James L. Pavitt (born February 19, 1946) was Deputy Director for Operations (DDO) for the CIA from 1999 until June 4, 2004. His sudden resignation – as well as that of his chief, DCI George Tenet the previous day – led to speculation that it was over the controversy surrounding Iraq weapons of mass destruction or 9-11 intelligence issues.
Pavitt was born in St. Louis, Missouri and graduated from the University of Missouri (B.A., 1968) in Columbia, Missouri as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. After graduation, he was a National Defense Education Act fellow at Clark University (1969). He is currently a Principal of The Scowcroft Group, an international business advisory firm, and was formerly on the board of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO).
He is married with two children (from a previous marriage) and resides in McLean, Virginia.
His hobbies include collecting art, especially primitive American art.
Pavitt joined the CIA in 1973 as a Career Trainee with postings to Europe, Asia and Washington. He was posted to Vienna (1976-1978), East Berlin (1978-1980), Budapest, Hungary and Malaysia (1980-1983). He was expelled (PNG'd) from East Germany. He was chief of station in Luxembourg (1983-1986). He served as a Branch Chief in the Africa Division. From 1990 to 1993, he served on the National Security Council team under Brent Scowcroft as Senior Intelligence Advisor to President George H.W. Bush. After being assigned to work across the Agency operational/analytical divide in the Directorate of Intelligence, he became the founder and first Chief of the Directorate of Operation's Counterproliferation Division (CPD). Gordon Oehler, then Chief of the Directorate of Intelligence's Non-Proliferation Center, criticized this as being redundant and stepping on his turf. This was considered a specious critique by veteran Agency HUMINT Operations Officers, however, especially those who had been assigned under Oehler previously and realized that Oehler held HUMINT counterproliferation operations—indeed, covert operations in general—in considerable disdain. Pavitt hand picked operations officers, some of which were Nonofficial Cover Officers (NOCs) including Valerie Plame, to staff the CPD. In 1997 he was appointed Associate Deputy Director of Operations. He was Deputy Director of Operations from 1999 until his resignation in 2004. In 2003, the CPD took down the nuclear black market being operated by Abdul Qadeer Khan.
After September 11, 2001, Pavitt was responsible for sending Special Activities Division teams to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand, and Somalia to capture Al Qaeda members. The first Hellfire missiles fired from drones were under his command. They were aimed at an Al Qaeda convoy in Sudan in which all occupants, including an American citizen, were killed.
In April 2004 he appeared before the 9/11 Commission. The BBC called his 9/11 commission appearance 'unprecedented'. The commission's report said that shortly after Bush's election, Pavitt told the President-elect that Osama bin Laden was one of the gravest threats to the country. He also added that killing the Al Qaeda leader would have an effect but not stop the threat posed by the terrorist organization.
When Bush put Porter Goss in charge of the agency, Pavitt reportedly opposed the internal reorganizations announced by Goss, on the ground that they might "do damage to a strategic effort that has produced excellent work on terrorism and a variety of other important issues." On June 4, 2004, he unexpectedly announced his retirement one day after George Tenet. The CIA says Pavitt's decision was unconnected with Tenet's departure. Pavitt was succeeded by his deputy, Stephen Kappes. On June 21, 2004, Pavitt delivered one of his last speeches as DDO to the Foreign Policy Association.
He is an advisor to the Patriot Defense Group, LLC,a defense and intelligence contracting company that directly supports the training requirements of the defense and intelligence communities. to Olton Solutions Ltd. in the United Kingdom and to The Scowcroft Group.
Criticism and controversy
Some former operations officers are critical of Pavitt, citing 4 international postings over 10 years in a 30-year career as insufficient experience for a Deputy Director of Operations. The Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture found that Pavitt was told that rectal exams of at least two CIA prisoners had been conducted with "excessive force" but he took action to stop this behavior.
- Appointment of James L. Pavitt as Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, June 24, 1992
- Transcript: Wednesday's 9/11 Commission Hearings, The Washington Post, March 24, 2004
- In photos: Counterterrorism officials testify on IT challenges - Dan Verton of Computerworld, April 16, 2004
- Press Release: CIA Deputy Director for Operations Announces Retirement, ODCI, McLean, VA. June 4, 2004
- Ex-spy master praises CIAs effectiveness; MU graduate advises caution in revamping - Josh Flory of Columbia Daily Tribune, October 9, 2004
- Ex-CIA Official Defends Detention Policies - Dana Priest of The Washington Post, October 27, 2004; Page A21
- Retired Official Defends the CIA's Performance - Dana Priest of The Washington Post, November 5, 2004; Page A23
- Goss pushes change at CIA - Bill Gertz of The Washington Times, November 19, 2004
- James L. Pavitt's Resume The Scowcroft Group
- "James Pavitt". The Center for Torture Accountability. Archived from the original on 2010-06-08. Retrieved 2009-05-26.
- Address to Duke University Law School Conference Jim Pavitt, Deputy Director for Operations, April 11, 2002
- Remarks of Deputy Director of Operations James L. Pavitt on the 60th anniversary of the Office of Strategic Services, CIA's Predecessor, June 8, 2002
- Remarks by the Deputy Director for Operations James L. Pavitt at the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Law and National Security Breakfast Program, January 23, 2003
- Posted Written Statement for the Record of James L. Pavitt, Deputy Director for Operations, before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, April 14, 2004.
- Remarks by Deputy Director for Operations James L. Pavitt Foreign Policy Association, June 21, 2004
- America's Clandestine Service Foreign Policy Association, June 21, 2004
- Dana Priest, Retired Official Defends the CIA's Performance, , Washington Post, November 5, 2004
- James L. Pavitt Bio, , Scowcroft Group
- Vernon Loeb, Rebuilding Clandestine Operations, , Washington Post, September 20, 1999
- Jason Vest, Spy Versus Spy, , The American Prospect, June 4, 2004
- Valerie Plame Wilson, Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House, , pp 353., Simon and Schuster, ISBN 141658336X, 9781416583363, Oct 22, 2007
- James L. Pavitt Biography, , Patriot Defense Group
- "Second top official to quit CIA". Retrieved 2009-04-15.
- "Transcript: Wednesday's 9/11 Commission Hearings". The Washington Post. March 24, 2004. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
- "Goss pushes changeat CIA". The Washingtion Times.
- Remarks by Deputy Director for Operations James L. Pavitt at the Foreign Policy Association. , June 21, 2004
- Forbes Profile: James Pavitt, , Forbes, retrieved 2013-03-13
- Kreig, Gregory (December 9, 2014). "16 Horrifying Excerpts From the Torture Report That the CIA Doesn't Want You to See". Mic. Retrieved June 9, 2014.
Jack G. Downing
|CIA Deputy Director for Operations
August 1999 – June 4, 2004