director Porter Goss from National Security Council meetings The biggest changes in Washington often come about with just a few strokes of the pen. And so a dry, one-page internal memo quietly issued by the White House is being viewed as a kind of eulogy for the once mighty Central Intelligence Agency. After nearly 60 years at the pinnacle of American intelligence—and at the elbow of Presidents—the CIA director is no longer automatically welcome at the President's National Security Council (NSC) meetings. John Negroponte, the new director of National Intelligence, has taken his chair.

It's the latest evidence that Negroponte is consolidating his power as the nation's intelligence czar. The May 2 memo, obtained by TIME and also reported late last week by GovWatch.com, states that "effective immediately," Negroponte will participate in meetings of the NSC and its domestic counterpart, the Homeland Security Council (HSC). Meanwhile, CIA Director Porter Goss "will attend NSC and HSC meetings at the direction of the President."

That's the polite Beltway equivalent of saying, "Don't call us. We'll call you."

"It's a clear diminution in the authority of the director of CIA," says David Rothkopf, a Clinton Administration official and author of a new book on the NSC. "If you're not in the room, you're not playing an influential role." CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Millerwise says Goss, who was sworn in as CIA chief last September, still attends his share of meetings—and isn't in the game for "face time." He "is there when he needs to be," says Millerwise. Goss has so far publicly ignored any suggestions that his power has been reduced. Though he is no longer in charge of the President's daily intelligence briefing, Goss supporters say, he is spending more time focusing on needed reforms at the agency, visiting far-flung CIA spooks in the field and looking for ways to fill in gaps in the CIA's human intelligence and analysis.