And for my next act, I'll nominate John Edwards as vice president

The White House invites back a top CIA official who quit in a dispute with Goss.

Published May 9, 2006 1:30PM (EDT)

The White House said Monday that it intends to hire as the No. 2 man at the CIA a former agency official who quit in 2004 in a dispute with Porter Goss. As admissions of mistakes go, this is a pretty big one -- even if no one at the White House will actually admit it.

Stephen Kappes, the CIA's deputy director for operations, resigned from the agency in November 2004 after Patrick Murray -- a former Hill staffer who was serving as Goss' chief of staff at the CIA -- ordered him to fire his deputy, Michael Sulick. As the Washington Post reported at the time, Murray's order to Kappes came after Sulick had confronted Murray about a threat Murray had made to another agency official.

The threat? That the agency official would be held responsible if anything from the personnel file of the "newly appointed executive director" made it into the media. And the "newly appointed executive director"? He wasn't identified in the Post's account back in 2004, but we all know his name now: Dusty Foggo, who resigned from the CIA yesterday amid a corruption probe.

When Kappes and Sulick walked out the door in November 2004, the New York Times said it was a sign that Goss was "confident of having a mandate from the White House to make sweeping changes at the agency, despite loud protests from former intelligence officials."

So where are we today? Goss is gone. Murray is presumably gone. Foggo is gone. And the White House is trumpeting the fact that Kappes will be coming back. "The move was seen as a direct repudiation of Goss' leadership and as an olive branch to CIA veterans disaffected by his 18-month tenure," the Post says this morning.

Holding out an "olive branch"? From here, it looks more like "falling on your sword." The White House may indeed be interested in repudiating Goss, but let's not forget who forced his brand of "leadership" on the CIA in the first place.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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