Tales from the Trail

Now it’s official: bin Laden crossed off counterterrorism calendar

May 4, 2011

Now it’s really official.

Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has been crossed off the National Counterterrorism Center’s calendar.

Could Petraeus be too shiny for the CIA?

April 28, 2011

An agency all about cloak-and-dagger tends to be wary of the limelight.

So President Barack Obama’s choice of General David Petraeus for CIA director has raised some questions in intelligence and military circles.

How bad was Intelligence Czar’s Libya “gaffe”?

March 11, 2011

USA-INTELLIGENCE/The columnist Michael Kinsley once quipped that in Washington a “gaffe” is when a political notable accidentally tells the truth. Intelligence and national security officials are describing the latest controversial statements about Libya by National Intelligence Director James Clapper as that kind of “gaffe.”

Information-sharing guru becomes chief leak plugger

December 2, 2010

The U.S. government’s man in charge of efforts to plug future WikiLeaks-style mega-dumps of government secrets is a veteran intelligence officer who previously spent years trying to figure out how government agencies could more widely share sensitive information.

Senate battle brewing: surveillance vs privacy

September 16, 2009

FINANCIAL-FRAUD/FBIA battle appeared to be emerging in the U.S. Senate over extending terrorism surveillance methods versus bolstering privacy protections.

How much power should the CIA have?

August 25, 2009

In the alphabet soup of government national security agencies, the letters CIA seem to be sinking.

U.S. spy chiefs offer to stay on with Obama

November 13, 2008

WASHINGTON – It’s not a secret: the top two U.S. spies are offering to stay on for at least a while under president-elect Barack Obama.
 
What remains a mystery, however, is whether the offer by Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell and CIA Director Michael Hayden, will be accepted, given their identification with controversial Bush administration policies on electronic spying and treatment of terrorism suspects.
 
The Washington Post reported this week that McConnell and Hayden expected to be replaced early in the Obama administration.
 
McConnell — who gave Obama his first full intelligence briefing last week — told an awards ceremony in Washington on Wednesday that U.S. spy agencies would be in good hands under “the new guys.”
 
“Universally, very-well informed people, very smart, very strategic,” is how he described Obama’s team. “All the signs, at the moment, are positive,” he said.
 
Then came the pitch: “The message that both General Hayden and I have delivered to the incoming administration is, we view ourselves as professionals — as apolitical professionals — and we are available to serve at the pleasure of the president,” McConnell said.
 
“If they ask us to stay for some reason, for a period of time, we would stay and assist them in the transition,” he said.
 
“If they choose others, that’s fine, we’re happy with that; we have other things to do,” he said.
 
McConnell’s position as the U.S. spy chief is new, created under a post-Sept. 11 intelligence reorganization, and like other political jobs has no fixed term. There is, however, some precedent for CIA directors to serve overlapping administrations. George Tenet, a Bill Clinton appointee, remained in office under President George W. Bush until 2004.
 
Hayden has said little about his plans, but also noted in a letter to employees last week that he serves at the pleasure of the president.
 
The Post said influential congressional Democrats opposed McConnell and Hayden’s staying on because they publicly backed Bush policies on interrogation and electronic surveillance.
 
It said, however, other Democrats and many intelligence experts gave high marks to the intelligence leaders for restoring stability and professionalism, and that the Obama camp had given no signs of its plans.
 
McConnell said the Post article had an “alarming headline” but delivered a “reasonable message.”