Friday, May 12, 2006

Uh Oh: Another Republican Scandal About To Explode

For all those who thought the so called "Hookergate" scandal would just go away, think again.

ALL the ingredients for a spy thriller involving prostitutes, poker, a congressman called Randy and parties at the legendary Watergate complex may lie behind the sudden resignation of Porter Goss as director of the CIA last Friday.

The saga has already been named “Hookergate” and the CIA is buzzing with rumours that there is more to Goss’s departure than meets the eye.

The timing is certainly curious, coming hard on the heels of the CIA’s confirmation last week that Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, the number three in the nation’s spy centre who was hand-picked by Goss, had attended poker games at the Watergate and Westin Grand hotels in Washington with Brent Wilkes, a defence contractor and close boyhood friend.

Wilkes is under investigation for allegedly providing Randy “Duke” Cunningham, a disgraced Republican congressman, with prostitutes, limousines and free hotel suites.

The net is also closing in on Foggo, who is being investigated by the FBI over the award to Wilkes of a $3m contract to supply bottled water and other goods to CIA operatives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although Foggo has admitted playing poker with Wilkes, he insists that no prostitutes were present.

A former senior CIA official said this weekend that he had been told by a trusted source inside the agency that Goss, 67, had attended one of the poker games. The CIA has denied it. “Goss has repeatedly denied being there, so if it were to come out that he was, he is finished,” the former official said.

Intelligence and law enforcement sources said solid evidence had yet to emerge that Goss also went to the parties, but Goss and Foggo share a fondness for poker and expensive cigars.
Larry Johnson, a former CIA operative and a Bush administration critic, said Goss “had a relationship with Dusty and with Brent Wilkes that’s now coming under greater scrutiny”.

Johnson vouched for the integrity of Foggo and Goss but said: “Dusty was a big poker player, and it’s my understanding that Porter Goss was also there (at Wilkes’s parties) for poker. It’s going to be guilt by association.”

President George W Bush said on Friday that Goss’s tenure at the CIA was one of “transition”, although that temporary description was not used when Goss was appointed to the job only 19 months ago.

Behind Bush’s public explanation for Goss’s departure lies a second authorised version, according to which Goss lost a turf battle for power and prestige with John Negroponte, the politically adept new director of national intelligence, a post created to oversee all intelligence gathering after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Inside the CIA Goss quickly became unpopular after he drove out some of the agency’s most experienced hands — more than a dozen senior officials left.

Some saw the revolving door as necessary after the CIA failed to uncover Al-Qaeda’s plots and supplied faulty intelligence on the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Even so, Goss will not be mourned by colleagues. “There’s more champagne being drunk tonight than on New Year’s Eve,” said one former high-ranking CIA official after Goss’s resignation was announced.

Associates say the former Republican congressman never got a handle on the job. “It was like watching a friend in pain,” one said. “I think he got in over his head.”

Goss is expected to be replaced tomorrow by General Michael Hayden, head of the National Security Agency (NSA), who is close to Dick Cheney, the vice-president. Bush had hoped to announce his appointment at the same time as Goss’s departure. But the CIA chief reportedly said: “If we’re going to do this, let’s go ahead and do it.” It implies that Goss was sacked more brutally than Bush’s polite words about his “able” leadership of the CIA had suggested.

The significance of “Hookergate” in Goss’s demise has yet to emerge, but CIA officers and congressmen are nervous about how far the allegations of sleaze will reach.

The disgraced congressman Cunningham, a 64-year-old Vietnam flying ace, was sentenced to eight years in prison in March for accepting bribes from defence contractors while a member of the defence appropriations sub-committee.

It was obvious that he was living way above his means on a Washington yacht called the Duke-Stir where, in his pyjamas, he would entertain women with champagne. A penitent Cunningham is said to be co-operating with the FBI.

Wow, and John Boehner and company don't think the Republicans have a culture of Corruption?

They must be delusional.

Can anyone say ethics reform?