The Former CIA Officers, Analysts, and Intelligence Professionals Who You Should Be Following on Twitter

Following spies on Twitter can be a dicey proposition. For every legitimate account there are hundreds, if not thousands, of imposters. Many of the fakes are obvious but others are expertly crafted and potentially up to no good. And then there are those who go to great lengths to obscure their affiliation while still producing quality content on the subject. That is why I generally take Twitter bios with a grain of salt and focus on the quality of the content (and apparent intent) instead.

The people and organizations listed here to not represent a complete inventory of experts on the topic. I follow, and regularly communicate with, many people who more than worthy of inclusion. However, in this case I’ve narrowed the scope to primarily include people who openly declare their professional backgrounds. There are many more highly informed, but discreet, people worth following. This list just represents a good starting point for those interested in the work of the agency or intelligence matters in general.

@nadabakos | Nada Bakos
Former CIA analyst on team charged with Iraq-AQ-9/11 & Zarqawi. Now: the horizon and @ManhuntDoc

@GaryBerntsen | Gary Berntsen
Former CIA Officer, Author of JawBreaker and The Walk-In, Father, Husband, #NatSec #Counterterrorism Expert, Patriot, @ConcernedVets Reg Director

@quartusoptio | Theodore W. Weaver
Ted is a former Intelligence Officer within the CIA’s National Clandestine Service and the Directorate of Science and Technology. – Blogs of War Contributor

@haplesspursuer | Sean P. Sullivan
Sean P. Sullivan has over 15 years of Federal and Military experience in the US Navy and within the CIA’s Special Activities Division of the National Clandestine Service. Mr. Sullivan is now an intelligence, security, and surveillance systems consultant. – Blogs of War Contributor

@TaraMaller | Tara Maller
@NewAmerica Research Fellow & former intel analyst tweeting on foreign affairs, intel & whatever else captures my imagination. @MIT Ph.D. & @Dartmouth grad. – Blogs of War Contributor

@AkiPeritz | Aki Peritz
Third Way Sr. Nat’l Security Policy Advisor. Cowrote Find-Fix-Finish: US v #alQaeda after 9/11

@LindsayMoran | Lindsay Moran
Former CIA officer, author, consultant, mom.

@CIAspygirl | Emily Brandwin
Spent years working in the CIA as a disguise officer and as an operations officer, AKA – spy. Now I focus on writing, comedy, Broadway and keeping secrets.

There are many other experts with excellent perspectives on Intelligence. I’ve listed some of my favorites below. The focus here is on national security and intelligence professionals or organizations rather than outside observers, journalists, and academics. There are many informed commentators with excellent viewpoints that aren’t listed here but these Twitter accounts serve up great content on a regular basis:

@mrossletters | Michael Ross
Former Mossad officer. Served in NE, Africa and Asia for 11 years, and the Mossad’s CT liaison officer to the CIA/FBI for 2.5 years. Author of The Volunteer – Blogs of War Contributor

@FranTownsend | Frances Townsend
Former Homeland and Counterterrorism Security advisor to President Bush: 2003-2008 CNN National Security Analyst: 2008-present

@20committee | John Schindler
Professor, Naval War College; Chair, PfP Combating Terrorism Working Group; Senior Fellow, Boston University; former NSA & NAVSECGRU – talking intel & security

@thedesertgate | The Desert Gate
Geography/GEOINT, Caucasus, Language, Culture, Geostrategy, Maps, Pipelines, Political Economy, Crime, Caffeine, and Hate.

@IngloriusAmatrs | Inglorious Amateurs
Inglorious Amateurs was created by former Intelligence Officers of the CIA to give readers a timely and informed look at Intelligence and related matters.

@AllThingsHLS | David Gomez
Opinion & commentary on CT, DOMTERR, NatSec & HLSec. Retired FBI ASAC, former FBI Profiler, former LAPD Detective. NPS/CHDS grad. Now just a retired Sheepdog.

@JCZarate1 | Juan Zarate
Juan Zarate, former Bush nat’l security advisor, is CBS News’ senior nat’l security analyst & CSIS scholar. Series Flash Points airs weekly on CBSNews.com.

@CustosDivini | Kalashnikitty
News #OSINT my unsolicited opinion: #CBRNE & #WMD; arms & weapons proliferation trafficking & acquisitions; Game Theory; To whom much is given much is expected.

