Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Posted at 3:49 PM ET, 08/ 9/2010

Letitia Long takes helm of Pentagon intelligence agency

By Jeff Stein

Stella Rimington needn’t worry about Letitia Long stealing her thunder. The former head of Britain’s MI5 countersubversion agency, now the successful author of five spy thrillers and a memoir, is nearly a household name in the United Kingdom, not to mention many a bookstore here. But it will be a while before even Washington insiders know who “Tish” Long is, much less any other female at the top of a U.S. intelligence agency.

That’s because there aren’t any others, although the senior intelligence ranks are positively crammed with them. Installed Monday as chief of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, the people who try to make sense of what spy satellites see, Long is being billed as the only woman to ever head a “major” U.S. intelligence outfit (although ranking the NGA as equal to the CIA, FBI, DIA or the eavesdropping, code-breaking NSA is a stretch; women have also headed the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, arguably far more influential than the NGA).

The U.K., meanwhile, has already had two women -- counting Dame Rimington’s successor, Eliza Manningham-Bullers -- running its inarguably heavyweight counterspy service.

France, which, mais oui, counts Jean D'Arc as a national hero, nearly made it three.

In 2008, President Nicolas Sarkozy considered appointing Bernadette Malgorn, a ministry of interior official, to take over the DGSE, France’s foreign espionage and counterterrorism service. But in the end he didn’t, leaving Malgorn in the same category as many a female spook also-ran in Washington.

Likewise, the flutter of speculation that President-elect Obama might appoint a woman to run the CIA or other major intelligence outfit fell flat.

At the time, the leading names floated about town were Joan Dempsey, a career Pentagon intelligence official who had served as CIA Director George Tenet’s chief of staff; Maureen “Mo” Baginski, a former top NSA official who had helped reorient the FBI toward counterterrorism after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks; and Rep. Jane Harman, the hard-edged California Democrat who had won intelligence community plaudits for working across the aisle in support of Bush administration national security programs.

Ostensibly, Obama could have had any of the three to run the NGA. Instead, the White House reached down into the ranks for Long, a career DoD intelligence official whose B.S. in electrical engineering from Virginia Tech and masters in mechanical engineering from the Catholic University of America seemed to equip her perfectly to run "one of the ‘top computer geek shops’ in the national security world," as the A.P.’s Kimberly Dozier put it.

Unlike nominees to run the CIA and Directorate of National Intelligence, Long's appointment did not need Senate confirmation.

Which was convenient for the White House, already under fire for continuing many a Bush administration national security policy. From 2003 to 2006, Long served as deputy to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s intelligence chief Stephen Cambone, a controversial figure who ran some of the Bush administration’s most aggressive security initiatives.

One was the so-called Talon electronic data program, “which collected and circulated unverified reports about people and organizations that allegedly threaten Defense Department facilities,” The Washington Post's Walter Pincus reported.

After a national outcry, Cambone’s successor, James Clapper, now the DNI, dismantled the program (although elements of it lived on elsewhere in the Defense Department).

Long was never publicly branded as a role player in Talon, and indeed, she evidently thrived under Clapper, going on to become deputy chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency, which he “dual-hatted” for the Pentagon.

It was Long's second stop at DIA, where in the 1990s she was deputy director for information systems and services and “directed DIA’s worldwide information technology and communications programs,” according to her NGA biography. “Ms. Long was also DIA’s first Chief Information Officer,” it said.

She definitely got around. Long also did a stint at the CIA, between 1998 and 2000, running its intelligence community outreach shop. And before that, she was a senior naval intelligence official.

What little public record of Long’s views exists shows an intense interest in integrating the work product of Pentagon intelligence agencies and improving their foreign language capabilities.

The spy agencies’ language deficit, she told a congressional panel in 2004, would not be easily fixed, because it was “part of the larger issue of lack of language skills in the nation.”

Nor would the disparate intelligence agencies easily be brought to heel, she predicted.

“The walls between the cultures exist because each agency has a separate mission,” she was characterized as saying by the Pentagon’s news service. “For this reason, she said, they will be hard to tear down.”

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), a member of the House intelligence committee and close ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, called Long "an important role model for all the women in the intelligence community."

Dianne Feinstein, the Californian Democrat who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, struck a similar note.

“As new head of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, Ms. Long will also be the first woman to lead one of the major intelligence agencies, with a multibillion-dollar budget and thousands of employees,” Feinstein said in a prepared statement. “This is an important appointment, and I hope that she will bring a new and determined management ability to this agency.”

