The Cable

CIA's new clandestine service chief remains undercover

In a statement to The Cable, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency announced the selection of the next head of the National Clandestine Service, a crucial branch of the agency responsible for sending spies overseas and running the CIA's controversial drone program. The male officer, who "remains under cover," has 30 years' experience within the agency and has had "rich substantive and operational experiences worldwide," according to the statement by CIA spokesperson Jennifer Youngblood.

"This officer is known for his collaborative and inclusive leadership style, and has demonstrated strong interest in leading junior officers to positions of greater responsibility," reads the statement. "He will be a great leader for the NCS and for the Agency's senior leadership team." 

The officer's promotion settles a long-simmering debate over the future leadership of the agency that began when the news broke in March that a female CIA officer who helped run the Bush administration's detention and interrogation program was being considered to lead the clandestine service permanently. A coalition of religious and human rights groups protested her selection due to her involvement in the program and an order to destroy prison tapes documenting the torture of detainees. 

The female officer in question, who served as acting director, has been effectively demoted, though, according to the letter, "the assertion she was not chosen because of her affiliation with the CT mission is absolutely not true."

Interestingly, both officers remain undercover, a somewhat unique circumstance given that in 2010, former CIA director Leon Panetta announced the appointment of John D. Bennett as head of the clandestine service in a public press release, and in 2007, former CIA director Michael Hayden announced the appointment of Michael Sulick in a public press release as well. 

In today's announcement, the CIA also announced the promotion of two female officers, Meroe Park and Deb Bonk, which may help rebut allegations that the agency is something of a boy's club. (Last month, former Bush officials Jon Yoo and Marc Thiessen accused the agency of hanging its first female clandestine service acting director out to dry in wake of the controversy.) The Washington Post first reported news of the male CIA officer's promotion this afternoon. Here's the full statement:

Today, John Brennan filled three senior leadership positions. The officers he selected will help the Director lead the Agency during this critical time and have a combined 80 years of experience in intelligence, both at headquarters and in the field.

For the first time since 2007, Director Brennan appointed a currently serving NCS officer-who remains undercover-to be the next head of the NCS, rather than calling on a retired officer to lead the ranks.

In addition, Director Brennan announced that women are filling two of these three positions-women will hold fully half of the positions on his current leadership team.  Director Brennan appointed a minority officer for the first time in the Agency's history to serve as the EXDIR-the Agency's third in command and the position that manages the day-to-day operations of the Agency.

  • The next head of the NCS, who remains under cover, is a talented and effective intelligence officer who has had rich substantive and operational experiences worldwide over the course of his almost 30 year Agency career. This officer is known for his collaborative and inclusive leadership style, and has demonstrated strong interest in leading junior officers to positions of greater responsibility. He will be a great leader for the NCS and for the Agency's senior leadership team.
  • The new EXDIR, Meroe Park has broad Agency experience. She currently serves as Chief, Human Resources. As such, Meroe understands well the exceptional quality of our workforce and the imperative of matching capabilities with our mission requirements. Meroe has served in three of our four Directorates and in the Director's Area, in both mission and support assignments at HQS and in the field. Her experience and her skills will be invaluable to the Director's leadership team as the Agency navigates numerous challenges in a fiscally constrained environment.
  • Deb Bonk will be the next Chief of Staff and has a strong record of performance throughout her 27 year career. Deb's experience includes substantive, staff, management, Center, and out-of Agency assignments; she has worked closely with Director Brennan during many of those.

The previous Acting Director of the NCS, who remains undercover, has expertly led the NCS through this period of transition and is a highly valued officer. The assertion she was not chosen because of her affiliation with the CT mission is absolutely not true.

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