@Levitt_Matt | Matthew Levitt
Matthew Levitt is a senior fellow and director of The Washington Institute’s Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence. From 2005 to early 2007, he served as deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. In that capacity, he served both as a senior official within the department’s terrorism and financial intelligence branch and as deputy chief of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis.

@geointer | USGIF CEO
USGIF CEO / Non-Profit Exec / GEOINT Advocate / ISR Futurist / Husband / Father / Former DoD & IC Sr Exec / Former Army Officer (Not in that order)

@ODNIgov | Office of the DNI
DNI James Clapper oversees the U.S. Intelligence Community and serves as principal adviser to the President on intelligence issues related to national security.

@ODNI_NIC | National Intelligence Council
Welcome to the National Intelligence Council’s Twitter! The NIC reports to the Director of National Intelligence.

@NGA_GEOINT | National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
The NGA provides imagery, map-based intelligence and geospatial information in support of the nation’s military forces, national policy makers and civil users.

@HouseIntelComm | House Intelligence Committee
The primary committee in the U.S. House of Representatives charged with the oversight of the United States Intelligence Community.

@RepMikeRogers | Rep. Mike Rogers (MI-08)
Representative for Michigan’s Eighth Congressional District, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Army Veteran, Former FBI Agent.

Again, this list is just a starting point. If you feel like you should be on this list, or on my radar, fill out my source suggestion form or drop me a line here or on Twitter. I am very discreet but please do not overshare and definitely do not disclose someone else’s affiliation unless you have their express permission to do so. This post highlights accounts which are already public and will not be used to “out” someone as an intelligence professional.

Interview: Ali-Reza Anghaie and Scot Terban on InfoSec, Hackers, China, and Cyber Hype

terbali2 Interview: Ali Reza Anghaie and Scot Terban on InfoSec, Hackers, China, and Cyber Hype

Ali-Reza Anghaie (Right) is a Consulting Security Engineer and Senior Analyst with Wikistrat. His varied work in engineering and security has taken him to numerous universities and Fortune 500 companies in the Defense, Energy, Entertainment, and Medical fields. You can follow Ali-Reza on Twitter and Quora. Scot Terban (Left), AKA the gonzo INFOSEC blogger Krypt3ia, blogs at http://krypt3ia.wordpress.com. You can also find him on Twitter. Both host the weekly Cloak & Swagger: Security Unhinged podcast.

John Little: Let’s start off with a Skyfall-esque word association game. Ready? “Cyber Pearl Harbor

Ali-Reza Anghaie: Geraldo. (Yes, that’s my answer. Say `Cyber Pearl Harbor` in his voice and you’ll want to strangle yourself too.)

Scot Terban: Expletive.

John Little: Alright, so what is it about “Cyber Pearl Harbor” that sets you two, and many other infosec professionals, off? What are Panetta, Lieberman, and other Beltway types getting wrong about the legitimate threats we face in the digital domain?

Ali-Reza Anghaie: Lets clarify “getting wrong” – as professionals we encounter `wrong` all the time. ~Intentionally~ exaggerating and obfuscating threats is what has been happening in DC. However, it’s also politics – you never hear a politician talk about any issue in a way that satisfies the wider professional community of that issue. That’s quite intentional – as the people who really know are absolutely the people that politicians need to play ~against~ to centralize and pull power toward their own spheres of influence.

And that’s really the part that burns me – the echo chamber they’ve built is designed to accomodate just those that will work within the confines of the existing DC dynamic. And so much energy is exhausted in just that posturing that by the time you get to actual technical working groups – you’re already on the tail end of resource availability. So, if you’re lucky, you’ll get through one or two iterations of actual policy driven work before the next manufactured crises hoovers priority elsewhere.

Since this is the inevitable cycle, I suggest we move straight to the end – private industry needs to step to the plate as a competitive matter because Government, as Government always does, will punish you using whatever laws do or don’t exist as soon as it’s politically tenable. And won’t provide any solutions along the way. Why not just get it over with?

You know – I’d probably be less cynical and in a better mood if you stopped saying “Cyber Pearl Harbor”..

Scot Terban: It’s jingoism at its best. It is propaganda and a tool to get people to react in a knee jerk way.

