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Jun 26, 2018 Daniel Craig Visits the Agency to Discuss the Reel vs Real of Espionage

Building on the Reel vs. Real theme we introduced last month, CIA’s Office of Public Affairs hosted Daniel Craig, famously known for his portrayal as James Bond, at CIA Headquarters yesterday to discuss what it’s really like to be an Intelligence Officer. 

Why have an international movie star and filmmaker visit the CIA? Because the CIA does not exist in a vacuum. The Agency is held accountable by Congress and scrutinized by the American people. While secrets must be kept and the clandestine nature of the CIA's work held sacred, the CIA works, where appropriate, with the film industry to combat misrepresentations and assist in balanced and accurate portrayals. Visits such as this and the recent Reel vs. Real event at UCLA open the door to engaging with the public to humanize the workforce and demonstrate the many ways CIA's work enhances national security.

Mr. Craig met with our leadership and workforce,who explained that real life espionage is a lot more “cloak” and a lot less “dagger” than presented in the entertainment world of spy vs. spy.  During conversations with CIA subject matter experts, Mr. Craig learned about the many facets of intelligence collection and how our five directorates work together to advance CIA’s mission. Later, during an engagement with the Agency workforce, Mr. Craig remarked about the teamwork that goes into the intelligence cycle and how impressed he was with the commitment and dedication of CIA officers.

For other "Reel vs. Real" stories, visit CIA's Reel vs. Real page.

Jun 11, 2018 Happy Birthday, President Bush!

In honor of President George H. W. Bush’s 94th birthday, we’re releasing two never-before-seen videos highlighting his tenure as Director of Central Intelligence.

Bush’s tenure as DCI marked a turning point for the Agency as he is credited with restoring focus and boosting morale in the institution. He remains one of the most beloved Directors in the Agency’s history.

President George H. W. Bush’s Farewell Visit to CIA

This video and related documents are from President Bush’s last visit to CIA as president. On January 8, 1993, in the final month of his presidency, President Bush paid a farewell visit to CIA Headquarters. After a luncheon in the Executive Dining Room, during which he received briefings on issues, the President made remarks in the main cafeteria to a large group of the Agency workforce.

I Want This Job: George H. W. Bush and the CIA

This video, produced by CIA's Center for the Study of Intelligence, is a retrospective on Bush's tenure as DCI. It was shown during a January 29, 2016, visit by President and Mrs. Bush to CIA Headquarters in honor of the 40th anniversary of Bush's swearing in as Director.

To view the documents related to President Bush’s farewell visit to CIA in 1993, visit CIA’s FOIA Electronic Reading Room. The press release on the video and document release can be viewed here.

To learn more about President Bush’s tenure as DCI, see “Bush as Director of Central Intelligence.” You can also read about his 40th anniversary visit to CIA Headquarters here.

Jun 01, 2018 Former CIA Officers Discuss the Reel vs. Real of Espionage with Cast, Creator of The Americans

From tradecraft secrets to wig changes, the Reel vs. Real event at UCLA’s Burkle Center on Wednesday cracked open the CIA vault of personal stories with the help of two former legendary CIA officers and the cast and creator of the award winning FX television series, The Americans.

Former CIA officer and creator of The Americans, Joe Weisberg, moderated a lively, humorous, and sometimes deeply emotional panel discussion between two retired Agency officers – former operations officer Marti Peterson and former chief of CIA’s Counterintelligence Center Mark Kelton – and three of the stars of The Americans: Keri Russell (who plays Elizabeth Jennings), Matthew Rhys (Philip Jennings), and Costa Ronin (Oleg Burov).

Marti and Mark, who both spent a significant portion of their careers overseas, spoke of the importance of tradecraft when conducting operations and the ways the show gets it right and wrong. They also explored the emotional toll the job can take on an officer and his or her family, which is at the heart of The Americans.

One of the key plot lines of the show in the first few seasons was how the Jennings had to keep their own children in the dark about their real professions as spies, and the fallout when their oldest daughter became suspicious and finally confronted her parents.

Marti recounted the time she first told her two teenage children where she worked. They had no idea growing up that Marti was actually an operations officer with CIA. She asked her kids to meet her at a fast food restaurant near CIA Headquarters in McLean, Virginia, and then brought them onto the CIA Headquarters compound. Her kids were stunned. She brought them to the CIA Memorial wall, where her first husband has a star. “We held hands, and cried, but then we had lunch and I bought them both a t-shirt,” Marti recalled.

