Times of India | 21 July 2010
Retired US spy hired to run CIA covert service
John D Bennett witnessed the emergence of al-Qaida in Africa in the 1990s and was on the front lines of former President George W Bush’s war on terror as the station chief in Pakistan. From his seat in Islamabad, he oversaw the unmanned Predator drone program, which has become the agency’s most lethal weapon against suspected terrorists.
“John has impeccable credentials at the very core of intelligence operations – espionage, covert action, and liaison,” CIA Director Leon Panetta said. “He has been at the forefront of the fight against al-Qaida and its violent allies.”
Until his retirement in May, Bennett was the agency’s most senior station chief, having served four tours in that position, including in Pretoria, South Africa. In taking the new post, he leapfrogged several other senior CIA officials who had been angling for the coveted job.
A former US Marine, Bennett joined the agency in 1991 and become known as one of its premier Africa experts. In the 1990s, al-Qaida began gravitating toward African nations. The terror organization launched some of its most high-profile attacks there, including the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Because of his experience, the agency called Bennett back to headquarters after the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. He later ran the agency’s Special Activities Division, an outfit responsible for paramilitary operations.
In Pakistan, the CIA scored a number of successes on Bennett’s watch. The agency’s drones killed high-level targets, including Baitullah Mehsud, a longtime leader of the Pakistani Taliban. Also, the CIA, working with the FBI, uncovered a plot in August 2009 to bomb the New York subway system.
- CNN | CIA names new spy chief | 21 July 2010
- Washington Post | CIA names new head of clandestine service | 21 July 2010
- AP | Retired spy hired to run CIA clandestine service | 21 July 2010
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