What are Panetta, Lieberman, and other Beltway types getting wrong about the legitimate threats we face in the digital domain? Everything. They do not comprehend the technologies involved nor the complexities of what they are advocating as the end of the world. They need to let the professionals who deal with this technology and space give the answers. It’s akin to telling a five year old to go on to Meet The Press and explain quantum mechanics.

John Little: There are countless layers to this problem and many of them are not “technical”. There are human factors and physical security issues for example. In most cases there are no paths to 100% security. So where, from a national security perspective, should we focus or efforts and dollars? What would get us the most bang for the buck?

Scot Terban: Well, contrary to what a Dave Aitel or lately Schneier might posit, more security awareness for the general populace to start I think. This is more so for companies that are within the sights of an APT adversary but also look at what goes on with crimeware to start right? How much of this could be stopped just with making sure people understand the technology that they own and should be managing? We are all supposed to have training to drive a car and a license so why not at least have a better grasp on the PC and how things work right?

*wait’s for Ali’s head to explode*

But really, knowledge is power and unfortunately I don’t think this will happen either really. The money will all go into offensive campaigns within the CyberComm and we will lag behind on defense. Look at the EO and how the corps responded to it. “hey yeah, we would like to do less” I know Ali thinks that is all about letting the gubment take over and that is what they want but I disagree here. I think they do not want the government dictating to them nor do they want to be responsible for the security of their environments at the level of mandate because they would be held to it by assessment.

I think in the end your question is moot because nothing will be done that will help us.

Ali-Reza Anghaie: The pounding of the `do the basics` drums needs to be louder than the `sexy` drums..

However, I think the biggest things we can do at a national security lever are:

1) Admit defeat at the Government level. Make it clear – CLEAR – that if you’re waiting for Government to combat your hacking problem, you’re going to die.

2) You. Must. Compete. There is a concept called “Intellectual Property Obesity” that has ravaged the American innovators for some time. They spent too much time on Copyright, Patent, and IP theft and not enough on risk analysis, business development, existing means of competition.. concentrate on ~everything else~ that has made America less competitive on a global scale.

In the end, if we’re to suffer a `death by a thousand cuts`, it’s not because of cyber espionage from the Chinese or anyone else. That’s but a small part of the bigger picture.

Now – that speaks to national security at the economic level, which I think is most important – but some conflate this as all purely defense/military in nature. The solutions to that problem set as a bit different and, in part, require actually letting people fail. Not retroactively but put a pretty solid post in the ground that says: `Hey, if you get hacked and all the IP is stolen. Your program funding is going to take a BIG hit. We don’t want to tell you how to fix it – we (Government) doesn’t know how. Likewise, if the data gets stolen while with us (again, Government), you’re going to get a bit of automatica business helping us or influencing our direct means of securing it`.. something along those lines without the tin-foil gaps.

John Little: Although I know and respect many security professionals the ones that I encounter professionally seem to be bureaucrats rather than technical professionals. They are just lords of a massive fixed documentation process that must be completed whether I’m building a simple web page with public data or a massive mission critical enterprise system. The problem is that I can answer 500 questions about my application and get it approved but at the end of the day there’s nothing about the process that really enhances security. What are your thoughts about how the private sector utilizes InfoSec professionals?

Ali-Reza Anghaie: Firstly – I’m sorry. Really really sorry. You’ll have to file a RC269B exception to ask me this question. It’ll be rejected of course because everyone knows of the `Great RC268T Debacle` of 2012. I have my big red stamp ready to reject your request because email isn’t secure enough and the ColdFusion workflow app we had developed in Bangalore was, of course, developed by non-US Citizens so we can’t really use it. I have spoken.

There is this inherit fear of InfoSec that comes with the noise around incidents right now – similar to how auditors were perceived just after SOX went into effect. Nobody knows what to do with InfoSec except to not piss InfoSec off. Along with that come a lot of non-technical professionals or entry-level professionals enabled with copious amounts of authority and confidence over – well – nothing in particular. So, much like politics, you do exactly what you can get away with without punishment.

This is a cynical view – as my answers have trended so far – but it’s quite normal and recent trends leave me very optimistic.