Mark said his children found out what he did while they were all living overseas. A few minutes after telling them, his youngest son forgot the three-letter acronym of the Agency his father worked: Mark and his wife decided not to remind him.

Asked how they prepared for their roles as spies on the show, the actors discussed the role of disguises. Keri said she didn’t mind all the wigs and that each one brought out a different aspect of her personality, but Matthew said he hated the wigs and how itchy they were, and his description of the difficulty of filming the counter surveillance and dead drop scenes brought laughter from the panel and audience.

The panel laughs with the audience over how much Matthew hated the wigs on The Americans

Costa, who grew up in Russia, said he still had vivid memories of what it was like to live behind the Iron Curtain in the 1980s, which has helped him hone his role in The Americans. “No one can play a Russian, like a Russian,” he said. “It’s in your DNA.” He also shared what it was like to return and film in Moscow, by the Kremlin. “Breathing the air,” he said, “made it all the more real.

For both former Agency officers, the most unrealistic aspect of the show was the violence depicted. The reality of espionage is much different. Marti noted the only time she had a violent encounter was when she was arrested by the KGB in Russia. She fought off the men arresting her, putting one in the hospital. Mark commented that throughout his entire career, he never fired a weapon in the field; although he was shot at while in a war zone.

Joe, who was in a unique position as the only one who has worked both in the world of intelligence and in Hollywood, bridged the gap between reality and film throughout the event, moderating the discussion and asking thought-provoking questions. As the panel wrapped up, Joe avoided giving away any spoilers as he gave a heart-felt thank you to everyone involved. A few hours later, the show he created would air its series finale: The American’s final episode.

To learn more about the event, read participant bios, and to read other "Reel vs. Real" stories, visit CIA's Reel vs. Real page.

* The event was presented by the Central Intelligence Agency, in partnership with the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations.

May 25, 2018 Gina Haspel Sworn in as First Female CIA Director

CIA Director Gina Haspel at swearing in ceremony
CIA Director Gina Haspel at Swearing In Ceremony
On Monday, May 21, Gina Haspel was sworn in as the first woman to serve as CIA Director in our Agency’s 70-year history. President Trump, Vice President Pence, Secretary of State and former D/CIA Mike Pompeo, Chief Operating Officer Brian Bulatao, and hundreds of Agency officers attended the ceremony at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

“I am truly honored to have this opportunity to lead the best workforce in government,” Director Haspel said. “It has been nearly 50 years since an operations officer rose up through the ranks to become the Director, and after the experience of the past two months, I think I know why that is,” she joked.

Vice President Pence administered the oath of office. Director Haspel addressed the workforce, emphasizing our global mission, and noting the importance of increasing CIA’s foreign language proficiency, strengthening our partnerships, and deploying more officers to the foreign field. “For me, being Director is about doing right by all of you so that you have the tools and support needed to carry out our sacred mission,” she said.

She also addressed the historic significance of the moment, especially for the women of CIA, past and present. “I would be remiss if I did not also note the tremendous pride I take in being the first woman to serve as Director. I would not be standing before you today if not for the remarkable courage and dedication displayed by generations of OSS and Agency women. In roles both large and small, they challenged stereotypes, broke down barriers, and opened doors for the rest of us. I am deeply indebted to them, and I am extremely proud to follow in their footsteps and to carry on their extraordinary legacy.”

Director Haspel’s complete remarks can be viewed here or by clicking the video below.

Mar 28, 2018 Congressional Gold Medal Awarded to CIA’s Predecessor, OSS

On March 21, 2018, the US Congress bestowed its highest civilian honor upon the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). The men and women who comprised America’s first spy agency were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, collectively, in recognition of their superior service and major contributions during World War II. These women and men - who performed some of the bravest acts of the war – had never before been collectively recognized for their heroic and pioneering service.

Being Carried -front.jpg
Betty McIntosh and fellow OSS officers
At its peak in late 1944, OSS employed almost 13,000 individuals, a third of who were women. Today fewer than 100 members of this great organization are still alive. Twenty of them were able to attend the formal presentation ceremony at the US Capitol’s Emancipation Hall.

