Putting Iran in a desperate situation without viable alternatives is likely to result in desperate responses. Two oil tankers carrying Japanese-related cargo were attacked in the Gulf of Oman last week. Shortly after the incident, Secretary of State Pompeo announced that Washington assessed Tehran was behind the attacks. Beyond the ...

BOOK REVIEW: VICTOR IN THE JUNGLE     By Alex Finley Reviewed by Bill Harlow, The Cipher Brief  Senior Book Editor Alex Finley has an eye (and an ear) for the absurd.  A talent that no doubt came in useful during the six years she spent as a reports officer in the ...

BOOK REVIEW:  The Targeter: My Life in the CIA, Hunting Terrorists and Challenging the White House By Nada Bakos  Reviewed by Jack Boger The vast majority of stories that have emerged from the war on terror star a now-familiar main character: male, macho, a military and/or intelligence officer, preferably bearded and ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Toward the end of May, John Walker Lindh was released from U.S. federal prison after serving 17 years of a sentence stemming from ten charges related to terrorism. At least 90 more terror-related offenders will be released in the United States over the next five ...

Rob Lively retired after 28 years of military service, as the Command Sergeant Major of a Special Missions Unit within The United States Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Memorial Day, by definition, is a federal holiday designated on the last Monday in May to honor those ...

John McLaughlin is a distinguished practitioner in residence at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.  He served as the Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2000-2004 and Acting Director of the CIA in 2004. On Memorial Day, I think of two groups of former colleagues who ...

Kevin Hulbert is a former senior intelligence officer in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations who retired in June 2014, having served multiple overseas tours as CIA Chief of Station and Deputy Chief of Station.  He is currently the President of XK Group.   On many days, but especially on Memorial ...

It’s been a week of escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran, beginning on Monday with reporting by The New York Times that senior U.S. leaders were reviewing plans to send as many as 120,000 U.S. troops to the region, in the event that Iran launches attacks against U.S. interests, ...

Baseball in the Polymeropoulos family is our life. We spend the majority of our year engrossed in my 17-year-old son’s fledgling career, playing across the country in travel tournaments, and helping his high school baseball team with volunteer work. The travel is relentless, and sometimes it rains. I also have ...

BOOK REVIEW: The Protected By Michael Trott Reviewed by Thomas Pecora, former CIA GS 15 Senior Security Officer Have you ever wondered what it is like to be a “bodyguard” for a high-ranking U.S. government official, the CEO of a large corporation, or the family of a billionaire?  In The Protected, ...

Cipher Brief Expert and former CIA Deputy Director David Cohen ditched the Washington law firm suit and tie last week for a robe and a bowl of soup as he made a cameo appearance on HBO’s hit show Game of Thrones. The CIA was the first to Tweet about it, ...

ISIS has claimed responsibility for a series of Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka that killed more than 300 people and injured 500 more.  A government official said an early investigation indicated the attacks could have been carried out in retaliation for a terrorist attack at two mosques last month ...

On April 16, The New York Times published an article (in which I am quoted) with the headline, "Gina Haspel Relies on Spy Skills with Trump.  He Doesn't Always Listen."  It is inappropriate to assume that Haspel relies on some combination of 007 and Austin Powers relational jiujitsu to have ...

BOOK REVIEW: To Catch A Spy: The Art of Counterintelligence By James M. Olson Reviewed by Mark Kelton, Former Deputy Director for Counterintelligence, CIA The realm of counterintelligence (CI) is the most cloistered of the intelligence world.  In his book To Catch a Spy, James Olson makes the invariably, and often ...

John Edwards spent 20 years at CIA in various operational and leadership positions.  He also spent 12 years in the private sector, working with two start-up companies before returning to CIA a little over three years ago, as the CIO.   In his first public comments since taking on his latest ...

Bill Rapp’s real story is just as interesting as the ones he makes up. The former CIA Analyst began working in West Germany back when the country was still divided after World War II.  He also worked in Turkey and the Aegean, Canada, Iraq and London. It wasn’t where he ...