We’re at the tail end of this trend and, as an industry, we’re going through it a fair bit quicker than many of our predecessors. Somewhat due to economic constraints but I sincerely believe the best of the best in InfoSec have taken more responsibility recently for knocking down their own echo chambers. They’ve seen the charlatans flourish and they know “we” created room for them with ambiguity and hand-waiving. “We” want our industry back..

So – to answer your question – I think a huge majority of the private sector is very confused in how to apply InfoSec. And it’s our fault…for now.

Scot Terban: I think we need to differentiate between the INFOSEC folks like an archaeological dig here to start. First off, not all INFOSEC’ers are built the same. I come from the pentesting side AND the policy as well. I performed many assessments that had a combination of both and understand them both well enough to see where the rubber meets the road to so speak. Unfortunately not everyone has the skill sets to see both sides of coin and to work efficiently in the space. So we have people who get into INFOSEC primarily from a “legislative or paper” side of the issue. They understand that security is necessary and there are rules that need to be in place and that is about it. They follow their checklists and once they have checked the boxes they are good. This is bad but all too often the real aegis of many folks in corporations who perform audit from SOX to other government audit standpoints.

Then there are the people who perform just pentest and who many often think that rules are just useless. Why? Because the hackers/adversary does not follow the rules and all too often rules get mired in minutiae that doesn’t matter to their attacks. I have heard way too many times, and rightly so, that SOX and other check box security measures are useless. I too have felt the same thing but, too often the pentest crowd is just dismissive of it because they are broken and not workable in their present state much of the time. So you can develop an app as you say, the “Bob’s” can come in with their checklists but in the end they have not made the product more secure because they lack the dimension of the attacker perspective.

So we have two camps.. Both out to secure things and neither really can because of a third camp.. Let’s call this camp the “Corporation” The corp all too often is motivated not by an innate desire to protect their data, their clients etc.. Their driver is to make as much money as possible and in doing so security spend is even today, not what it should be because it is a cost center. When looking at the options and the legal drivers we can see how it is so easy for a company to go for the check box security approach mainly because that is what the government and the laws are mandating. It is the “due diligence” mentality and in that, the only due diligence we have primarily is to have the boxes checked to insure that they can say that once they get sued or after an incident. THIS is to minimize the legal remunerations that they may incur to law suits and that’s the extent of it. Rarely have I seen a company throughout my career that was proactive about their security enough to engage true red teaming and effective policies, procedures, and audit to insure a modicum of security.

It’s mostly set and forget as well as get drones who check SOX boxes every year. Aye, there’s the rub huh? This is where you have the paper CISSP’s and others who really do not have a grasp of adversarial INFOSEC that needs to be in place to protect yourselves and this is where the engine of popularity and money have made a glut of people who don’t really have the chops to be in the business doing business. So yeah, you could create an application and the SOX types come along and ask questions but they really aren’t coders nor understand application code security right? They do their bit but they don’t see the whole picture and you, you could totally hoodwink them that your application is up to standard because this is the only appsec that they are carrying out.. Asking questions and not validating code?

To me, that says that the system is broken. What we need is a middle road where true application security people are involved in your case. In other cases I would like to see people who have a good grasp of security (defense as well as offense) in the roles of audit. Will this happen? Probably not and that is because as was lamented recently “Defense isn’t sexy” add to that the corp’s aren’t looking to do anything but be “risk averse” and you have a broken system.

John Little: So we have a system that is broken and seems bound to stay that way. With the increasing complexity and distributed nature of data and applications, the vast number of application users (a good portion of the planet now), the rapid advancement of technology, and the challenges involved in building and maintaining an even barely adequate cadre of INFOSEC professionals how will the future not become even more of a hacker’s playground?

Ali-Reza Anghaie: The problem space is going to continue to grow at an accelerating pace. We will drown in more data and we won’t ever have enough bodies to throw at the problem. Government “regulation” will likely further exasperate the staffing problems. Generally we’ve shown ourselves incapable of effective security automation. Woe is me?

There is a difference between a hacker’s playground and an unmanageable risk. Like any other type of crime, society will compensate in some areas and not in others. Some regions will do better with the same `door locks` and other regions will need `burglar bars` on all windows. So the question isn’t if the attack surface will continue to outpace us – it certainly will – the question is how will we compensate, as an industry and society, elsewhere?

