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Friday, October 3, 2014

Old Intel Officers Never Die, They Just.....Oh, Wait, Yes they Do.

Not that long ago, being an Operations Officer in the CIA was a lifelong career.  How could anyone with that type of job, be happy doing anything else?  Retirement is an option, but most retirees found their way back as instructors for surveillance/detection courses or something similar.  Times have changed since I first arrived in DC.  The Agency seems to be hemorrhaging officers to the private sector, and it couldn't happen at a worse time.  This post would be incomplete without some conjecture as to why the CIA is losing experienced personnel.  As is usually the case, the exodus is the result of a combination of factors.  Working for the government has become a pain in the ass.  Bureaucracy begets bureaucracy, and getting things accomplished has become so much more of a hassle.  Bit by bit, with blogs and books similar to mine, the mystery of the CIA is fading away and being replaced with tons of paperwork.  Because of the secret nature of its activities, the Agency was able to allow its officers a certain amount of freedom within which to accomplish the mission.  The environment has changed dramatically, especially in the last decade.  The Iraq War and Abu Ghraib obliged the organization to open its files and deliver up certain officers for judgment.  Sadly, the officers who walk the halls of the Directorate of Operations (DO) nowadays do so as if walking on cut glass.  It began with the thorough review of ops decisions, and evolved into the second-guessing of  ops decisions.  Guess what, folks.  People don't enjoy working in that type of environment.  To put it bluntly, the DO's "Freedom Of Action" has been rescinded. 

There is no reason to panic.  The Agency functions at the behest of the current administration.  When Bush was in office, the reins were loosened quite a bit, as far as operations were concerned.  If a conservative wins the Presidency in 2016, I think we will see a surge in covert activity and a drop-off in Agency resignations.  Unfortunately it will be too late for a number of truly gifted officers, who have chosen to seek greener pastures.  One such officer is my close friend Jacob.  Jacob is an Operations Officer, and in a career spanning just over ten years, he has done it all.  Simply put, he is a complete Operations Officer.  His most recent assignment was something I would have aspired to, if my medical situation hadn't intervened.  Without going into details, I owe my life to Jacob.  I had hoped it wouldn't happen, but when Obama won re-election, the writing was on the wall.  Jacob has taken an indefinite Leave Without Pay and is aggressively looking for work in the private sector.  And this is where it gets really bizarre.  I don't know if the market has gotten saturated with young, brilliant, experienced, dedicated, hard-working, weapons-trained, former CIA Operations Officers, but Jacob has been unable to find a job!  I would have anticipated that Jacob's search would have taken two, maybe three days.  He is the kind of operator that a CEO needs at his side, making certain that security is what it should be.  I know a Fortune 500 company with deep investments in Africa, with a security chief who has never lived outside of the United States.  We live in a dangerous, unpredictable world, and whoever snatches up Jacob will be better prepared for whatever the future brings.

It embarrasses me to admit this, but I didn't know that the U.S. Army also had Operations Officers in the field.  I've been fortunate enough to work with some of the Army Ops Officers.  They work in units called Humint (human intelligence) Collection Teams, and they spend a great deal of time working with the local community, collecting valuable force protection information.  They also work closely with detainees.  Language is an important part of the military intelligence collection effort, and the military language training facilities in the United States are second to none in the world.  CIA Operations Officers are trained with an eye to more traditional methods of collecting information.  But circumstances are changing the way the game is played, and Agency Ops Officers must adapt.  We have much to learn from our U.S. Army colleagues, and thankfully I have always had tremendous success working with the military.  Working in a wartime environment is unlike anything an officer will experience in times of peace.  I started this post will a few comments about Agency officers and life outside the beltway, so to speak.  I have bounced around to a few different subjects, and managed to talk up my brother Jacob in the mix.  Relax, tomorrow I will be back to me organized, OCD self.

PS If you know of an opportunity for something career-wise that would be appropriate for my friend Jacob, please send me an email at  Much obliged. 

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