Zero Dark Reality: What The Media Usually Gets Wrong

Theodore W. Weaver is a former Intelligence Officer within the CIA’s National Clandestine Service and the Directorate of Science and Technology. He has close to a decade working as a Special Agent with several Federal agencies and has worked against counter proliferation, human trafficking/smuggling, child exploitation, Intellectual Property Rights violations and narcotics. You can follow him on Twitter or via the nascent Inglorious Amateurs website.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on LinkedInDigg thisPrint this pageEmail this to someone

Michael Ross’ Top Ten Missed Targets for Assassination of 2012

  1. Ramadan Shallah: Leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. His low ranking is because he’s a weak terrorist leader but still has plenty of blood on his petite doll-like hands.
  2. Samir Kuntar: Druze member of the PLF in Lebanon who murdered an Israeli policeman, Eliyahu Shahar, 31 year-old Danny Haran, and Haran’s 4-year-old daughter, Einat Haran, whom he killed with blunt force against a rock and for indirectly causing the death of two-year-old Yael Haran by suffocation, as her mother tried to quiet her crying while hiding from Kuntar. In November 2008, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad presented Kuntar with Syria’s highest medal.
  3. Mahmoud al-Zahar: Founding father of HAMAS and considered a hard line hawk, even by HAMAS’ standards
  4. Mohammed Deif: Commander of HAMAS’ Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. That’s reason enough.
  5. Ali Moussa al-Daduq: Senior Hezbollah advisor captured in Iraq while acting on Iran’s behalf and responsible for the killing of U.S. military personnel in southern Iraq.
  6. Ahmed Abu Khattala: Leader of the Benghazi-based Ansar al-Sharia group closely involved in the September 11 assault that killed four Americans including ambassador Christopher Stevens.
  7. Hassan Nasrallah: “Secretary-General” of Hezbollah.
  8. Hamid Arabnejad: Managing-Director of Mahan Air, the Iranian regime’s airline tasked with ferrying weapons/explosives, IRGC-QF personnel, and mayhem all over the world.
  9. Qassam Soleimani: Head of Iran’s IRGC-QF. That’s more than enough reason.
  10. Bashar al-Assad: How many lives could have been saved by rubbing out this man Christopher Hitchens once famously dubbed, “The human toothbrush”. Sic Semper Tyrannus.

Former Mossad Combatant Michael Ross

Michael Ross was born in Canada and served as a soldier in a combat unit of the Israel Defence Forces prior to being recruited as a “combatant,” (a term designating a deep-cover operative tasked with working in hostile milieus) in Israel’s legendary secret intelligence service, the Mossad. In his 13 year career with the Mossad, Ross was also a case officer in Africa and South East Asia for three years, and was the Mossad’s counterterrorism liaison officer to the CIA and FBI for two-and-a-half years. Ross is a published writer and commentator on Near Eastern affairs, intelligence and terrorism. He is the author of The Volunteer: The Incredible True Story of an Israeli Spy on the Trail of International Terrorists.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on LinkedInDigg thisPrint this pageEmail this to someone

Theodore W. Weaver: Remembering Khost, Three Years Later

Just to start, no I wasn’t there. I wasn’t even in DC on 30 December 2009 when Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi blew himself up taking the reported 7 Americans and 1 Jordanian and 1 Afghan with him.

I was in San Diego for the holidays, visiting family. I remember getting up and coming downstairs to make coffee for myself. Then I must have checked my phone and saw the news.

My mind raced, as I’m sure anyone whose life has been directly tied to the last 10 plus years of war does anytime news like this comes out. Who do I know OCONUS? Who can I call or text? Where can I get the most recent info? Can I get back to Langley to help in any way?

I have known of fellow agents getting injured or killed on duty. The hard part for me was this was a different kind of experience at that time. I never served in the military, so I missed that terrible experience of being just that close to something you can’t directly help or affect change upon.

I felt, and quite literally was, useless at that time. I can’t begin to imagine what those on the ground, in country and back at Langley actually felt. A few hours after I first read the news I was able to get a cryptic SMS back from a colleague who let me know that no one close had been injured or killed in the attack.

A lot has been written, mostly by fellow former Intelligence Officers who likely have years of experience on me, and as equally should know better, about what led to Balawi’s successful suicide attack that day in Khost. You can search online to see the various run downs of who was or was not following tradecraft, or who should or should not have been Chief of Station. My goal is not to try and armchair quarterback anything. Swept up in the craziness that must have been a surging tide of “what if” the Officers on the ground and back at Headquarters pushed to make that meeting happen. Sometimes you push too hard, and chances are those are the times some crazy person will try to blow you up. The term “perfect storm” comes to mind.

This being the 3rd anniversary of this terrible event, I just wanted to share what I took away from everything.

