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Michael Morell is the former Acting Director and Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. During his 33-year career at the CIA, Michael served as Deputy Director for over three years, a job in which he managed the Agency’s day-to-day operations and analysis, represented the Agency at the White House and Congress, and maintained the Agency’s relationships with intelligence services and foreign leaders around the world.
Michael is currently Senior Counselor and Global Chairman of Beacon Global Strategies, a Senior National Security Contributor for CBS News, the host of the national security podcast Intelligence Matters, an Expert Voice on Axios, and a Contributing Columnist for the Washington Post. He is the author of The New York Times bestseller “The Great War of Our Time: An Insider’s Account of the CIA’s Fight Against Terrorism – From al Qaida to ISIS.”
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I worked for the Central Intelligence Agency for
thirty-three years. From day one I was motivated by the mission of the
Agency – keeping the country safe – and that motivation only grew over
time as the significance of what I was doing expanded. I was also driven
by the dedication of the men and women who undertook the task of
keeping the country safe each and every day. Early in the morning,
around seven a.m., almost half of the Agency's parking lot is already
filled. And late into the evening, at seven p.m., still half of the
parking lot is filled. I had officers turn down well-deserved promotions
or spend months away from their families and friends because they were
so committed to a particular operation or initiative.
I have never
worked with more dedicated people. People frequently ask me about
specific movies and television series about the Agency. "Is Homeland real?" they ask. "Did Zero Dark Thirty
get the story right?" My answer is always the same: "no, not really,
with one exception, and that exception is the passion that CIA officer
bring to the job." I usually explain that the passion for getting the
job done that is demonstrated, for example, by the character Carrie in Homeland or Maya in Zero Dark Thirty
is a dead-on accurate portrayal of the passion of many CIA officers,
particularly those who work in our Counterterrorism Center.
dedication, I think, was captured simply and beautifully in the written
answer to a question on a job application by the son of one of the
finest scientists in the history of CIA. The question was "If you had
the opportunity to meet someone from the past or present, who would it
be and why?" His answer: "If I had the opportunity to meet anyone, past
or present, I would elect to meet the man my dad becomes when he goes to
work every day at CIA. I love my dad because he is the very definition
of fatherhood: stoic, strong, capable. His career at CIA has always been
out of my view, save for the awards and promotions he has brought home.
My father is one of the countless unsung heroes of the clandestine
service. I would love nothing more than to meet my dad at work, because
as far as I'm concerned, I would be meeting Superman."
my career I found particular inspiration and motivation from the men and
women who made the ultimate sacrifice – those CIA officers who lost
their lives in the line of duty. The most special place at the Agency is
the north side of the main lobby at CIA headquarters – the location of
our Memorial Wall, with started etched into the marble, one star for
every hero who made that sacrifice. I worked by a simple motto – that
what I did every day needed to live up to the sacrifices represented by
those stars. And I posed that challenge to the new officers when I led
them through their oath of office on their first day at the Agency.
The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the
authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Vice
President Biden, the Biden Institute or the University of Delaware.