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Goss Is Latest to Leave Bush Administration

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris, and we're going to begin this hour with today's surprise announcement from the White House. CIA Director Porter Goss, on the job less than 20 months, has announced his resignation. President Bush accepted it with regret, and gave no indication of when there might be a replacement. The two men held a very brief announcement in the oval office this afternoon.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: We've got win the war on terror, and the Central Intelligence Agency is a vital part of that war. And so I want to thank you for your service.

Mr. PORTER GOSS (Director, Central Intelligence Agency): Mr. President, thank you very much. It has been a very distinct honor and privilege to serve you, of course, the people of the country and the employees of the Central Intelligence Agency.

NORRIS: In the fall of 2004, Goss left his seat in Congress to become the nation's top coordinator of foreign intelligence. His tenure in that job has been stormy, and the job itself has changed dramatically in the past year. NPR's Don Gonyea is with us now from the White House. Don, first of all, this hurried announcement this afternoon seems to have taken everyone by surprise, even within the administration itself. How did this all come about?

DON GONYEA reporting:

That's right. As surprise announcements go over here, this was a pretty big one. Now, this was one of those days where there was very little on the President's public schedule and on such days, you're always mindful that there could be some kind of late, unexpected addition to the schedule and this certainly was one. Here's how it played out: In the middle of Press Secretary Scott McClellan's daily briefing in the noon hour today--his final briefing, by the way, because he's leaving the White House as well--he said he had forgotten to mention at the top that at 1:45 p.m., which was at that point less than an hour away, that the President would have a personnel announcement to make. So with the White House obviously in the period of transition that it's been in of late, there was a lot of talk about what it could be. Was it Treasury Secretary John Snow leaving? Was it the hiring of some big name Republican to help with Congressional relations? It only broke just minutes before the announcement in the Oval Office that it was the Goss announcement.

NORRIS: And interesting how these things so often seem to happen on Fridays. The President said very little in that brief Oval Office announcement, but one of the few people that was actually present was John Negroponte, the Director of National Intelligence. What was his role in this?

Mr. GONYEA: Well at this point, it's not entirely clear. There are reports on the wires that Negroponte, President Bush and Porter Goss came to this decision mutually. Now, a line like that leaves an awful lot open to interpretation. But Negroponte was there in the Oval Office for the announcement and he did issue a brief statement today, again a brief one, praising Goss and the job he did in this transitional period, noting that they'd been friends for some 50 years. But again, it's not clear at this point if he pushed Goss or if there's something else going on there.

NORRIS: And the President didn't say anything today about who might replace Porter Goss, but I'm sure there's a lot of chatter over there at the White House about this.

Mr. GONYEA: Well there's a lot of talk, but not a lot of names surfacing yet this afternoon. And we don't have any timeline. But what is really unusual is for a Director of the CIA, such an important position, to walk into the Oval Office and, without any advance notice to the public at all, make an announcement like this with no replacement. So there are a lot of questions unanswered at this point, because of how this played out and how sudden it has been.

NORRIS: NPR's Don Gonyea, speaking to us from the White House. Don, thanks so much.

Mr. GONYEA: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.