This goes to the very root of competition – and we’re stuck with this idea that InfoSec is absolute. You’re either not using computers or your pwned. In no other aspect of life or society do we so readily say that to customers, through Governments, and in our daily routines.

So I would say that hackers will hack and that’s OK. If you aren’t viable and complete even under hacker fire – I’d say you were never actually viable or complete.

Scot Terban: It shall be just as it is now. The only answer is to become a new age Luddite and live in a bunker awaiting the end…

John Little: A significant portion of the cyber-chatter inside the Beltway and in the media is focused on China. How would you characterize the threat Chinese hackers (official or not) pose to the U.S. and how should we be talking about it?

Ali-Reza Anghaie: Lets be clear – the Chinese threat is real and it’s aggressive. It is also entirely irrelevant.

We’re at such an early stage of secure architecture and software that concentrating on a given foe is foolish for all but a small core of defense and intelligence agencies. Along those lines, Government emphasizing a given nation-state threat also leaves people with the false impression that these threats ~require~ a nation-state to execute. And…. wait for it… a nation-state level response.

About now big red spinning alarms should be going off in your head. THAT is the problem with “the Chinese threat” – it’s become a political football that has turned into a lobby interest that has turned into a disadvantage to an already painfully broken field. It creates whole classes of C-levels looking at the wrong problems, wrong solutions, and wrong people to deliver those solutions.

Scot Terban: How would I characterize the Chinese threat… Well, they are a threat because they are just persistent and mostly sneaky. Not all of the teams are uber ninja’s like portrayed in the news media or in a Mandiant self propaganda piece but they are pretty good (some of them) What the question really should be though is how would I characterize the attacked.. Not the attacker. We are on the whole not prepared to deal with attacks either in the MIL space or the private whatsoever. Companies are reticent to fix their infrastructures because it would cause loss of productivity, they hold on to old technologies like XP and IE6 for way too long, and they generally are not as a whole, security savvy.

So.. How hard is it for the average Chinese hacker to get someone to click on a link, pwn a machine, enter a poorly managed network, and steal them blind? Furthermore, how hard is it then to keep persistence?

Meh.

John Little: You both raise a very important point. While the debates over terminology, doctrine, and threats rage on the assets are going unprotected. We hear case after case of hackers having an easy time with their targets because of laziness, ignorance, and irresponsibility on the behalf of individual users, software developers, and network owners. It seems like we could eliminate most threats by shifting the focus away from “external” threats and back to our own behavior and business practices.

Ali-Reza Anghaie: Some years ago various groups started referring to de-perimeterisation as an inherit system design goal – that is to say that every system’s functions should act like it’s facing the “outside” world. From the outset I thought that should be the data protection goal as well – trust no one, period. Everything should have a forensic trail, least-privilege model, etc. Insiders can become your outsiders – prepare as such.

Now, that was naive of me – cost applies. So I think it comes down to appropriate risk assessments in the complete context of your business, legal, and technical resources – which is non-trivial for multinationals and small business alike.

So – the “right” answer to your question is – we still have an accountability problem period. Internally or externally the risk assessments, valuations, and models just aren’t being done appropriately on a reliable basis for most organizations. The good news is that the body of work on these topics are increasingly reliable – we can fix the overall scheme of things. Where fixing doesn’t always mean absolute security as the goal.

I’d like to thank Blogs of War for taking the time to put together this interview. It’s been great and I really enjoy your various feeds.

Scot Terban: The answer is “yes” but I would also hasten to say that it’s not just accountability but a more encompassing problem of OPSEC altogether. The point being that many people today lack understanding of the need never mind the practice of OPSEC. So we have all these private and public entities that really have no concept of the security landscape in the first place and why it is important to protect their data so how do you expect them to be aware of internal or external threats? While in the military and government space they have an idea they too suffer from lackadaisical attitudes and lack of comprehension of the technologies that they are using to manipulate, store, and use data. I tend to think of it as a human nature issue in general that we need to tackle just to bring people to the security table in the first place before we can make them aware enough to think about and secure their assets. Once people are on the same page with the technologies (not just the tech folks we all work with but the end users) then we will have a discussion over the internal versus the external threats posed.

Theodore W. Weaver: Our Unfinished Business

tww Theodore W. Weaver: Our Unfinished BusinessTheodore 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.