"The men and women who served our country in the OSS are among the most deserving of the Congressional Gold Medal,” remarked House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Ranking Member Adam Schiff when the bill was passed by the House of Representatives in November 2016. “The OSS, members of our ‘Greatest Generation,’ helped vanquish some of the most malevolent enemies that our country, and indeed the world, has ever faced. We owe them a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid”

The OSS Congressional Gold Medal Act states that the OSS was America’s first effort to implement a system of strategic intelligence during World War II and provided the basis for the modern-day American intelligence and special operations communities. Its founder, General William “Wild Bill” Donovan is the only person in American history to receive our Nation’s four highest decorations, including the Medal of Honor.

OSS Jedburghs
The OSS organized, trained, supplied, and fought with resistance organizations throughout Europe and Asia that played an important role in America’s victory during World War II. The OSS invented and employed new technology through its Research and Development Branch, inventing new weapons and revolutionary communications equipment. Its X–2 branch pioneered counterintelligence with the British and established the modern counterintelligence community. The network of contacts built by the OSS with foreign intelligence services led to enduring Cold War alliances. OSS ‘‘Mercy Missions’’ at the end of World War II saved the lives of thousands of Allied prisoners of war.

Medal presented to OSS
Speaking at the presentation ceremony, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell commented in his remarks that the OSS “grew quite the family tree.” Indeed it did. The present day Special Operations Forces trace their lineage to the OSS. Its Maritime Unit was a precursor to the US Navy SEALs. The OSS Operational Groups and Jedburghs were forerunners to US Army Special Forces. The 801st/492nd Bombardment Group were progenitors to the Air Force Special Operations Command. The Marines who served in the OSS were predecessors to the Marine Special Operations Command. US Coast Guard personnel were recruited for the Maritime Unit and its Operational Simmer Group. Ultimately, the OSS spawned the Central Intelligence Agency.

Speaking to those gathered for the presentation, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi remarked that “a few determined men and women can change the course of history and they did just that.”

The gold medal will be displayed at the Smithsonian Institution.

Interested in learning more?

Mar 14, 2018 Happy Pi Day!

CIA’s Birthday (September 18, 1947) appears in Pi.

The sequence, 09181947, starts at the 67,585,570th digit and only appears once in the first 200 million digits of Pi.

Mar 09, 2018 CIA Chief Operating Officer Speaks to Annuitants at CIRA Event

“It gets into your blood, working here at CIA; it’s unlike any other place.”
~ CIA Chief Operating Officer (COO), Brian Bulatao

COO Brian Bulatao
On Wednesday, March 7, CIA Chief Operating Officer (COO) Brian Bulatao addressed a very special audience of former CIA officers. The Central Intelligence Retiree Association (CIRA) hosted its quarterly luncheon, attended by more than 150 Agency retirees who were eager to meet Bulatao, the man who came to CIA with both a military and business background, and a lifelong friendship with CIA Director Mike Pompeo that began at West Point. Mr. Bulatao shared with the group how the two met on their first day on campus and became fast friends, parting ways after graduation only to reconnect at Harvard where Brian was studying to get an MBA and Director Pompeo was in Law School.

Bulatao’s talk focused on his new role at the Agency and the positive changes that have taken place across CIA over the last year. One such change Bulatao discussed was the Director’s focus on pushing decision making down to the lowest level.

“If there is a group of highly skilled officers in a room, does it make sense to have the DCIA or the COO make the final decision?” Bulatao asked the retirees. “No, let the experts working the issue decide.” When a former officer asked about the risks that accompany that type of thinking, Bulatao replied that if the work is great, if the preparation is exquisite, you have to accept some failure if you take more risks.

Bulatao also discussed his top priorities, better known as his “High Five,” which include streamlining the hiring process; taking a systematic look at the alignment of strategy, staffing, funding, and other resources; making CIA’s contracting process more effective and efficient; ensuring that the Agency as a whole is positioned to invest in and lead in cutting-edge technologies; and finding innovative ways to protect CIA officers’ identities and operations in the digital age.

The CIA retirees had some direct questions for Bulatao about the impact of budget cuts at other agencies on CIA’s mission and current efforts to recruit the best and the brightest. Bulatao explained that CIA has very low attrition once people get in the door at CIA, but emphasized the need to focus on getting the right people with the right skills in the right jobs. He said that it’s important for the public to understand that CIA needs people who are top notch in professions that you might not think of or see in the movies: finance experts, engineers, and lawyers, to name a few. What unites CIA’s diverse workforce, he said, is its relentless work toward one great mission: keeping America safe.

Before Bulatao took the stage to speak to the retirees, his son told him that there would be really smart people in the room, so he should keep his talk to five minutes. He didn’t, of course, but he made sure the last words spoken were of appreciation for their support and commitment to CIA.

