Top Counterterrorism Officer Removed Amid Turmoil at CIA
Tuesday, February 7, 2006
The CIA's top counterterrorism officer was relieved of his position yesterday after months of turmoil atop the agency's clandestine service, according to three knowledgeable officials.
Robert Grenier, who spent most of his career undercover overseas, took charge of the Counterterrorism Center about a year ago after a series of senior jobs at the center of the Bush administration's national security agenda.
When al Qaeda struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, Grenier was station chief in Islamabad, Pakistan. Among the agency's most experienced officers in southwest Asia, Grenier helped plan the covert campaign that preceded the U.S. military ouster of al Qaeda and its Taliban allies from Afghanistan.
By the summer of 2002, with President Bush heading toward war in Iraq, then-Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet recalled Grenier to headquarters and promoted him to chief of a newly created Iraq Issues Group. His staff ballooned as the administration planned and launched the invasion in March 2003.
Grenier's predecessor at the Counterterrorism Center, who remains undercover, moved on to become chief of the National Clandestine Service, the successor to the CIA's directorate of operations. Sources said the two men differ sharply in style.
Grenier, 51, is said by associates to be a polished and smooth-talking man with museum-quality mementos of his service overseas. His boss at the clandestine service, the nation's senior human intelligence officer, was said to regard him as insufficiently forceful in the battle with al Qaeda.
"The word on Bob was that he was a good officer, but not the one for the job and not quite as aggressive as he might have been," one official said.
Colleagues in the clandestine service, sources said, had been aware of the poor working relationship between the two men for some time and said Grenier's predecessor had been trying to force him out for months. Grenier's resignation was first reported on the Los Angeles Times Web site, which said he had sent an e-mail to colleagues acknowledging he had been asked to leave.
"The director of NCS," one official said, "decided there was somebody better, perhaps to better match his management vision, so [Grenier] is moving on."
The official said there was no specific operational problem. Another official said the failed attempt last month on the life of Ayman Zawahiri, al Qaeda's number two leader, had not played a role in pushing Grenier out.
Reached at home late last night, Grenier declined to comment.
The CIA's Counterterrorism Center, like the agency itself, has been shoved from its preeminent position in a turbulent reorganization of the intelligence community.