It might seem odd that someone who worked at the CIA would offer up an opinion piece not related to Osama Bin Laden, on this, the 2nd anniversary of his ending. I actually think that now is the perfect day to talk about more important issues. I can think of no more important issue than the repatriotisation of captive American citizens abroad. That objective is complete….Levinson isn’t.

Levinson

The receptionist had a bowl of mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups on her desk. I remember that much. The large conference room where the asset validation / recruitment pitch security reviews were held for the Iran Operations Division was located in the main Iran Operations Division (IOD) Secure Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF). It was through a short maze of cubes filled with an operational targeting group and support staff. At the top of a raised section of the SCIF were a row of offices, and a few large sections of ceiling high glass that made up one wall of the conference room. Like most of the conference rooms I had been in at the Agency (and come to think of it, the other government jobs I’ve had) this one was mostly crammed full of a much too large conference table surrounded by an unwieldy amount of swivel chairs. To make matters worse, the outer edges of the room were encased with more chairs for overflow. It gave you a good sense of what goldfish must wake up to every day. Minus the reception desk with candy, and no I didn’t eat any.

I didn’t have access to this wing yet, having just moved to IOD, even though it had been over a month. I was in a SCIF across the hall and found this all out while on my way to the late morning meeting. Moments before I had grabbed my files and notes, headed out the SCIF I was in, and across the hall to the main door.

Beep

My blue badge just coughed at me; the obvious clunking of the magnetic lock suspiciously missing from my attempt at getting into my meetings. Nothing but silence, so I tried again.

Beep

Nope, not a fluke, I couldn’t get in. Just then the door burst open and a few people walked out, most likely on the way for a mid morning Starbucks break down the hall. In I went; ‘tail gating’ my way into the SCIF.

My first stop was down a long row of cubes straight ahead of me. My first office-mate from initial training was working as a Targeter somewhere along these rows. I had been bugging her for a few weeks to meet up and talk shop about IOD. She’d been there longer than me, and I wanted info on the Division. She’s also extremely focused and not surprisingly kept putting off meeting because she’d had too much she wanted to get done. Also no surprise, her cube was empty as she was in another meeting. Oh well, off to the conference room I went.

I was the second Staff Operations Officer (SOO) presenting a case at that mornings meeting. As this was my first, I was a little nervous. I knew the case, but felt like I had a vested interest given my previous line of work. These meetings were used to present potential agents, or HUMINT sources, for further development, recruitment, some sort of operation, handling issue or termination in a peer review setting. The peers in this case were more senior officers from the given division or operation group, as well as referents from the Counter Intelligence Center, Office of Security, the appropriate Directorate of Science and Technology officer and the ever present legal representative. The meetings were a clinical affair, at least based on my experience. I had written up my briefing packet and had pretty much gotten is signed off by the relevant officers already the day before via email. I figured this would be a formality.

I started my Federal career as a Special Agent with what was the US Customs Service / Immigration and Naturalization Service Post 9/11 Bush era mash-up formerly known as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (now Homeland Security Investigations). After a half decade of working a spectrum of customs and immigration cases I decided I needed a change and went through recruitment and hiring for the National Clandestine Service at the CIA. During that time, on March 9th, 2007 retired FBI Special Agent Robert Levinson was kidnapped while working a post retirement private sector investigations job that took him to Kish Island, a resort spot and free trade zone in the Persian Gulf, in Iran.

I have never been a traditional “cop” type of investigator. Though I respect and honor the “thin blue line”, I think I’ve always done a pretty good job at maintaining my old friendships and not being “that guy” who looks like a cop and only hangs out with other cops. That said, I did and do take law enforcement very seriously and one thing that has always been a constant for me is looking out for my brothers and sisters on the job. I never knew Robert Levinson, and wasn’t a Bureau agent (worked with plenty), this event really made me take notice however. A part of me filed it away and though I probably wasn’t fully conscious of it at the time, I assumed that the Bureau would do right by their former agent and move heaven and earth to get him back.

Now over two years later, everyone is filing into the IOD conference room, and Robert Levinson is fresh on my mind. I had been working the desk of my particular IOD branch for a number of months and felt good to be finally making some headway on a developmental asset, especially when that asset was saying they had information about Robert Levinson. I’d like to think that anyone sitting on the desk at that time would have been interested like me, but most likely it was my previous Special Agent background that made me push the officer in the field on this case.

