The head of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Counterterrorism Center (CTC) will step down from his post this summer, according to personnel familiar with the leadership of CTC. The news comes amid a tumultuous few days for the agency’s public profile.
In what must surely have been an annoying week, the agency has been featured prominently, and negatively, in the media. First, unspecified agency personnel left inert explosives on a school bus following a training exercise in northern Virginia. Despite the fact that the explosives were inert, and thus harmless, there is no doubt that heads were figuratively exploding across the region when the inert charges were found. Someone at the CIA is surely a tad red-faced over that one.
Next, former CIA case officer Doug Laux arrived on the media scene, making the rounds to talk about his new memoir, “Left of Boom.” Laux, who claimed to “love” working at the CIA, seems nevertheless genuinely disenchanted with his time at the agency. He also makes certain points about CIA activities in Afghanistan—for example, that the agency too often played it safe in its operations—that are clearly causing consternation within the CIA.
One need only read a CIA spokesperson’s response to Laux’s media tour to sample a taste of the annoyance seeping out from Langley:
Sadly, Mr. Laux’s career at the CIA did not work out. We hope that someday, maybe with age and greater maturity, he will have better perspective on his time here. The American people should know that his former colleagues continue to do extraordinary work despite his departure, and do so without the need for public recognition.”
Thus, at first blanch, it seems that today’s CIA news breaking here on SOFREP offers yet more negative press for the beleaguered agency. Not necessarily. Yes, it appears that the current director of CTC—whom this author shall not name given his current status as an undercover officer—is retiring from the CIA. However, it does not appear that the officer is leaving for anything other than personal reasons, and is doing so at the end of a long career.
Although rumors of personnel departures within the leadership of the CIA have routinely proven unfounded (including one by this author that Director John Brennan would be retiring earlier this year), in this case, the CTC head’s departure has been confirmed by the man himself, in a message he sent to the CTC workforce.
The director of the CTC, who is now officially known as the assistant director of the Counterterrorism Mission Center, is a long-serving and highly competent officer who has for years worked the counterterrorism target. He will be missed at the center, both in terms of his operational expertise and experience, and given his widely recognized competent leadership.
The outgoing director informed the CTC workforce that he was leaving agency service to spend more time with his family. He stated that he would leave this summer, but vowed to remain in the fight until the end of his time there. In other words, it does not appear that the director is leaving for any political or confrontational reasons; rather, he’s doing so because he has reached the end of a long and successful CIA career.
The real question, at this point, facing the CIA and the CTC, in particular, is who will replace the current outgoing head of the center? While it remains unclear to those at CTC’s working level, there is some speculation that the director’s replacement could be pulled from the ranks of CIA analysts (presumably, from the CIA’s CTC analysts).
This would be a significant departure for the agency, as it would place an analyst in charge of a mission center heavily involved in clandestine operations across the world. While finished intelligence (analysis) is obviously an integral part of the CTC’s work—and the “product” it provides to U.S. government and military consumers is crucial—clandestine operations of various types, including intelligence collection and covert action, are just as important, and some would argue, more so for CTC.
Those clandestine operations require meticulous planning and operational expertise to carry out, and many wonder if a career analyst would be best equipped to oversee such operations. Debates are no doubt raging within the CTC as the succession gets ready to play out. Many, if not all, within CTC will be waiting with bated breath to see who is appointed the new director. The choice could affect America’s counterterrorism operations for a long time to come.
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)