I only knew one Officer killed at Khost, very peripherally. Elizabeth Hanson was a Targeting Officer (officially titled Specialized Skills Officer – Targeting). Very simply, her job was to look for leads to piece together detailed information related to HUMINT targets of interest. I always thought of it as looking for that one piece of thread to pull, that when pulled it unraveled the whole sweater. Balawi was that piece of thread; at least that was the idea.

I went through recruitment at the Agency at a time of flux for Headquarters based officers (HBOs). In fact, I was hired as a Targeting Officer (SSO-­T), but by the time I entered on duty and drove to the back reaches of the Purple lot, I was a Headquarters Based Trainee (HBT).

Like most things in a huge bureaucracy, titles matter. Networking is hugely important in an Agency career and although it seems counter intuitive, its even more important as a headquarters based officer. I found that conversations with new acquaintances usually began with a short bio. What did you do before coming to the Agency? Where are you from? Then always ended up with: What are you? Meaning, what sort of Officer are you. Imagine the fun that could be had by knuckle-­dragging Paramilitary Officers when they ask that last question and were given the response of, “I’m an HBT”…which was followed by a quick deafened response of “HVT!” (high value target). Laughter ensued.

By now quite a few former Agency Officers have detailed recruitment and training, and have even spoken of the rotations that new officers do within headquarters. For the HBT’s, soon to be HBO’s, we did similar rotations, with a certification course related to our final job selection coming right before being home-based in an office.

As part of networking and building a so called “Hall File”, or reputation, the National Clandestine Service’s HR department (HRS) advised us to attend sponsored “brown bag” lunches. These were usually informal (if your idea of informal is crowding into a conference room, in a bad suit eating your Subway sandwich purchased at the Agency Subway counter all the while sitting next to a Group Chief who is talking about how great their office is) events that were used to introduce prospective home-­basing officers to an office, as well as share general information about an office or operation that was being talked about at length.

HRS also pushed the idea of more seasoned HBO’s creating individual mentoring groups for the Staff Operations Officers, Targeting Officers and Collection Management Officers. These were a rotating peer mentoring group that had the goal of helping new HBO’s find their way through the bureaucracy. Sometimes they helped calm nerves, or make introductions to offices of interest, or just shared stories about their jobs. From my memory, I met Elizabeth Hanson at one of these peer meetings for Targeting Officers. I only put it together after meeting one of her former certification instructors during my SOO certification. For whatever reason the Targeting Officers had the more active peer-­?mentoring group at Langley.

Elizabeth Hanson kept a small plaque with a meaningful quote on it at her desk. I know this because I had the same head instructor as her during my certification phase as a SOO. At graduation this instructor related Elizabeth’s story to us, and then tearfully gave us all the same small desk plaque with quote. She asked us to think on the quote and what it meant to us, and to live our lives and careers the way Elizabeth did hers. Its funny, the quote itself is less meaningful than the gesture through someone’s grief at losing a friend.

When onboarding with the Agency, going through initial orientation, class instructors like to try and demystify the Agency for new employees. It would seem obvious that most of us, even when approaching the job with open eyes, have bought into at least some of the romanticism and mystique that surrounds life at the CIA, especially life working under some sort of cover. Maybe it’s for that reason, romanticism, that I’ve held onto my memory of that day at graduation. I find meaning in remembering our fallen colleagues, who right or wrong, gave of their lives in pursuit of something bigger than themselves.

I’ve taken to trying to honor those fallen in some meaningful way. At this point in my Federal career, there isn’t much I can do directly. Instead I choose to think about other fallen colleagues, even those I never worked with directly. I also try and get out and do something meaningful to me. Today I’ll be out honoring the fallen nine by pushing myself through the Crossfit Hero WOD “The Seven”. I do it every year, and the plaque still sits on my desk at work. Always there to remind me what I would attempt if I had no fear of failure. Egging me on to push through the fear.

  • Jennifer Lynne Matthews CIA officer, chief of base (Age 45)
  • Harold Brown Jr CIA officer (Age 37)
  • Elizabeth Hanson CIA officer (Age 30)
  • Darren LaBonte CIA officer (Age 35)
  • Scott Michael Roberson CIA officer (Age 39)
  • Dane Clark Paresi Blackwater Worldwide (Xe) (Age 46)
  • Jeremy Wise Blackwater Worldwide (Xe) (Age 35)
  • Al Shareef Ali bin Zeid Jordanian intelligence official (Age Undisclosed)
  • Arghawan Security director at the base (Age Undisclosed)

Theodore W. WeaverTheodore W. Weaver is a former Intelligence Officer within the CIA’s National Clandestine Service and the Directorate of Science and Technology. He has close to a decade working as a Special Agent with several Federal agencies and has worked against counter proliferation, human trafficking/smuggling, child exploitation, Intellectual Property Rights violations and narcotics. You can follow him on Twitter or via the nascent Inglorious Amateurs website.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on LinkedInDigg thisPrint this pageEmail this to someone

So You Want to Work for the CIA?

