A wide-sweeping story on the CIA’s drone programme and its deep congressional support in Washington has made waves, after the New York Times named top officials linked with the operation – despite requests the agency that it not do so.
At the centre of the story was former counter-terrorism chief Michael D’Andrea. Mr D’Andrea, in addition to overseeing the growth of the drone programme, was also heavily influential in the creation of the agency’s detention and interrogation operations.
“Perhaps no single CIA officer has been more central to the effort than Michael D’Andrea, a gaunt, chain-smoking convert to Islam who was chief of operations during the birth of the agency’s detention and interrogation program and then, as head of the CIA Counterterrorism Centre, became an architect of the targeted killing program,” said the article published on Sunday.
“Until last month, when Mr D’Andrea was quietly shifted to another job, he presided over the growth of CIA drone operations and hundreds of strikes in Pakistan and Yemen during nine years in the position.”
Mr D'Andrea is said to have been the inspiration for the character of The Wolf in the film Zero Dark Thirty.
Mr D’Andrea’s replacement, Chris Wood, a former station chief in Kabul and a veteran of the agency’s notorious al-Qaeda-hunting Alec Station, was also named in the story. So too, was Greg Vogel, an espionage veteran known as “Spider,” who was recently tabbed by CIA director John Brennan to be the agency’s chief of operations.
The story noted that the agency requested that the newspaper refrain from publishing the names, but said it decided to do so “because they have leadership roles in one of the government’s most significant paramilitary programmes and their roles are known to foreign governments and many others”.
The publication of the Times' story comes less than a week after the White House revealed that a drone strike targeting an al-Qaeda compound was responsible for the accidental deaths of two hostages. That admission has reignited the debate surrounding the legality and morality of drones and the CIA’s role.
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