There is some interesting information coming out of the attack on the CIA drone intelligence base in Afghanistan at the end of last year. The most important figure there seems to have been the base chief.
The Times has this to say about her:
The head of this intelligence-gathering operation was a mother of three. Although the Chapman base chief has not been named, she was described as a loving mother and an inspiration by a fellow CIA mum.
“She was a dear friend and a touchstone to all of the mums in CTC [counter-terrorism],” she said.
Another CIA official said the base chief had worked on Afghanistan and counter-terrorism for years, dating back to the agency’s so-called Alec Station. That unit was created to monitor Osama Bin Laden five years before the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Wednesday’s bomb wiped away decades of experience. Eight years into the war, the agency is still desperately short of personnel who speak the language or are knowledgeable about the region.
“It’s a devastating blow,” said Michael Scheuer, a former agent and head of Alec Station. “We lost an agent with 14 years’ experience in Afghanistan.”
The New York Times adds:
The other woman killed, the chief of the Khost base, was, before the Sept. 11 attacks, part of a small cadre of counterterrorism officers focused on the growth of Al Qaeda and charged with finding Osama bin Laden.
Working from a small office near C.I.A. headquarters, the group, known inside the agency as Alec Station, became increasingly alarmed in the summer of 2001 that a major strike was coming. One former officer recalls that the woman had a seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of Al Qaeda’s top leadership and was so familiar with the different permutations of the leaders’ names that she could take fragments of intelligence and build them into a mosaic of Al Qaeda’s operations.
“She was one of the first people in the agency to tackle Al Qaeda in a serious way,” said the former officer, who, like some others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the victims’ identities remain classified.
And this from Scheuer on CNN:
Well, I think it hurts morale to a certain extent, naturally, because of the deaths, but it hurts morale even more because one of the officers who got killed had arranged an operation in 1998 that would have killed or captured Osama bin Laden. And Mr. Brennan was instrumental in preventing that operation from occurring. Instead he said the Americans should trust the Saudis to take care of bin Laden.
So it’s a painful– it’s a painful death, but more importantly it’s a death that didn’t need to occur had Mr. Clinton — Mr. Brennan, George Tenet, and Mr. Berger had the courage to try to defend Americans.
Presumably the operation Scheuer is referring to is the proposed raid on Tarnak farms, which was reportedly cancelled in favour of a Saudi attempt to get the Taliban to deal with bin Laden by bribing them. Brennan’s career is a little murky, but it seems he was station chief in Riyadh for part of the late 1990s, so him supporting a policy of working through the Saudis would make sense.
I think (but am not sure) that the redhead was Deputy Director for Operations at Alec Station before 9/11, so her arranging the Tarnak Farms operation would make sense.