By Jeff Stein  | August 9, 2010; 3:49 PM ET
Categories:  Intelligence  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Ex-CIA heavyweight on Afghanistan: Dump Karzai
Next: Ex-spies ponder N. Korean missile sale to Taliban


Let's just hope that she knows her but (spelled with one "t" so the thought police don't censor me) from a hole in the ground.

Posted by: stinkyliberals | August 9, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

I take some issue with the characterization of NGA as `less than' the other outfits. First, because of the variety of their missions, there isn't tons of equivalence between them. Although measuring each other against one another is something of an inter-agency sport, the fact is much of a time it's one of invalid comparisons due to the difference in missions. That's more true now than less since there has been some focus on eliminating redundancy. Secondly, NGA's product is essential & pretty widely used. It's that utility that is lacking in comparison.

In any case, it's good to see some of the silly gender barriers falling. This is a person who's very qualified for the job, and that's what matters the most.

Posted by: Nymous | August 9, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

This entire article oozes sarcasm and chauvanism. I find it highly obnoxious and rude. Ms Long has a robust portfolio. Enough said.

Posted by: tridentbulldog | August 9, 2010 8:33 PM | Report abuse

I wish i could get back the time I spent reading this, because you have no clue what's going.

Posted by: jhughart | August 9, 2010 9:48 PM | Report abuse

The last thing our intelligence apparatus needs are holdovers from the Bush Jr Administration, the same people who blew it so badly regarding the Sept. 11 attacks.

I did NOT vote for Obama to continue the same failed, anti-Constitutional policies of the Bush Jr/Cheney Administration, policies which didn't result in the independently-verifiable disruption of any terrorist plots or attacks.

No Senate hearings, which means Long won't be asked about pushing the claims of non-existent ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda/Usama bin Laden, or the flat-out lies about WsMD used to invade and occupy Iraq.

Obama is continuing the Bush Jr Administration's failures regarding intelligence gathering and counter-terrorism, failures which have NOT resulted in greater safety from terrorist attacks nor brought Usama bin Laden, al-Qaeda or the Taliban to heel.

Posted by: kingcranky | August 9, 2010 10:36 PM | Report abuse

For those who don't realize, Ms. Long is a career civil servant--not a political appointee. Her job with USD(I) Cambone in the Bush administration was one in a long line of intelligence jobs she earned as a civil servant, including Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence. She is amazingly qualified and NGA and our nation is lucky to have her continue to serve.

Posted by: ckraf1 | August 10, 2010 6:45 AM | Report abuse

NGA, in addition to doing stuff that's intrinsically useful, looks as if it may be breaking the grip the self-serving NRO bureaucracy has had on satellite imagery by letting significant contracts to commercial imagery companies. That's long, long overdue.

Posted by: TexLex | August 10, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Feinstein is wrong, as usual. Tish Long, as smart and capable as she is, is not the first woman to head an intelligence agency.

Janice Gardner was the first Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Intelligence and Analysis back in 2005. Treasury's Office of Intelligence and Analysis is one of the 17 agencies in the Intelligence Community. Thus, its chief (Assistant Secretary Janice Gardner and now Leslie Ireland) heads an intelligence agency.

Posted by: slack-jawed_yokel | August 10, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

It seems they have a sense of humor at NGA, as they held the change of command ceremony on top of the parking garage:

Sorta cute. I bet that when a KH-11-spawn went over shortly before they stepped out from under the tent and waved.

Posted by: TexLex | August 10, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse


U.S. GPS satellites are being used to target extra-legally "targeted individuals" -- U.S. citizens -- for silent electromagnetic torture, impairment, or a slow-kill death.

Can you please do something about this? Thank you.

Vic Livingston, unjustly targeted longtime journalist who has exposed the U.S. government's torture matrix here:

Posted by: scrivener50 | August 11, 2010 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Ms. Long's dedication and loyalty to our country, along with her unique skills and experience are an asset to NGA. She will prove to be an outstanding Director.

Posted by: kanewberry | August 11, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, we keep promoting the same people who failed in their jobs for decades.

Posted by: john_bruckner | August 12, 2010 7:15 AM | Report abuse

> I bet that when a KH-11-spawn went over shortly before...

That would have been USA 129, which reached an elevation of 20 degrees in the western sky at 11:03 AM. At that time it was 750 km from Springfield, so, making the usual assumption that such spysats have 240 cm primary mirrors, it was able to get a picture of the ceremony with a resolution in the 6 to 8 inch range. Good enough to see individual people, though not to recognize them.

Posted by: TexLex | August 12, 2010 7:37 AM | Report abuse

as usual feminists have done nothing, not even to congratulated her. When she is the victim, they will take actions.

Posted by: Rockvillers | August 14, 2010 9:30 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company