Former Mossad officer Michael Ross and I were comparing notes on the unusual messages and emails that come our way and, not surprisingly, we both deal with some similar characters. Setting aside the absolute nutters for a moment we’d like to address those sometimes young, sometimes naive, but often well intentioned people who contact us about jobs in the US/Israeli intelligence communities. Let me start by saying that if you fantasize about a career as a super spy and your first step on that journey is contacting either one of us through a direct message on Twitter (or the contact form on Blogs of War) you are not off to a promising start! No worries, though. we’re here to shore up your security practices a bit and hopefully point you in the right direction.

John Little: It seems rather obvious but contacting a stranger on the Internet, especially one not connected to the intelligence community, in an attempt to launch a spying career exposes potential applicants to quite a bit of risk doesn’t it? I usually point people in the direction of an official recruiting site such as or if they express interest but I have often been troubled by how much they reveal in their direct messages or emails. How do you deal with people who, misguided or not, want to join the Mossad? As a Canadian citizen that is a sensitive topic is it not?

Michael Ross: I receive innocent queries from people on a fairly regular basis enquiring how they can join the Mossad. In fact, I recently corresponded with a well-meaning person who informed me that their renowned skate-boarding prowess allowed them to travel to all manner of exotic locales. You have to admit that a skateboarder appearing at the gates of Fordow would certainly be the most original approach the Iranians had ever encountered however, gaining access to a target by skateboard is the least important of things to consider when setting out on the career path of professional espionage. I think people who want to be spies should set out by exercising some initiative in finding out what they can through open sources first before furtively approaching me on Twitter or via an email.

My first question when someone approaches me is what is their citizenship? If they are an Israeli citizen then I have no problem directing them to the Mossad’s website at If they are citizens of other countries, I politely advise them that it’s not a good idea to offer one’s services to another country’s intelligence service regardless how closely the countries are allied – unless you are in fact – a citizen of that country. If the person approaching me is a U.S. citizen, I direct them to the plethora of intelligence agencies that are available to the American citizen. U.S. citizens are spoiled for choice in this realm.

I think people have been conditioned by Hollywood to believe that spies can be stateless soldiers of fortune and so long as they’re fighting terrorists, details about nationality and allegiance are not that important in the scheme of things. I have to often explain that while we share many worthy goals, intelligence services pursue differing agendas that are driven by national security priorities specific to their government. For a long period of time, the Mossad had a very difficult time convincing the British SIS that Hezbollah was more than just a localized threat to Israel. Likewise when on rare occasion they approached us concerning a matter involving IRA terrorist activity. Turkey couldn’t understand why the PKK wasn’t top of the counter-terrorism agenda for everyone else. You can see through these examples that while we’re all countering terrorism, national security priorities do not always align 100% between allies.

In my own case, I lived for a long time in Israel, served in the IDF, became fluent in Hebrew, and spent some years going native before I was even considered for recruitment. While national security priorities differed between Canada and Israel, I never once felt that I was straying into a grey zone that would put me in a moral conflict with my Canadian citizenship.

I encourage people interested in pursuing a career in the intelligence milieu to do their homework. Official websites offer a great deal of useful information about how to apply and what criteria they are specifically looking for in a potential candidate. If you approach me without doing all that initial research, I’ll tell you that by first coming to me, the message you’re sending is that you’re probably not cut out for this business.

John Little: And what would you say to those aspiring CIA/Mossad officers about their communication and personal security practices in that period leading up to potential employment? It’s never too early to practice discretion is it?

Michael Ross: Well, first of all, if you write me asking how to join the Mossad and your IP address shows you live in Dahieh, then you’re either suicidal or think I’m asleep at the wheel. Either way, people should be aware that computers are the most insecure devices ever conceived by man and users should bear that in mind when using electronic communication.

For anyone interested in joining an intelligence service – regardless of which – it’s best to do the research and then keep your intentions to yourself. One thing that is highly valued in a candidate for recruitment is an innate sense of discretion. During the course of your being assessed as a candidate to work for an intelligence service, questions will be asked about with whom you’ve been communicating your intentions. When it comes out (and it will) that you’ve been emailing far and wide, it’s going to indicate to your perspective employer that you’re clearly not the right stuff.

As for social media, having pictures of yourself engaged in any type of indiscreet activity or participating in online behavior that can be translated as even mildly compromising, isn’t going to help your case. Let the sentiment behind the saying, “discretion is the better part of valour” be your guide.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on LinkedInDigg thisPrint this pageEmail this to someone