The officer in question was a bit of an oddity. Not only was he based in National Resources; he was also a Staff Operations Officer (SOO) like myself. This meant he had been a SOO for a while before heading to Ops Certification at the Farm, so he could then officially recruit his own agents. This was also one of his first developmental assets, so it was our own special “big deal”, not that any of the more seasoned officers around seemed to care.

National Resources (NR) seems to be one of those misunderstood offices within the NCS. A few previous CIA officers, Henry Crumpton and “Ishmael Jones” for example, have detailed a bit about NR in their recent books. I had exposure to NR while working for the agency formerly known as ICE (or HSI as its called now), and later worked in NR for a time once inside the CIA. I find that most people I speak with see some kind of nefarious purpose for having what are supposed to be overseas “Spies” working within the United States. For clarity sake, NR is charged with a few very important functions that make operating within the US essential and beneficial to the Agency and our nations citizens.

NR officers handle communications and debriefings with US citizens who willingly cooperate with the Agency. These would be people traveling to countries of interest, or working with specific people of interest to the Agency. There are some other mechanisms here I won’t detail, but they pertain to agreements with companies in the US for similar activities.

Officers from NR also work to spot, assess, develop and recruit foreign individuals who are traveling inside the US. These might be people who live within the US continually with some form of permanent immigration status (green card, etc) or with a visa. Their access may involve them traveling back to their country of origin and then returning to the US. At that point they’d be met and debriefed by the NR officer. The scenarios vary quite a bit, but most NR spots are quite busy, and I’ve assisted in some very interesting recruitments based on NR cases. One such recruitment was facilitated by utilizing my previous years working immigration cases as a Special Agent with ICE to dig through hundreds of files in a targeting assignment to find a good lead for an officer to approach. In the end, the officer used my targeting package to successfully recruit and run this individual. I only know all this because my supervisor in that office was nice enough to keep me updated on the cases after I moved to DS&T.

My specific case on this day centered on an individual within the Iranian security apparatus. As things panned out they claimed to have access to a wide variety of information, some of which was related to Kish Island activities as well as the kidnapping of Robert Levinson. His motivation was purely financial, and our hope was to get some kind of good validating info about his access from an upcoming meeting. I felt the review was a moot point, so when it was my turn I quickly presented the case and led with what I thought was the most crucial bit of information we wanted to know more about: Levinson.

“I don’t want to hear fucking Kish Island mentioned again!”

It was blurted out with such a bureaucratically laced snide plop that I was caught a bit off guard. Factor in that it was one of the Deputy Chiefs of Operations for IOD who threw it down at me in the middle of my brief, well, let’s just say I wasn’t used to being talked to that way. I took a quick breath, sat on the comment for a second, suppressing my initially reaction that I won’t detail here, and then continued explaining why I thought the issue was important.

He wasn’t having any of it. He said he didn’t care to hear more, and that he had been led to believe there was more to this potential asset than anything to do with Kish Island. I quickly made my case and roped in one of the referents that had given me the unofficial sign off to present the case that morning. The Deputy Chief then seemed to sputter out, as if it had been some sort of compulsory obligation, not unlike the Brooks Brothers he was sporting that day. The operation was given an initial approval, so basically the officer could meet the potential asset and potentially recruit them. It all seemed really a strange and unnecessary way of recruiting people. When I’ve worked confidential informants in the past, well, I had done it differently, but I don’t own a nice suit, so what do I know?

Now, at this point I should say that I really wish I had some miraculous breakthrough with the Levinson case. It’s obvious that I did not, and had no other real part in this. I don’t know much of what happened after I rotated out of the office for a training course. After my certification course I jumped Directorates and moved to the Directorate of Science and Technology. I didn’t get any other updates from that office. This was, and absolutely still is, common for officers moving around to different offices in their careers at the Agency. As much as Agency HRS folks like to talk about “Hall Files” (your reputation at the Agency, as whispered in the halls), I found out early that just about every officer is as good as their most current assignment or operation. You might have things keep you in the spotlight throughout your career, but as soon as your flame goes dim, the giant information pit that is the Agency swallows you up. Much like Iran swallowed up Robert Levinson.

