The CIA’s Anti-Bush Cabal

07.11.06 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

A May 18 letter sent to President Bush by House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Pete Hoekstra criticizing Administration policy on intelligence (first reported July 9 by Eric Lichtblau and Scott Shane of the New York Times) has already earned an enduring place in the annals of congressional oversight of intelligence.

While it has been welcomed by some as a sign of congressional vigor and independence, the letter from Chairman Hoekstra also features a weird admixture of paranoia and pique.

“I have been long concerned that a strong and well-positioned group within the Agency intentionally undermined the Administration and its policies,” he wrote.

This conspiracy theory, previously alleged mainly by conservative bloggers and editorial writers, “is supported by the Ambassador Wilson/Valerie Plame events” — despite the fact that Valerie Plame, whose CIA career was destroyed, would appear to be a victim rather than a perpetrator — “as well as by the string of unauthorized disclosures.”

“I have come to the belief that, despite his service to the [Directorate of Operations], Mr. Kappes [the new CIA Deputy Director] may have been part of this group.”

Kappes must be viewed with suspicion, Hoekstra explained, since his appointment was not opposed by House Democrats!

“I must take note when my Democratic colleagues – those who so vehemently denounced and publicly attacked the strong choice of Porter Goss as Director – now publicly support Mr. Kappes’s return,” Chairman Hoekstra observed acutely.

“Further, the details surrounding Mr. Kappes’s [2004] departure from the CIA give me great pause. Mr. Kappes was not fired, but, as I understand it, summarily resigned his position shortly after Director Goss responded to his demonstrated contempt for Congress and the Intelligence Committees’ oversight responsibilities.”

This is an idiosyncratic description of a dispute that arose between senior DO officials and the former congressional staff members who accompanied Director Goss to CIA, which led to the resignations of several officials.

“The fact is, Mr. Kappes and his Deputy, Mr. Sulick, were developing a communications offensive to bypass the Intelligence Committees and the CIA’s own Office of Congressional Affairs. One can only speculate on the motives but it clearly indicates a willingness to promote a personal agenda,” Rep. Hoekstra wrote.

As David Corn wrote in The Nation, “It’s hard to know who to root for” in this strange clash of personalities and institutions.

Maybe the answer is that the conflict itself is the good news, since it restores a healthy tension to the oversight process and drives the disclosure of new information into the public domain.

Coincidentally, Michael Sulick, one of the members of the supposed anti-Bush “cabal” at CIA named by Rep. Hoekstra, is the author of a colorful new first-person account of a CIA initiative to establish relations with Lithuania in 1991 when the Soviet Union fell.

See “As the USSR Collapsed: A CIA Officer in Lithuania” by Michael J. Sulick, Studies in Intelligence, vol. 50, no. 2, 2006.