Wednesday, January 25, 2017


The head of the CIA’s Counter­terrorism Center, who presided over the agency’s drone campaign and directed the hunt for Osama bin Laden, was removed from his post in 2015 by CIA Director John Brennan. This ended a nine-year tenure during which the center was transformed into a paramilitary force that employed armed drones to kill thousands of suspected terrorists and militants but also killed an unknown number of civilians.

The CTC chief came to be regarded as an Ahab-like figure known for dark suits and a darker demeanor. He could be merciless toward subordinates but was also revered for his knowledge of terrorist networks and his ability to run an organization that became almost an agency unto itself. He embodied a killing-centric approach to counter­terrorism that enraged many Muslims, even though he is a convert to Islam. He has been publicly identified in the past by both his actual first name, Mike, as well as that of his CIA-created identity, Roger.
U.S. officials said that Roger is expected to remain at the CIA in a new assignment which has yet to be determined and that he is being replaced by an agency veteran who has held a series of high-level positions, including running the CIA’s operations in Afghanistan. His name is Chris. Current and former U.S. officials said that the switch does not appear to signal a change in direction for the CTC or a retreat from the CIA’s willingness to use lethal force. “The new individual is just as aggressive with counter­terrorism operations as the guy leaving,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official who worked closely with both officers.

Roger’s removal was remarkably unceremonious. Many CTC employees first learned of the change from a chart that was distributed to the workforce outlining Brennan’s reorganization plans. The document included names of officers Brennan had picked to lead the agency’s new collection of “mission centers” and be given new titles of assistant director. Roger’s name was not on the list. “We all found out from a PowerPoint slide,” a U.S. official said.

After killing most of al-Qaeda’s core leaders, the pace of lethal drone strikes has tapered off dramatically. Roger’s successor will be under particular pressure to devise a strategy against the Islamic State, a group that has declared a new caliphate in Syria and Iraq, drawn thousands of recruits from Europe and the United States, and built a brand of brutality that has eclipsed even al-Qaeda.

Colleagues who worked with Roger describe him with a mix of awe and apprehension. Michael Morell, former deputy director of the CIA, described him as “one of the finest intelligence officers of his generation. I don’t think there has been a more successful unit in the history of the agency than the CTC during this individual’s tenure.”

“I think President Obama and Brennan have wanted to clip the CTC’s wings,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official who worked at the center. “But at a time when the enemy is getting stronger and stronger, how can you pull back?”
(from some old WashPo articles)

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