OPINION -- As Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor John Bolton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Saudi crown prince and de facto ruler Mohammad bin Salman clamor for a war against Iran, they seem to have conveniently forgotten the destruction and mayhem wrought ...

BOOK REVIEW: The Killer Collective   By Barry Eisler Reviewed by Daniel Hoffman In Barry Eisler’s new novel The Killer Collective, half-Japanese and half-American assassin John Rain leads a ruthless team with military and law enforcement backgrounds to deliver their distinct brand of justice to a sinister criminal ring operating ...

As part of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Worldwide Threat Assessment this week, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that “Global jihadists in dozens of groups and countries threaten local and regional U.S. interests, despite having experienced some significant setbacks in recent years, and ...

OPINION -- On December 31, The New York Times published a piece that claimed Afghan forces “trained and equipped by CIA agents or contractors” were conducting “torture and killings with near impunity.” The piece opens with the description of one such raid where an alleged CIA-trained strike force burst into ...

Former President George H.W. Bush, who died last Friday, held among his most cherished roles in U.S. Government, the role of Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Bush served as Director for just one year, from January 1976 to January 1977.  He came into the Agency during a time of ...

  Bottom Line Up Front At some point today, the U.S. government is expected to release its assessment on the murder of U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. President Trump has already minimized the assessment, questioning ‘will anybody really know?’ when asked about the Khashoggi murder ...

President Donald Trump is expected to receive a full report on the killing of Washington Post Journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Tuesday.  The President called a leaked CIA conclusion that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the Khashoggi's killing "very premature" in comments over the weekend, though he ...

Lea Carpenter’s second novel, Red, White, Blue is a love story wrapped in a novel about what it means to be a spy.  It’s a story about a father and daughter, about a marriage, and about unraveling the real story of why spies do what they do.   They story ...

Last spring, two weeks after the Trump Administration withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) - the international arms control deal that curbed Tehran's nuclear program - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a new approach to Iran that, he vowed, included history's most ‘draconian’ sanctions. This renewed ...

As Turkish officials continue to release details that draw a gruesome picture of the apparent murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the level of information they say they have collected suggests a robust espionage capability against the Saudis in Turkey. While the rightful diplomatic question of how the United ...

Bottom Line Up Front The disappearance and likely murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul is the latest episode in an on-again, off-again struggle between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long been pushing to move his country back into position as the ...

In “Under Cover” we bring readers  reviews of current books on national security matters, news about new releases, and Q’s & A’s with authors, publishers, and agents (the literary kind.) This week, we have something special up our sleeve. John McLaughlin is one of the most admired and respected alumni ...

Not surprisingly, the man who President Trump is appointing as the next Deputy Director of the CIA managed to maintain a low public profile during his 30-year Agency career.  Some would call that perfect tradecraft, but now that Vaughn F. Bishop has been named as the next Deputy Director, people ...

For decades, former secretary of state and White House chief of staff James Baker has touted his version of a salty military catchphrase as a good-government mantra: “Prior preparation prevents poor performance.” That doesn’t necessarily apply to intelligence; even exquisite inputs from the CIA and other spy agencies cannot guarantee that ...

As details are released about the upcoming summit between the U.S. and Russia, Intelligence Officers are expected to ramp up collection efforts in order to prep the field ahead of talks. “Whenever you’ve got a summit coming up, your intelligence community, and your opponent’s kicks into high gear,” says Cipher ...

Shortly after he was sworn in as Director CIA in January of 2017, now-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made some bold moves that put renewed focus on the North Korea threat. First, he oversaw the establishment of the CIA’s Korea Mission Center, meant to better bring together the resources available ...

Russia. We hear and read about it every day in the mainstream media, but the news seems almost exclusively focused on the various investigations of Russian meddling and the politics surrounding them. Russian meddling, to be sure, merits this coverage since the cyberattacks and spread of polarizing disinformation represented a ...

Bottom Line:  The risk posed to U.S. national security by what are believed to be Russian-backed hacking groups, is similar to the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis according to Cipher Brief Experts, but different, in that the U.S. has no clear and obvious deterrent this time around. Recent Developments:  The ...