I have spoken with a former colleague and friend of Levinson, as well as exchanged messages with members of his family. I’m no expert on the man, by any stretch, but its clear that he is highly respected by his friends and loved by his family. In January of this year the Levinson family started a White House online petition that requested the government focus their energy on finding and freeing Levinson. The shocking result was that way more people turned out in favor of the creation of a “Death Star”

I found out more recently that several offices did get spotty information about Levinson during my time at the Agency. It seems like those cases and experiences were kind of like mine. Some initial interest, then nothing. Not like an effort not to do anything about Levinson, more a general uncertainty or inaction with regards to the information that was coming in. For instance, one officer I spoke with had been asked to review a video that was believed to be of Levinson while working in another IOD office. There was no follow up that he knew of, however.

I started out writing this piece before March of 2013, hoping to have this completed in time with Robert Levinson’s 7th anniversary in captivity. That obviously did not happen. I noticed that several organizations made statements about Levinson’s plight, including various former and current FBI Special Agent Associations, to include a moment of silence marking the dubious anniversary. While the attention and respect for their own is to be respected and honored, I can’t help but wonder what exactly has changed?

Robert Levinson is not the only American in captivity, not even the only being held by Iran. How many other anniversaries have gone by without much notice? How many other junior intelligence officers have pitched access agents who are said to have knowledge of Americans being held overseas? Were those cases given more attention by management?

Now that I am out of that direct stream of knowledge, I really could not even guess. As a country we seem to have a very short memory when it comes to critical events, so I would not be surprised if the Robert Levinson’s captivity, and that of former US Marine Amir Hekmati or pastor Saeed Abedini are not garnering the kind of attention that should really be given to those of our citizens being held captive by another nation.

Popular culture has educated people with the common US Military motto of “No Man Left Behind”. Though not always a reality, the spirit of the motto is something we could all do better at.

Cia memorial wall Theodore W. Weaver: Our Unfinished BusinessThis is the point where I reach back to new officer training at the Agency and try to tie in history with the present day. As part of new officer training we all were encouraged to read “The Book of Honor” by Ted Gupp. His book details a number of the fallen Agency officers that have stars appearing on the Wall of Honor in the Original Headquarters Building (OHB) , and appear in the Book of Honor at the base of the wall. I bring this up because I think its very relevant to this discussion of our citizens in captivity around the globe.

I also bring it up because I just recently listened to the audiobook (I drive a lot for my current job and listen to quite a few audiobooks). Upon hearing these stories again, all the while thinking of Robert Levinson’s case, I see a definite pattern emerge. While the “Book of Honor” details CIA officers who perished in the line of duty, the lack of positive action, or downright inaction of our most senior officials in doing everything possible within their power to help US Citizens in harms way or captivity is shocking. If you are not familiar with these people I urge you to read or listen to Ted Gupp’s excellent book. In it you will learn about the likes of legendary Hugh Francis Redmond who spent 19 years as a captive in China, or John J. Merriman who though not a captive, was seemingly denied much needed medical aid after a plane crash in the Congo in 1964.

It seems to me as if government officials don’t care about what happens to Levinson. My feeling is that the issue is so far out of hand, that unless a direct and easy solution presents itself, the predominant risk adverse nature of our current intelligence apparatus will drag its feet until that “sure thing” comes along. This I believe needs to change. We as citizens should demand that our government takes immediate action to secure the release of our fellow citizens being held captive overseas. Its time to stand up and fight for people like Robert Levinson. We can choose to spend our precious time foaming about previously authorized interrogation programs, the stock market or movie stars, or we can take a stand for something more lasting and meaningful. People like Robert Levinson spent a career in service to our country. I don’t know his career trajectory, but it is safe to say from my first hand experience as a Special Agent, he gave more than he got to the citizens of this nation. He doesn’t deserve to sit locked up by a sworn enemy like the Iranian regime.

You might be asking yourself what you can do to help. If so, I’m glad to hear it. I’m not sure what good it actually does, but Internet access makes it very easy now to contact your representative. Why not check out http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/Twitter, retweet it. Then follow @HelpBobLevinson and show your support.

You can find that information on the Levinson family’s website as well as on the Wikipedia page devoted to him.