Former CIA Director Porter Goss's Dusty Foggo Problem

| Wed Oct. 1, 2008 11:01 AM EDT

On Monday, the CIA's former number three official, a former logistics officer named Dusty Foggo, pled guilty in a Virginia courtroom to one count of federal wire fraud. I reported on the case at Mother Jones overnight, and how relieved CIA executives must have been to see the case go away with a quiet plea agreement, since Foggo was threatening to spill every Agency operational program and the identity of every CIA asset he knew about, which was a lot. But a little history on this story is in order.

Back in 2005, thanks in large part to the extraordinary investigative journalism work of a team of reporters at the San Diego Union-Tribune/Copley News Service (Marcus Stern, Dean Calbreath, Jerry Kammer and George Condon Jr.), Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA), agreed to plead guilty to corruption charges. Among his co-conspirators, two defense contractors, Brent Wilkes, and Mitchell Wade, who had plied Cunningham with antiques, meals, travel, hookers, and bought his old home at a profit, in exchange for more than a few hundred million dollars worth of federal earmarks to their companies.

Around the time of Cunningham's agreement to plead guilty to federal authorities back in November 2005, I began hearing from intelligence sources that there was an as yet unreported and unexplored CIA connection to the case. Namely, that Brent Wilkes' best friend was the number three guy at the CIA, Dusty Foggo, and he had also been throwing CIA contracts at his friend Wilkes. So, beginning in November 2005, I first broke several CIA-related aspects of the wider Cunningham case: the name of the Wilkes' front company to get the secret CIA contracts, Archer Logistics, discussions about a covert CIA plane network contract between Foggo and Wilkes, Foggo's connection to Wilkes and the CIA water contract, a magazine piece that raised potential counterintelligence questions about the case. Other journalists -- Calbreath, Jason Vest, Ken Silverstein, Mark Hosenball among others -- were also reporting on aspects of Foggo's long relationship with Wilkes dating back to their days in Chula Vista, CA and running through Central America during the 1980s until more recent reports of a high-tech gadget-filled "playpen" Wilkes set aside for Dusty, along with the prospect of a job, in his ADCS corporate offices outside of San Diego.

Thinking back, I had some rather unpleasant conversations with a CIA spokesman at the time who screamed that I was wrong, that he had marched to Foggo's office and Foggo totally denied what I was saying, and they couldn't find any Wilkes' company that had gotten a CIA contract, etc. And then, after I informed them that one firm, Archer Logistics, was a Wilkes' front company, nominally headed by Wilkes' nephew Joel Combs, the CIA public affairs official stopped yelling. It must have registered as a hit on some database of CIA contractors or something. After that, the conversation returned to polite ordinary civil discourse and the spokesman saying that as a rule the CIA doesn't ordinarily comment on who does or does not get CIA contracts. But the tone was utterly different. And as the evidence accumulated, the CIA was starting to realize that it had a Dusty Foggo problem. (The later 28-count indictment <.pdf> of Foggo revealed just how big a Dusty Foggo problem the CIA had on its hands).

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Now, then-CIA director Porter Goss's decision to appoint Foggo to the CIA's number three spot had been a highly controversial and contentious one at the Agency. Foggo was well known in Agency ranks for philandering, gambling, a security issue dating to his Vienna days, and for generally being something of a sleaze. Suffice it to say, that senior Agency veterans left as a direct and indirect result of Goss's controversial decision to appoint Foggo to the Executive Director position, among them the top two operational officers who have since returned. And under Goss's hands off management style, Foggo wasn't just some CIA executive or bureaucrat. He effectively ran the CIA day to day. So you can see that when the CIA realized it had a Dusty Foggo problem, this was actually a rather big problem, and in particular it was a problem for Porter Goss.

And indeed, when federal investigators closed in and raided Foggo's CIA officers and home in May 2006, Goss abruptly resigned. A source who was in Goss's office that Friday morning that the White House announced Goss was going to retire said his "retirement" came as a complete surprise to Goss. But Goss's tenure was simply no longer tenable when it was now front page news that Foggo was likely to be indicted in the wider Duke Cunningham corruption affair and the issue of who had the misjudgment to put Foggo in that position was likely to emerge.

So, when the same CIA public affairs people tried to spin journalists when Goss resigned in May 2006 just as federal investigators were preparing to raid Foggo's home and office that Goss' resignation had absolutely, positively nothing to do with Foggo and Goss's ill-advised decision to appoint Foggo to the number three job in the first place, it was so patently absurd and such transparent spin that I was amazed that so many major media repeated it. "Who are you gonna believe, me or your lyin' eyes," kind of extraordinary. In retrospect, they did a real disservice to their readers. Agency officers felt doubly betrayed that Goss was not forced to take public responsibility for the reckless decision to make Foggo Executive Director, one that cost the Agency and this country in terms of the CIA's senior operations officers leaving in droves.

"Porter Goss knew about Foggo's reputation beforehand," one former senior officer who left under Goss's tenure told me yesterday. "Why was he allowed to appoint this guy, and how did he get away with it? Goss had a criminal running the Agency."

"What the Republicans keep saying is that Porter came in to reform the Agency," he continued. "So Porter comes in and appoints to run the Agency a man everybody knew was sleazy and he paid no attention to the man's past. And he brought with him in addition a bunch of people who knew nothing about the organization and its operations and then he himself was a hands off person who basically did not get involved in managing the organization. It was a disaster from day one."

"A lot of people left the Agency because they would not work for Kyle Dusty Foggo," he added. "They could not work for a criminal."

Foggo is scheduled to be sentenced to prison in January. It would be worth asking Porter Goss what he thinks of it all.