In a recent op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal, titled ‘At the CIA, Immorality Is Part of the Job’, a retired lawyer and former commissioner for Major League Baseball, Mr. Fay Vincent, opined about the CIA’s history and culture, finding it a “farce” to even talk about morality.  His ...

Gina Haspel assumes the position of D/CIA admirably prepared in all possible respects -- in general, of course, given 33 years with the agency, and specifically, having served as DD/CIA and Acting Director in the previous year.  Arguably, she is the best prepared Director in anyone’s memory.  So, she will not have ...

On Thursday, May 17, the Senate voted 54-45 to confirm Gina Haspel as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, despite concerns over her role in CIA enhanced interrogation programs and the destruction of tapes depicting the techniques. Haspel has received broad support from inside the Agency; The Cipher Brief recently ...

Observers counting potential Senate votes for the nominee to become the next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency say Gina Haspel’s prospects look pretty good.  The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is scheduled to meet on Wednesday morning, May 16, to vote on recommending her nomination to the full Senate.  ...

If you watched the questioning of the President’s nominee for Director of Central Intelligence on C-SPAN, you probably missed the significant display of U.S. Intelligence heavyweights sitting behind her in the hearing room. They included rank and file former Officers who have worked with Gina Haspel over the years, as ...

It’s finally Gina Haspel’s turn to be heard after weeks of back and forth between supporters and critics of her nomination as the next Director of Central Intelligence Agency. As she faces lawmakers and the country hears directly from her for the first time, dozens of her current and former ...

As the senate prepares for what is expected to be a close vote this week on the nomination of Gina Haspel to become the next Director of CIA, both supporters and critics are ramping up the rhetoric.  While those who would like to see Haspel confirmed are organizing a show ...

“Who is a Homo?” ponders an internal CIA document written in 1980 to help investigators identify and purge gay CIA officers. “The homosexual is a complex, intelligent, interesting, and mixed-up individual,” the document warns. “He may not consider himself queer,” and “may accept his psychological deviation from the normal.” Indeed, ...

Former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell is debuting season two of his popular podcast ‘Intelligence Matters’ in partnership with CBS News this week.  The Cipher Brief was proud to be a partner for the launch of the podcast last season and Cipher Brief CEO & Publisher Suzanne Kelly took some ...

Just weeks after the attacks of 9/11, a flatbed truck was parked unceremoniously in the tree-lined fire lane next to the CIA’s New Headquarters Building, surrounded by furious activity. The team was packing gear on shipping pallets for a mission of uncertain duration: bandages, trauma packs and children’s kites. The ...

The CIA is defending its deputy director Gina Haspel – Trump administration nominee to lead the agency – against charges that she erred when she wrote a cable to CIA employees, instructing them to destroy tapes of waterboarding and other interrogation techniques used on post-9/11 detainees. The CIA on Friday ...

Sometimes we're the threat, whether to ourselves or others, without even realizing it. Insider threats trace back to humans, thus, it's at our own peril that we ignore the lessons of psychology when building our threat mitigation program. This is especially the case in an era of mass shootings, and ...

The nomination hearing of Gina Haspel to lead the agency is shaping up to be a bruising interrogation over Haspel’s role in the destruction of evidence regarding the CIA’s now-defunct enhanced interrogation techniques program. Haspel, currently deputy director of CIA, has been widely praised by former officers, but her role ...

More than 50 former senior U.S. government officials sent a letter to the Senate intelligence committee Monday to support Trump nominee Gina Haspel to lead CIA. The Cipher Brief has obtained a copy of the letter, which was endorsed by eight former CIA directors or acting directors, three former directors ...

To the distinguished ladies and gentlemen on Capitol Hill: You are poised to make one of the most critical decisions this term by voting on the president’s nominee to become the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. At no other time in history has our nation been under assault at ...

Gina Haspel, the deputy director of the CIA, stands ready to break through one of the most stubborn glass ceilings in the U.S. government, and this moment matters. Since the announcement of the decision to nominate her as CIA director, she has been the subject of numerous articles, statements and ...