Retired CIA veteran will return to head clandestine service

By Peter Finn
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 22, 2010

John D. Bennett, a CIA veteran who served as station chief in Pakistan until last year and who has had numerous other overseas postings, has been appointed head of the agency's National Clandestine Service, Director Leon E. Panetta announced Wednesday.

Bennett, a former Marine and a Harvard graduate, had retired in May after a nearly 30-year career at the CIA, but was coaxed back to take charge of the service, which runs human intelligence and covert operations. Among other posts, Bennett previously served as chief of the Special Activities Division, the agency's covert paramilitary unit.

As head of the clandestine service, he will succeed Michael J. Sulick, who is retiring.

As station chief in Pakistan, one of the agency's most sensitive positions, Bennett was deeply involved in the drone campaign that has killed hundreds of al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives, including at least 20 senior figures.

"John has impeccable credentials at the very core of intelligence operations -- espionage, covert action, and liaison," Panetta said. "He has been at the forefront of the fight against al-Qaeda and its violent allies. . . . He knows the topics and regions that are likely to shape our security agenda in the years ahead. But there is much more to it than that. He also understands the hardships and benefits of tough jobs, and he knows -- in any environment -- the mix of skills, capabilities, and partners that successful operations demand."

Panetta also noted in a statement that Sulick, during his three years at the clandestine service, "guided complex operations under some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable."

"Our officers have had tremendous success against the full range of national security challenges, including terrorists, weapons proliferators, drug traffickers, rogue states and hostile intelligence services," Panetta said.

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