Slate’s Jack Shafer on the CIA shakeup

Get ready to see a lot of back and forth this week regarding the shakeups going on at the CIA. Shafer gives a sneak peek:

When Washington bureaucrats collide, the best seat in the house is often wherever you sit to read your daily newspaper. Bureaucrats tend to battle one another in the press, leaking and counter-leaking and counter-counter-leaking damaging information about one another.

The latest such rumble pits the CIA’s old guard against its new director, Porter J. Goss, appointed by President George W. Bush two months ago with orders to revamp the agency. Which side is wearing the white hats and which the black depends on which newspaper you readβ€”or how you read it. If you’re a Bush supporter, you think Goss is the hero. You agree with him that the CIA is “dysfunctional,” incompetent, responsible for intelligence failures, and needs a shake-up. If you’re a Democrat, you believe the stories wafting out of the agency about Bush’s dark plans to further politicize it, to punish and purge its dissenting voices.

Such vehement claims and counter-claims are par for the Washington course. What makes the current drama so compelling, though, is that 1) it’s being fought on Page One; 2) spies are flinging their accusations from the safety of anonymity; and 3) the press has a stake in the outcome.