An IACSP Interview With Philip Mudd
Philip Mudd joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1985 as
an analyst specializing in South Asia and then the Middle East.
He began work in the CIA's Counterterrorist Center in 1992 and
then served on the National Intelligence Council as the Deputy
National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia
(1995-98). After a tour as an executive assistant in the front
office of the Agency's analytic arm, Mr. Mudd went on to manage
Iraq analysis at the CIA (1999-2001).
Mr. Mudd began a policy assignment at the White House in early
2001, detailed from CIA to serve as the Director for Gulf Affairs
on the White House National Security Council. He left after
the September 11 attacks for a short assignment as the CIA member
of the small diplomatic team that helped piece together a new
government for Afghanistan, and he returned to CIA in early 2002
to become second-in-charge of counterterrorism analysis in the
Counterterrorist Center. He was promoted to the position of Deputy
Director of the Center in 2003 and served there until 2005.
At the establishment of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's
National Security Branch in 2005, FBI Director Mueller appointed
Mr. Mudd to serve as the Branch's first-ever deputy director.
He later became the FBI's Senior Intelligence Adviser. Mr. Mudd
resigned from government service in March 2010.
Mr. Mudd is the recipient of numerous CIA awards and commendations,
including the Director's Award; the George H.W. Bush Award for
excellence in counterterrorism; the CIA's Distinguished Intelligence
Medal and the Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal; the first-ever
William Langer Award for excellence in analysis; and numerous
Exceptional Performance wards.
In his book Takedown: Inside the Hunt for Al Qaeda (University
of Pennsylvania Press), Mr. Mudd describes his role in two organizations
that changed dramatically after 9/11 and he sheds light on the
inner workings of the intelligence community during the global
As a participant in and a witness to key strategic initiatives-including
the hunt for Osama bin Laden and efforts to displace the Taliban-
Mr. Mudd offers an insider's perspective on the relationships
between the White House, the State Department, and national security
agencies before and after the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Philip Mudd was interviewed by Paul Davis, a contributing editor
to the Journal and an online columnist (Threatcon).
IACSP: I read your book Takedown. I thought it was interesting.
Why did you write the book?
Mudd: I wrote the book for a couple of reasons. One is professional
and one is personal. The professional reason is I thought there
would be a thousand of us who had tiny windows on this war so
that an historian over time could build a mosaic picture of the
war by reading some windows from intelligence guys, some windows
from military guys and some windows from diplomats. I thought
I had my tiny sliver, my tiny optic. And the personal piece is
I have a BA and MA in English Literature
and I always wanted to see if I could be somebody who could have
his name on the spine of a book. I love words. I like writing.
So it was really rewarding, as someone who grew up reading, to
have my name on a book.
IACSP: I took note that you didn't settle any scores in your
book. You spoke well of everyone. Were you lucky enough to have
not worked for dopes in your career, or did you simply wish
not to include them in the book?
Mudd: If you work for as many people as I did and in organizations
as large as I did, you're going to run across people who are incompetent,
which is OK, or difficult and malicious, which is tougher to deal
with. People complain about Washington D.C. as a city that has
lost its sense of courtesy. I knew I would take some criticism,
but I think a return to civility is not a bad goal to have.
IACSP: Would you give us an overview of your career?
Mudd: I spent the first ten years in the CIA as a line analyst,
analyzing politics and leadership in mostly South Asia and the
Middle East. After that it started getting interesting. I worked
on interagency analysis, with Defense Intelligence and State Department,
for example. I started working in management and learned how to
manage people on Iraq, well before the Iraq War. I had a tour
for a year, around 9/11, at the White House, and then I came back
to manage different levels, including the second in charge of
the counterterrorism program at CIA. I finished up on loan to
the Bureau as their senior intelligence advisor and second in
charge of National Security at the FBI. To me, the uniqueness
was the variety. I saw so many things that I think it turned out
to be a great benefit.
IACSP: Can you pinpoint a particular highlight and/or low point?
Mudd: The low point was early in my career. I wasn't promoted
very quickly, as I remember, and I was not sure I was learning
very quickly. That was frustrating. I wasn't sure this was something
I should do for a lifetime. It took a while to learn and to grow.
The highlight, just in terms of action, in interest and learning,
had to be the post-9/11 years. Not in terms of reward, because
I would never want to live that again, but in terms of contribution
and maybe in participating in something that is going to go down
in history. How can you not look at that and say, that was a unique
life. Painful as it was, it was fascinating.
IACSP: Do you feel that 9/11 changed the mission and the culture
of the CIA?
Mudd: That is really a good question. I think the cultural issues
that I saw and the change is really significant. Traditionally,
intelligence serves the policy-maker who has to make a decision.
In the age of terrorism, it's the CIA who is both collecting the
information and typically acting on it. Usually, it is the diplomats
or the military who are acting on the intelligence. So that made
the intelligence process immediate, it made it personal, it made
it tactical. And the second thing was the sense of responsibility,
not for a sort of looming strategic threat like the Soviet missile
force, but for a threat that could leave a child in Chicago or
Los Angeles or Miami motherless if we failed. That changes your
dynamic pretty quickly.
IACSP: Are you working on a second book?
Mudd: I'm working on a book for Liveright books on analytical
thinking and how to think about complex problems.
IACSP: Good luck and thanks for speaking to use.
This is only a partial version
of the article published in the latest Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland
for the full version of the article and many others like this,
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