WASHINGTON, May 6 (Reuters) The abrupt resignation of CIA Director Porter Goss raises disturbing questions about the US flagship intelligence agency's health, amid growing concerns about a nuclear Iran, turmoil in Iraq and the al Qaeda threat.
More than four years after the September 11 attacks, critics of the Bush administration, including Democrats in Congress, also warned that problems at the CIA had parallels elsewhere in the 16-agency US intelligence community including at the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.
Goss' departure capped months of unhappiness over his leadership of the CIA and efforts to rebuild the agency's key clandestine and analytical operations for the war on terrorism, analysts and former intelligence officers said.
''The real problem is that Goss has laid out his vision, but what he hasn't been able to do -- this because of his management style and his weak leadership -- is to build allies within the ranks who can be agents for change,'' said former CIA agent and author Melissa Boyle Mahle.
Added another former CIA officer who spoke on condition of anonymity: ''The agency's gone down hill since he arrived.
There's been an exodus of senior people, and the guy he appointed to head the clandestine service has proved mediocre.'' Goss, a former Florida congressman who headed the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, was charged with increasing CIA spy ranks that had been found sorely lacking after the September 11 attacks.
But analysts said an early confrontation between the Goss staff and clandestine officers prompted a number of senior agents to resign and left the CIA with little senior leadership at a time when the agency is taking on an army of green recruits and trying to recover from massive failures on Iraq and the September 11 attacks.
''In the last year-and-a-half, more than 300 years of experience has either been pushed out or walked out the door in frustration. This has left the agency in free-fall,'' said Jane Harman, ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Congressional Republicans stressed that Goss had made progress in bringing reform to the CIA at a time of great turmoil.
But Harman's counterpart in the Senate, Democratic Sen.
John Rockefeller of West Virginia, said management problems in intelligence were more widespread than just at the CIA.
''There are red-flags throughout the community,'' said Rockefeller, vice-chairman of the Senate intelligence panel.
''The Department of Homeland Security has fallen well short of its mandate to protect our borders. The FBI continues to struggle with meeting its national security and counter-terrorism responsibilities,'' he said.
Reuters VJ VP0430