Woman heads CIA spy unit for first time
March 29th, 2013
05:33 PM ET

Woman heads CIA spy unit for first time

By Pam Benson

Another glass ceiling has been cracked at least temporarily with a woman now running the CIA's spy division.

The long time CIA veteran leading the National Clandestine Service on an acting basis cannot be publicly named because she is still a covert officer.

The question is whether she will get the job permanently. But her background could be problematic for new CIA boss John Brennan.

According to sources familiar with her career, she was assigned to a senior position at the CIA's Counterterrorism Center shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

In that role, she was involved in the controversial interrogation and detention program set up as the agency tracked and captured suspected al Qaeda terrorists.

She moved to the clandestine unit as chief of staff when her boss at the time, Jose Rodriguez, was tapped to run the service in 2004.

The sources said the two were involved in a decision to destroy 92 videos of terror detainee interrogations, a move that infuriated congressional lawmakers and prompted a Justice Department investigation that did not result in any charges.

The Bush administration came under fire at the time because some interrogations at clandestine CIA prisons overseas involved harsh techniques, like waterboarding and stress positions.

Questions over terrorism interrogations and the CIA detention program also dogged Brennan during his Senate confirmation hearings last month.

Some senators wanted to know if he had a role in managing the program when he served as the agency's executive director.

Brennan said he did not and indicated he privately raised objections with colleagues to enhanced interrogation techniques.

He acknowledged saying several years ago that those interrogations did produce some valuable intelligence and saved lives.

But Brennan said he didn't know what to believe when confronted with questions about a recently released Senate Intelligence Committee report that concluded the CIA exaggerated the effectiveness of the program.

"Reading this report from the committee raises questions about the information that I was given at the time, the impression I had at the time," Brennan told lawmakers during his confirmation hearing.

"Now I have determined what, based on that information as well as what CIA says, what the truth is. And at this point ... I do not know what the truth is."

As CIA director, Brennan is responsible for providing the agency's response to the Senate report. He told the lawmakers he would do so by early next month.

With that backdrop, he also has to decide who will run the clandestine service permanently.

Regardless of whether the female acting director is tainted by her role in the interrogation program, she is not the only candidate.

There are at least two others: a former chief of station in Pakistan and a former head of the Counterterrorism Center, both whom are undercover.

In an unusual move, Brennan has asked a team of former senior CIA officials-John McLaughlin, Stephen Kappas and Mary Margaret Graham– to review the choices.

The Washington Post, which first reported on the female acting director, quoted sources as saying the review panel could provide political cover for Brennan at a time when the interrogation controversy is prominent.

The current and former intelligence officials CNN spoke with dismissed that suggestion, saying Brennan simply would like outside opinions for a very senior job.

CIA spokesman Preston Golson the female acting director "is one of the most senior and respected officers in the agency and is, of course, a strong candidate for the job."

soundoff (37 Responses)
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  5. Tom1940

    I am not so distressed at the "discomfort" of our enemies, as I am by the distress of our lawmakers, and their sympathy for our enemies "discomfort". These are the same lawmakers that feel, unless there is fighting in the streets caused by Al Qaeda Operatives in New York, LA, New Oreleans, etc., then we should turn the other cheek and not do anything.
    Similar to Bill Clinton lobbing a few cruise missiles into Afghanistan and then washing his hands of the "terrorist threat".
    When the lawmakers decide we are at "war" instead of just engaged in some "local civilian unrest" throughout troubled spots in the world, and are content to ignore those folks until they are making war on main-street America – then I wonder who the real "enemy" is?

    April 2, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Reply
  6. ronny bloodworth

    hope the best for her.she will be a good person for the job.good luck .

    March 31, 2013 at 4:32 pm | Reply
  7. John

    This is great. Do you realize the psychological impact of this appointment? Muslim countries, which hate women and are so afraid of educated women, will now realize who is the boss!! She is going to pretty much own these Muslims' fate from her powerful position. I would love to see the exasperated faces of those Pakistani Islamists. I hope she gets this job permanently.

    March 31, 2013 at 8:55 am | Reply
  8. drones luv pakis

    a woman was responsible for getting osama in paki house..now a women will be running all the operations in pak...paki isi kiyani must be shaking in his ladies pants...!!!!

    March 30, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Reply
  9. George Patton-2

    I bet that a lot of right-wing broads are going to be singing over this for the next month or so! I wonder if any of them expect to be operating cursed drones in the near future, killing people. I'm afraid so!

    March 30, 2013 at 10:31 am | Reply
    • Matt

      @George Patton-2:
      You hate conservatives and you call them "thugs".
      You hate liberals like Obama because they use "cursed drones" against religious nut jobs like Taliban.
      So, you just hate all Americans while hiding behind an American name.
      That just sums it up - you must be a Muslim, who hates all Americans while living on welfare in America.

      March 31, 2013 at 10:33 am | Reply
  10. john

    Finally! Now our spies will all have the proper techniques for applying makeup correctly.

    March 29, 2013 at 10:45 pm | Reply
    • kenny logins

      what a useless, throwaway comment. If you'd even read the article, you could have said something clever like, the devil wears prada.

      March 29, 2013 at 11:53 pm | Reply
      • leah

        If he had read the article AND had any wit to speak of, perhaps.

        March 30, 2013 at 10:36 am |
  11. dave

    Gee - they have practically told us her name - whatever were they thinking??

