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CIA Appoints Former Special Activities Division as New Chief of National Clandestine Service

ciaCIA Director Leon Panetta announced today John D. Bennett will be the next head of the agency’s National Clandestine Service, succeeding Michael J. Sulick who is retiring.

Bennett is being brought back into the agency after the CIA veteran had announced his retirement last May. During his nearly 30-year career with the agency, Bennett most recently served as chief of the special activities division, the agency’s covert paramilitary unit. He will now run human intelligence and covert operations within the National Clandestine Service.

“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 Qaida and its violent allies. 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.”

Along with his former position as head of Special Activities Division, Bennett has also held the titles of deputy chief of Africa division and deputy director of the NCS for Community HUMINT.

“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.”

In regards to Sulick’s retirement, Panetta expressed gratitude for his service to the agency.

“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,” he said. “Our officers have had tremendous success against the full range of national security challenges, including terrorists, weapons proliferators, drug traffickers, rogue states, and hostile intelligence services.”

“He can take satisfaction not only in the safety he helped provide our country, but in the officers he taught, mentored, and inspired, who, throughout the world, will continue this agency’s unique and essential mission,” he added.

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