CIA Picks Undercover Veteran ‘Spider’ As Spy Chief: Will Lead National Clandestine Service

Jan 29, 2015
Homeland Security

CIA Picks Undercover Veteran ‘Spider’ as Spy Chief

Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Langley, Va. Associated Press
The Central Intelligence Agency has picked a new top spy, tapping an undercover veteran who played a central role in developing personal relationships with Afghan leaders after the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

He remains undercover and is known within the agency as “Spider,” a U.S. official said. His new role will be director of the National Clandestine Service, a position that effectively makes him responsible for all of the agency’s spying activities.

Spider’s reputation within the agency is something of legend. He survived an 2001 accidental U.S. bombing attack while meeting with Hamid Karzai, helped launch attacks against al Qaeda and the Taliban in 2002, and accompanied Mr. Karzai, who by then had become Afghanistan’s president, to a White House meeting in 2010.

The CIA wouldn’t reveal any information about the new NCS chief, with a spokesman saying instead that it had elevated “one of the CIA’s most gifted and versatile leaders” who has “a remarkable range of expertise.”

Spider, a former Marine, was the subject of a lengthy 2010 profile in the Wall Street Journal, as he had become a behind-the-scenes power broker in Kabul during his time as station chief there. At the time of the profile, he was in his 50s, though his exact age couldn’t be learned.

Afghanistan has proven a constant challenge for the U.S. government, and the CIA’s work there has been marked by tragedy at times. In December 2009, a double-agent informant blew himself up at a remote CIA base in Afghanistan, killing seven CIA officers and contractors. The U.S. has withdrawn most troops from Afghanistan from the height of the war last decade, but fighting continues between Afghan security forces and the Taliban.

Though Spider forged ties with Mr. Karzai over the course of several years, the Afghan president’s relationships with U.S. leaders would later fray over U.S. policy.

Spider’s pedigree could fit well with the CIA’s current focus. He has been at the center of both political and counterterrorism battles, working closely with leaders and top Pentagon brass. The CIA continues to play a prominent role in Afghanistan and the Middle East, but political instability in several countries is threatening many of the U.S. government’s counterterrorism efforts.

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