CIA Director Leon E. Panetta announced yesterday the appointment of John D. Bennett as the next head of the National Clandestine Service (NCS). Bennett will succeed Michael J. Sulick who is set to retire from the agency.
The NCS is tasked with carrying out covert action and human intelligence (HUMINT) missions in pursuit of U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives.
“John has impeccable credentials at the very core of intelligence operations—espionage, covert action, and liaison,” Panetta said. “He has been at the forefront of the fight against al-Qa’ida and its violent allies. John brings a unique set of talents to this position; he knows the topics and regions that are likely to shape our security agenda in the years ahead. He also understands the hardships and benefits of tough jobs, and he knows—in any environment—the mix of skills, capabilities, and partners that successful operations demand.”
Bennett previously Chief of Special Activities Division, which is the paramilitary arm of the CIA and has been heavily involved in the drone-strikes against al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A former U.S. Marine, he also has also served four tours as station chief.
“John is an outstanding leader, devoted to the mission and those who get it done,” Panetta said. “He says what he thinks and he does what he says. I trust him, and I rely on him. He has a keen sense of the risks and opportunities inherent in every operational activity.”
Panetta also praised Sulick’s service and his role as head of NCS for the past three years.
“Every CIA Director relies on the wisdom, experience, and friendship of an exceptionally talented senior leadership team,” Panetta said. “I have been very fortunate to have Mike Sulick on mine. As head of our National Clandestine Service for the past three years, he has guided complex operations under some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable.”