Feb 13, 2018 Pompeo Testifies on Top Global Threats Facing US

Today, CIA Director Mike Pompeo testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding the US Intelligence Community’s Annual Worldwide Threat Assessment. Director Pompeo, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, and other intelligence leaders outlined the community’s assessment of the threats facing our nation.

Pompeo fielded questions about cyber capabilities, the government’s role in combating the opioid crisis, and wide-ranging threats from adversaries like Russia, China, and North Korea.

When asked about North Korea’s delegation at the Olympics, Pompeo stated, “We should all remember that Kim Yo Jong [Kim Jong Un’s sister] is the head of the propaganda and agitation department. There is no indication that there is any strategic change in the outlook of Kim Jong Un and his desire to retain his nuclear capacity to threaten the United States of America…Our analysts remain concerned that Kim Jong Un is not hearing the full story; that those around him are not providing nuance, are not suggesting to him the tenuous nature of his position both internationally and domestically.”

Watch the full testimony here:

Read DNI Coat’s prepared remarks here:  

Dec 21, 2017 Director Pompeo Presents Toys for Tots to Marines

The 2017 Operation Santa Claus campaign was a great success. The Agency collected 27 boxes of toys that will be gifted to children in need. This year, CIA continued a long tradition of being one of the largest donors to the Toys for Tots Foundation in the Washington area.

On December 7th, Director Pompeo presented the toys to Colonel Francis Piccoli and the Marine Corps Reserve in support of the Marines’ Toys for Tots campaign. Colonel Piccoli then presented the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Commander’s Award to Director Pompeo, who accepted the recognition on behalf of the Agency.

CIA began Operation Santa Claus in 1968 and has formally collaborated with the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation since 2000.

* * * * *

Col. Piccoli presents Director Pompeo with the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Commander’s Award.
Nov 09, 2017 November 10, 1997: Killer of CIA Officers at HQs Convicted

On November 10, 1997, a jury in Fairfax County, Virginia, found Pakistani national Aimal Kasi guilty on one count of capital murder, one count of first degree murder, and three counts of malicious wounding—charges that stemmed from his shooting rampage at the entrance to CIA Headquarters in 1993. For many CIA officers, however, a more satisfying moment had come several months earlier when DCI George Tenet informed them that Kasi had been apprehended after a four-and-a-half-year manhunt and returned to Virginia to face justice for murdering and maiming their colleagues.

The saga occurred on January 25, 1993 when the gunman opened fire on employees who were waiting to drive onto the Agency’s Langley compound. Two Agency officers died: Lansing Bennett, a medical doctor in the Directorate of Administration (now Directorate of Support), and Frank Darling, a communications engineer, and three were wounded. In the ensuing chaos, the gunman fled the scene, leaving stunned witnesses and conflicting accounts of his appearance. By the time the FBI and Fairfax County Police had identified him, Kasi had flown back to Pakistan and blended into the lawless border area near Afghanistan.

CIA embarked on a dogged, often frustrating, effort to apprehend the man who had killed two of its own. Within hours of the shootings, the Agency established a task force comprising a broad array of specialties and began working with the FBI and the Department of State to track down the gunman. As CIA officers grew more confident about Kasi’s whereabouts, they came up with a variety of plans to lure him out of hiding and explored means and authorities for getting him back to the United States to stand trial. Despite frequent dead ends, the hunt for Kasi was, says one of the leading participants, a relentless effort that took priority over everything else and would never suffer from lack of funding.

The pursuers’ dedication paid off. Kasi was located in Pakistan and arrested by the FBI on June 17, 1997. Two days later, a US military aircraft with Kasi aboard departed Islamabad for Dulles Airport in Virginia, where a delegation of senior CIA officials, including DCI Tenet, was waiting. Kasi was then tried in Fairfax County, Virginia, the scene of his crime. On January 24, 1998, shortly after the jury reached its verdict, he was sentenced to death. On November 14, 2002, he was executed by lethal injection.

On May 24, 2002, Agency officers dedicated the Route 123 Memorial to two fallen colleagues. The Memorial is located on the west side of the Virginia Route 123 entrance (alongside the outbound right lane). It includes a walkway leading to a 9-foot by 3 foot granite wall. Benches dedicated to Lansing Bennett and Frank Darling, who were shot to death on Jan. 25, 1993, on Route 123, face each other in front of the granite wall.