Dead Drop: April 28

STAGING A COO AT CIA: Last week we told you that CIA Executive Director Meroe Park is planning to retire.  This week we can report that her successor will be Brian Bulatao, a U.S. Military Academy classmate and former business partner of CIA Director Mike Pompeo.  The new #3 is getting a new title too.  No longer will the position be called the “EXDIR” but instead will be re-branded as “Chief Operating Officer.” Bulatao, who is currently a “senior advisor” to Pompeo, will assume his new duties on June 1. A spokesman for CIA told The Cipher Brief that the “COO will focus on the business and technology elements of CIA and will be more empowered to drive accountability and performance management in these areas.”  The Agency tells us that while in uniform, Bulatao led “several successful military operations, including in the Middle East and Panama.” In addition to his degree from USMA, he holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Some observers think it risky to have both the #1 and #3 executives at the CIA be new to the Agency.  The last time that happened was in the mid-90’s when John Deutch was DCI and he brought Nora Slatkin, a controversial Pentagon executive, with him. Deutch and Slatkin did not mesh well with the Agency culture, and their tenures lasted well short of two years.  By all accounts so far, however, Pompeo is being well-received at Langley.

CIA FUNNY PAPERS: The folks at have been playing around with the CIA Crest Database which now allows you to electronically search through declassified Agency files. Recently, Muckrock published some comic strips found in the CIA’s dusty archives.  They range from old Soviet propaganda (sent by Bill Casey to the White House), to an old Steve Canyon strip—and a 1995 Dilbert piece about cubicles for some reason.

NEW, IMPROVED ODNI WEBSITE: The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has consolidated several websites under its authority into a single site. tells us that the new combines the websites for  the National Counterterrorism Center, National Counterintelligence and Security Center, and the Intelligence Community Chief Human Capital Office’s Joint Duty Program.

THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT? Speaking of web stuff, on April 21, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency released a new app called “Tearline.”  According to “Intelligence Community News,” the app delivers “unclassified geospatial intelligence to verified government users via tablets and mobile devices.” NGA official Chris Rasmussen is quoted as saying Tearline will “deliver high-quality content around the clock to senior officials, whether drinking coffee at home in the morning, waiting at the airport, or driving around town.”    We hope these officials are “being driven” around town – as opposed to driving themselves while looking at the app.  It is dangerous enough on the streets of DC as it is.

JFK DECLASSIFIED: TRACKING OSWALD: There is a new six-part History Channel documentary with the aforementioned title.  The producers say that “more than two million declassified government files offer new evidence about Lee Harvey Oswald’s activities in the weeks, months, and years before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, with the last remaining documents scheduled for release later this year.”  The series “follows former CIA agent Bob Baer and former LAPD police lieutenant Adam Bercovici on their independent global investigation into Oswald and the murder of JFK, asking the questions: did he have accomplices, and if so, who helped him assassinate the President?”

POCKET LITTER: Bits and pieces of interesting /weird stuff we discovered:

  • Look! Up in the sky!  The Santa Monica Observer observed that on Monday, President Trump, “as he spoke to astronauts on the International Space Station,” ordered the CIA and NSA “to review and release all files concerning space aliens and Unidentified Flying Objects or UFOs.” The official White House transcript of the call shows no such order, and we were unable to find any major news organization reporting this Presidential decree – but maybe they just get their news sooner on the west coast.
  • NOC KNOCK: New York Magazine ran an interesting story last week about an unnamed guy who says he worked for the CIA – mostly under “Non-Official Cover” (a “NOC”) but later under official cover as an “intel-crat, a senior bureaucrat of intelligence.”
  • A LOANER FROM PUTIN? When you are in the grocery store checkout line this week, take a gander at the cover of the National Enquirer.  The current edition has a headline: “World War 3 Is Coming!” and a photo of a stern looking President Trump and the bow of a mighty warship.  Only problem is that the destroyer pictured is not a U.S. Navy ship, but according to Task & Purpose, “a computer enhanced rendering” of a model of a Russian Sovremennyy destroyer.

NETWORK NEWS: Not a day goes by when members of The Cipher Brief Network aren’t making news.  Here are just a few examples from this week:

  • No Nukes Is Good Nukes:  General Mike Hayden on CNN about how the U.S. is sending messages to the Chinese to prevent the North Koreans from moving ahead with their nuclear ICBM program.
  • Eyewitness to 9/11: Mary Margaret Graham, former DNI for Collection, speaking at Boston University describing her experiences as a senior CIA officer at the World Trade Center in New York on 9/11.
  • Ship ShapesAdmiral Jim Stavridis on the Hugh Hewitt radio program on Wednesday talking about the situation with North Korea – and the need for the U.S. to set a course for a 350-ship Navy with the right mix of vessels.

WHAT’S ON THEIR NIGHTSTAND? (Our contributors tell us about what they’re currently reading)

Mark Kelton, former CIA Deputy Director for Counterintelligence:

“I am now reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl, recommended to me as a great book—and it is.  it is a Holocaust survivor’s recounting of his experiences and an elucidation of his view that man can draw meaning and value from suffering even in the midst of the most trying of circumstances.”


“As tragic as a commuter train bombing or a subway bombing is, of course, we still tend to see those types of attack as strictly localized ones. If we don’t live or work in that particular city or country, it may not affect us. But because so many people now regularly travel by air, it has become among the most inviting targets to terrorists.”

-Bruce Hoffman, professor at Georgetown University and the Director of the Center for Security Studies

IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING:  Got any tips for your friendly neighborhood Dead Drop?  Shoot us a note at [email protected].