Michael Sulick, a 25-year agency veteran, was named in an announcement to the workforce by Hayden Friday. He will come out of retirement Monday, the announcement said, and after a two-week transition will take over the service from outgoing chief Jose Rodriguez when the latter leaves at the end of the month.
Hayden called Sulick “a proven leader who understands our agency,” and a “seasoned operations officer,” with “a reputation for superior tradecraft and sound judgment.”
He will inherit an organization whose authorities and prestige have been bolstered over the past two years but that still faces enormous challenges in recruiting sources with access to so-called “hard targets” like global terrorist networks and the secret nuclear programs of states such as North Korea and Iran. And that has a huge proportion of its resources tied up in Iraq.
As director of the National Clandestine Service, Sulick is in charge of setting standards and practices for the recruitment and vetting of human sources for all the U.S. intelligence agencies. And he will have a new role in the development of human source rules by domestic law enforcement agencies like the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.
Sulick was one of the senior leaders of the clandestine service -- then called the CIA Directorate of Operations -- who quit in November 2004 after an angry clash with senior aides the agency’s then-director, former Florida GOP Rep. Porter Goss, had brought with him from Capitol Hill.
The aides, a group with intelligence backgrounds but political career tracks, were derisively known as the Gosslings by many at the agency, who viewed them as arrogant and partisan.
The departures of Sulick and his boss, the head of the Directorate of Operations, Stephen Kappes, were the highest-profile sign of discontent, but former senior CIA officials told United Press International at the time that many veterans at Langley were unhappy with the Gosslings -- who claimed “hire and fire” power over senior positions in the directorate.
When Hayden took over from Goss as director in May last year, he wasted no time in bringing Kappes back as his deputy and the agency’s No. 2 -- one a series of moves insiders said were designed to shore-up morale and restore the confidence of agency professionals in CIA management.
Sulick’s return looked likely to be greeted with similar enthusiasm at Langley, according to one senior U.S. intelligence official. “Sulick should never have had to leave. It was a loss to the clandestine service and people in the agency are delighted he’s back.”
Earlier this year, Hayden gently began to exercise some of the new authorities the CIA and the clandestine service were given over human intelligence collection by other agencies in 2005, in response to the recommendations of the president’s commission on pre-war intelligence about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.
The move was intended to prevent errors like the disastrous failure the commission found to properly vet human sources in the shape of Iraqi defectors, who later turned out to have exaggerated Iraq’s weapons capabilities.
It was also designed to address concerns that military intelligence operations abroad, including the recruitment of human sources, were not being properly coordinated with CIA and diplomatic officials.
In March, Hayden quietly established a Board of Governors for human intelligence, made up of senior officials from 21 U.S. agencies and departments, including those that “use clandestine methods or tradecraft to pursue law enforcement … missions.”
The board, according to a note Hayden wrote to the CIA workforce, will oversee “collaborative efforts to de-conflict and coordinate operations, synchronize capabilities and standardize tradecraft and training.”
This will give the board and Sulick -- who will exercise Hayden’s human intelligence authorities on a day-to-day basis -- an input into changes in the way that domestic law enforcement agencies use human sources like confidential informants and co-operating witnesses.
A recent FBI budget request first reported by ABC News outlined the bureau’s new plans for human source validation -- using training designed in collaboration with the CIA.
Among the de-confliction efforts the board will oversee is a new multiagency center established by the clandestine service’s deputy director for cross-agency human intelligence, Maj. Gen. Michael Ennis.
The recruitment of Ennis, a lifelong Marine, who had previously headed the CIA biggest rivals in the U.S. spy-recruitment business, the human intelligence service of the Defense Intelligence Agency, is seen by some as evidence of Hayden’s mature determination to make his new authorities work collaboratively, rather than sparking turf conflicts by throwing his weight around.
“Hayden is very much a grown-up about this,” said former senior DIA official retired Col. Pat Lang, who has been critical of the agency in the past.
He said the establishment of the board of governors was “an excellent idea. You have to have an interagency committee to referee these issues.”
Hayden told employees he had “stressed to the board members that CIA’s role … is one of partnership, not dictatorship.”
By July, at the board’s second meeting, Hayden reported, membership had grown to 31, including the departments of Justice, State, Commerce, Homeland Security, Energy and Defense, and the FBI.
He said he had drawn up a policy document, a new Intelligence Community Directive, which “provides a framework for coordination and integration of the (human intelligence) enterprise, which includes organizations both inside and outside the intelligence community” -- the term of art for the 16 spy agencies managed by U.S. Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell.
He said that he “recently submitted a draft” to McConnell, “and discussions on next steps are ongoing.”