The director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, a dark-suited, anonymous figure known as “Roger,” is leaving the post he has held since 2006.
The analyst, who comes from a family of CIA operatives, has been compared to Captain Ahab, who relentlessly pursued the white whale in Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick.” In a 2012 profile, the Washington Post described him as “the driving force of the Obama administration’s embrace of targeted killing as a centerpiece of its counterterrorism efforts.”
He led the agency’s signature program, a relentless series of drone strikes against al-Qaida whose occasional imprecision and lack of legal transparency angered many civilians in the Muslim world. But Roger himself is, by all accounts, a practicing convert to Islam, a religion he embraced upon marrying his Muslim wife.
Among his key accomplishments was the hunt for Osama bin Laden, which culminated in the al-Qaida leader’s 2011 death. He reportedly stayed at the CIA headquarters during the raid and did little to celebrate.
He also spent an unprecedented amount of time in the position, outlasting numerous agency directors. He reportedly dedicated himself wholly to his work: cultivating a withdrawn and isolated reputation, obsessively tracking intelligence on al-Qaida operatives, and telling one reporter that his goal was “killing these sons of bitches faster than they can grow them.”
Roger’s reassignment (what some are calling a demotion) comes amid a round of restructuring moves by CIA director John Brennan, intended to modernize the agency’s capabilities and “integrate” the skills of its analysts with those of spies.
Having overseen U.S. covert anti-terrorism policy in an era marked by the ebb and flow of al-Qaida, Roger leaves the post as the CIA faces a new and uncertain spectrum of militant groups threatening to upset American interests. The recent rise of the Islamic State terror group and other localized, aggressive factions have challenged much of the last decade’s conventional wisdom on the fight against worldwide jihadi organizations.
The counterterrorism chief will be replaced with another agency veteran with extensive experience in Afghanistan, known as “Chris.” Roger is expected to remain at the agency in another capacity.
His reassignment was apparently announced in passing and without fanfare: the Washington Post report quotes one official who said, “[w]e all found out from a PowerPoint slide.”
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