    March 29, 2013 at 10:08 pm | Reply
  12. DanMan

    Being upset about a woman having a position of authority, without making a case for how she is or is not qualified, is backwards, 1800's thinking. Obviously, for her to break the mold and be the first woman CIA unit leader, she must already have some accomplishments. Her deeds are secret for a few decades, but she has not been doing paperwork and getting promoted without getting her hands dirty. I would not be surprised if this was the woman depicted in Zero Dark Thirty (4 stars), but that it likely wishful thinking.

    March 29, 2013 at 9:58 pm | Reply
    • Jimmie Russells

      The woman in the movie "Zero Dark Thirty" was highly fictionalized. To assert that this one woman was solely responsible for the capture of a man pursued by multiple nations for decades is pure fiction.

      March 29, 2013 at 11:39 pm | Reply
  13. Ken from FL

    My heart does not bleed for the foreign terrorists who were subjected to "enhanced" interrogation techniques. They're still alive, aren't they? Which is more than one can say about the victims of the Islamic radicals' "interrogation" techniques. She's probably a true intelligence pro; let's hope this endless hand wringing on the part of McCain and others doesn't jam up her career.

    March 29, 2013 at 8:33 pm | Reply
  14. Xib

    2nd wave feminism...Misandry...the hungry, filthy and greedy beast gorging herself on better culture. We need to wrench that beast away from the liberal leash and beat it to a pulp.

    More people were married and stayed married prior to 2nd wave feminism. More fathers were involved and stayed in the home just a couple generations back. Divorce, single parenthood, personal and national debt, have all been on the rise since women began to seek "empowerment". Selfish, greedy, 60's bra-burners fouled many of our women and are ruining our culture.

    The sad thing is that liberals and feminists want you to believe that everything pre 2nd wave feminism was rotten so you should throw out all the beliefs, traditions, and ideals that came about pre 2nd wave, i.e., that tired old crap about the 1950's being an unhappy jail for everyone, etc. It's a sad, foul, liberal lie teaching you to throw out the baby with the bath water.

    Reject the false enlightenment offered by liberals...and you'll live a healthier, solid life robust in stability, contentment, and enriched in happiness.

    Fathers are important, just as important as mothers. Men, reject liberal women and seek socially conservative, fiscally responsible women that have actual self-respect and project femininity...find a woman that can honestly say she needs a man, that she needs you, and stay with her.

    The world will be a brighter place the more we reject liberals and their ideals on all fronts through our words and deeds.

    March 29, 2013 at 7:29 pm | Reply
    • Norman C Hoffmann

      Yeah, you got it. But, it wasn't the "liberals" fault. It is the fault of the individual. Many men women and children have heard the message of feminism. But, only some have allowed it to become a problem for themselves and/or others.

      Others, have chosen it's teachings to benefit themselves. And, others yet have not chosen it at all. But, what is important is that there is a choice. And, the lawful freedom to make that choice in America exists.

      Don't judge them. Don't impede their free will. And, let them go hell. Lest it be you.

      March 29, 2013 at 9:48 pm | Reply
    • leah

      Yes, women got married and stayed married to abusive and/or philandering husbands because they had no other options. Quite the utopia. For the men, anyway.

      March 30, 2013 at 10:38 am | Reply
  15. J. Wheeler

    I would think that the details you provided in your article would make it pretty easy for anyone 'in the know' to figure out who this person is. Score a C- for your reporting.

    March 29, 2013 at 7:23 pm | Reply
    • Charles

      Anyone in the know, probably already knows.

      March 29, 2013 at 7:43 pm | Reply
  16. St.Louie

    Get a clue Mongo, hypocrisy is politics.The question is which now has delagation of authority in matters pertaining to interogation+drone targeting,is it the military? the CIA, or some high priced 3rd party "rent a merc"service? Dawg,what the rest of us know gossip knows no gender.

    March 29, 2013 at 7:06 pm | Reply
  17. Carmelle

    christian must be a moron, using lables like liberal is childish and uneducated

    March 29, 2013 at 6:55 pm | Reply
    • Norman C Hoffmann

      Somewhat like using the label, "Christian"? Or, maybe how about another one like "Liberal Hypocrisy"?

      March 29, 2013 at 9:52 pm | Reply
  18. See Eye Hey

    Good job giving it away.. Give it up for CNN playing 20 questions all by themselves! Ran this article through Google, sentence for sentence, and a name came out! News & media sure know when to draw the lines...

    March 29, 2013 at 6:53 pm | Reply
  19. christian

    Liberals make me laugh. The same people crying about "enhanced Interogations" are the same people who cry WHY DIDN'T YOU DO SOMETHING when we get attacked.. Complete and utter morons

    March 29, 2013 at 6:41 pm | Reply
  20. Jeff

    The Obama administration is scary.....scary indeed!

    March 29, 2013 at 6:39 pm | Reply
    • petergmackie

      Was it not the Obama administration that killed Bin Laden? What's scary about that?

      March 30, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Reply
  21. socalpimp

    The glass ceiling will always be used as a crutch...With an African-American as President nothing has changed.

    March 29, 2013 at 6:28 pm | Reply
  22. Pedro

    I wonder if its the same women who was involved in the killing of Osama

    March 29, 2013 at 6:18 pm | Reply
  23. biggerdawg

    And we know all is OK as a woman never gossips.

    March 29, 2013 at 6:17 pm | Reply
  24. MikeMongo

    The hypocrisy of this administration knows no bounds.

    March 29, 2013 at 6:16 pm | Reply
    • Xib

      As it is with women...

      March 29, 2013 at 7:30 pm | Reply

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