The Central Intelligence Agency has picked a new top spy, tapping an undercover veteran who played a central role in developing personal relationships with Afghan leaders after the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.
He remains undercover and is known within the agency as "Spider," a U.S. official said. His new role will be director of the National Clandestine Service, a position that effectively makes him responsible for all of the agency's spying activities.
Spider's reputation within the agency is something of legend. He survived an 2001 accidental U.S. bombing attack while meeting with Hamid Karzai, helped launch attacks against al Qaeda and the Taliban in 2002, and accompanied Mr. Karzai, who by then had become Afghanistan's president, to a White House meeting in 2010.
The CIA wouldn't reveal any information about the new NCS chief, with a spokesman saying instead that it had elevated "one of the CIA's most gifted and versatile leaders" who has "a remarkable range of expertise."
Spider, a former Marine, was the subject of a lengthy 2010 profile in the Wall Street Journal, as he had become a behind-the-scenes power broker in Kabul during his time as station chief there. At the time of the profile, he was in his 50s, though his exact age couldn't be learned.
Afghanistan has proven a constant challenge for the U.S. government, and the CIA's work there has been marked by tragedy at times. In December 2009, a double-agent informant blew himself up at a remote CIA base in Afghanistan, killing seven CIA officers and contractors. The U.S. has withdrawn most troops from Afghanistan from the height of the war last decade, but fighting continues between Afghan security forces and the Taliban.
Though Spider forged ties with Mr. Karzai over the course of several years, the Afghan president's relationships with U.S. leaders would later fray over U.S. policy.
Spider's pedigree could fit well with the CIA's current focus. He has been at the center of both political and counterterrorism battles, working closely with leaders and top Pentagon brass. The CIA continues to play a prominent role in Afghanistan and the Middle East, but political instability in several countries is threatening many of the U.S. government's counterterrorism efforts.
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Frank Alo LoBiondo, born May 12, 1946, is the U.S. Representative for New Jersey's 2nd congressional district, serving since 1995. He is a member of the Republican Party. | Photo: Archives |
U.S. Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo, representing New Jersey's 2nd District, was named chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Central Intelligence Agency Wednesday.
The appointment was made by U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, of California's 22nd District, who serves as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
"Given the critical role the CIA and its officers play in acquiring and deciphering intelligence in their unwavering efforts to protect our country, I'm honored to lead the subcommittee charged with oversight of the agency and its mission,' said LoBiondo, who has been a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence since 2011. 'After nearly a dozen Intelligence Committee trips to Africa and the Middle East, I've seen firsthand the vital duties our men and women of the CIA fulfill while risking their lives to defend our nation and its interests abroad. I appreciate Chairman Nunes' trust in tasking me with this new responsibility."
The newly-created, 10-person subcommittee will have jurisdictional oversight over the CIA programs and Central Intelligence Agency Retirement Fund.
"Congressman LoBiondo has made outstanding contributions to the Intelligence Committee. With his intimate knowledge of the operations of the Intelligence Community, I expect he will be an exceptional chairman of the CIA Subcommittee," Nunes said. "Additionally, he is one of the committee's leading experts on the spread of radical Islam in Africa, and has served as the committee's point-man for Africa for four years. I look forward to continuing our productive cooperation in the new Congress."
Earlier in the week, LoBiondo was again named chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee for the 114th Congress. This chairmanship is of particular importance to the congressman due to the aviation facilities that are located in the 2nd District including the FAA Tech Center, the TSA Security Lab, the Federal Air Marshal training facility, and the Atlantic City International Airport.
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