CIA Director Porter Goss who on Thursday quietly named Vice Adm. Bert Calland, a Navy SEAL who supervised special operations forces in Afghanistan after 9/11, as the CIA's acting deputy director has signaled that he intends to insure that the CIA retains primacy over all spy operations outside the U.S. Goss seemed to gain an ally in a Presidential Commission looking into weapons of mass destruction. That commission, headed by Laurence Silberman and Charles Robb, described the Bureau's desire to expand its intelligence gathering operations as the "primary source of friction" between the agencies. The Bureau didn't help its case when an FBI agent detailed to the commission quietly slipped a CIA report critical of the FBI intel operation to her bosses at the Bureau in effect, spies spying on each other. Commission leaders booted the agent from the panel and tried to get the agent fired, but the FBI insists she did nothing wrong. Director Robert Mueller has refused to dismiss her pending an internal investigation.
This turf battle became so distracting that the White House earlier this year stepped in and told the two agencies to end the bickering and cut a deal. After the Commission finished its work last month, Bush met with Cabinet members and firmly told them to follow Negroponte's lead. But the Commission didn't settle the matter about which agency is best equipped to run spies and instead kicked it upstairs for Negroponte who has named a CIA officer David Shedd, formerly a National Security Council detailee, as his chief of staff to decide.
The fight has made Negroponte's first months on the job even harder. "They're putting him in a very bad position," said one senior intelligence official. "You want to pick your battles and win some easy ones up front. And he's not going to be able to do that. This is theology, and he's having to address it days after confirmation." For Negroponte's part, the matter is so sensitive his aides won't even confirm when the question is to reach his desk.