History Commons Groups

January 23, 2010

Additional Information and Possible Correction about Richard Blee

One thing that has been puzzling me for some time is the reorganisation that took place at the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center in the first part of 2000. We know that at some time between January and July 2000 Alec Station was merged into a larger group that was formed at this time. We know this because it says so in the DoJ IG report, on page 231-232. We can now figure out the name of this group.

First, from the DoJ IG report we know that Charles Frahm, an FBI manager detailed to the agency, was the deputy chief of this larger group. This CIA log entry from the day of the attacks gives Frahm’s position as “DC/SEG/Law Enforcement.” “DC” means Deputy Chief, the “G” in SEG means “group” and law enforcement is what he is deputy chief for.

So what does SEG mean? From George Tenet’s 2007 book (about the capture of KSM, emphasis added):

I vividly remember Marty M., the then chief of the Sunni Extremist Group of CTC, asking me at the end of one of our Friday five o’clock meetings, “Boss, where are you going to be this weekend? Stay in touch. I just might have some good news.

Elsewhere in the book Marty M. is described as the “chief of Alec Station’s Bin Laden Unit,” just one of the many occasions when the two positions have been confused.

From the redacted executive summary of the re-written CIA IG report about its 9/11 failings (emphasis added):

The Team, like the Joint Inquiry, found that CTC’s assigning principal responsibility for KSM to the Renditions Branch had the consequence that the resources of the Sunni Extremist Group, UBL Station, and CTC analysts were not effectively brought to bear on the problem.

So SEG is Sunni Extremist Group. It appears that Richard Blee, who was appointed chief of Alec Station around June 1999, was named head of this group–the 9/11 Commission refers to him as the “head of the section that included the bin Laden unit” and “a group chief with authority over the bin Laden unit.”

In a previous post, I deduced that Blee was the officer who proposed the CIA’s assassination programme that never got off the ground. This was based on a Dana Priest article that identified the officer who proposed the programme as the CTC’s “chief of operations” and a Ken Silverstein article that described Blee as “chief of operations” at the CTC.

I have recently been looking at the structure of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center. As far as I can tell, there is no position that is formally called “chief of operations,” although that designation is sometimes used in the media. The closest formal position I can find is “Deputy Chief for Operations,” or alternately “Deputy Chief (Operations),” for which the abbreviation would be something like “DC/CTC/O.”

It is known that Henry Crumpton held the position of deputy chief for operations from 1999 until 2001. He was still in the position in February 2001, when he met with Gary Berntsen, an incident described in chapter 3 of Berntsen’s book. Crumpton later went onto to lead the CIA’s Afghan campaign and Berntsen’s book has him meeting with Berntsen in that capacity on 30 September 2001. Crumpton tells Berntsen, who has just returned from Latin America, “I, too, came back from overseas. I just pulled my sons out of school for the year. Our focus has just got to be on the work right now.” I take this to mean that at some point in the summer Crumpton left his position as Deputy Chief for Operations to take a foreign posting, but then came back to the CTC as a deputy director for something else (Afghanistan) in response to the 9/11 attacks.

Enrique Prado, subsequently of the-company-formerly-known-as-Blackwater, is known to have served in the CTC around this time. This article identifies him as “chief of operations” at the CTC, a position he appears to have left not that long before the end of 2004. Prado is also heavily linked to the assassination programme.

It is possible that Blee filled the position of Deputy Director for Operations between Crumpton leaving around the summer of 2001 and Blee being appointed station chief in Kabul in December. Therefore, it may have been Blee who proposed the programme. However, given Prado’s closeness to it, he has to be the likelier candidate.

1 Comment »

  1. In his forthcoming memoir, Henry Crumpton arrives at the CTC in the summer of 1999 as one of Cofer Black’s three deputies, “responsible for all the CIA’s global counterterrorism operations.” He took his “last trip to Afghanistan” in Jan. 2002. In June 2002 he left CTC for a year in graduate studies at SAIS/Johns Hopkins.

    Comment by ledewriter — April 4, 2012 @ 6:24 pm | Reply

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