Michael D'Andrea is an officer of the Central Intelligence Agency, who in 2017 was appointed to head the agency's Iran Mission Center. His appointment was the first major sign that the Trump administration was invoking the hard line the president took against Iran during his campaign. He was a major figure in the search for Osama bin Laden, as well as the American drone strike targeted killing campaign that killed thousands of Islamist militants and hundreds of civilians. In January 2020, there were unverified reports of his death.
D'Andrea was raised in Northern Virginia. His family has ties to the CIA that span two generations. He met his wife while working overseas with the Central Intelligence Agency, and converted to Islam in order to marry her. His wife, Faridah Currimjee D'Andrea is a daughter of a wealthy Muslim family from Mauritius with Gujarati origins. The Currimjee family owns a business and operates in different sectors such as Telecoms, Media, Real Estate, Tourism, Financial Services and Energy. Faridah Currimjee D'Andrea is one of the senior directors of Currimjee group.
D'Andrea joined the CIA in 1979, and he was considered an underperformer at Camp Peary. D'Andrea reportedly began his overseas career in Africa, and he is listed as a foreign service officer at the Embassy of the United States in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. D'Andrea previously served as chief of station in Cairo, Egypt and later in Baghdad, Iraq. D'Andrea was reportedly one of the CIA officials who failed to track Nawaf al-Hazmi, who would later participate in the September 11 attacks.
D'Andrea became head of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center in 2006, replacing Robert Grenier. During his nine-year tenure, D'Andrea presided over hundreds of American drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, advocating for the program to the United States Congress. In 2015, leadership of the drone program was passed to Chris Wood, following bureaucratic reshuffling by Director John O. Brennan. During his time at the Counterterrorism Center many reporters referred to him only by the codename "Roger", which was considered unusual for an official not posted overseas.
D'Andrea's operatives also oversaw the interrogations of Abu Zubaydah, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, which were criticized in a United States Senate report. He was reportedly involved in the assassination of Hezbollah member Imad Mughniyah in Damascus, Syria. He received much blame for the Camp Chapman attack in Khost, Afghanistan, when seven CIA operatives were killed by a suicide bomber, who was allegedly backed by Pakistan's ISI.
D’Andrea was deeply involved in the detention and interrogation program, which resulted in the torture of a number of prisoners and was condemned in the Senate report on CIA torture in 2014 as inhumane and ineffective.
He has been nicknamed "Ayatollah Mike."
On January 27, 2020, after a United States military plane crashed in Afghanistan, several websites said D'Andrea died in the crash and that the plane was shot down by the Taliban. It was also alleged that D'Andrea was involved in the operation that killed Qasem Soleimani and that D'Andrea's body, along with top secret CIA documents, were taken by militants.
Early reports from an Iranian television network provided no evidence to confirm D'Andrea was killed. According to witnesses and officials, the plane crashed and was not shot down. Asia Times reported that the photos of the wreckage did not look like the wreckage of a plane that was shot out of the sky. Time described reports that D'Andrea had died in the crash as "propaganda" and a "dubious story". Polygraph.info said the claims D'Andrea died in the crash were unsupported and likely false. According to Polygraph.info, there has also been no confirmation of D'Andrea's involvement in Soleimani's death. The CIA refused to comment on whether any of their personnel were onboard.
In popular culture
- Rosenberg, Matthew; Goldman, Adam (June 2, 2017). "C.I.A. Names New Iran Chief in a Sign of Trump's Hard Line". The New York Times. Archived from the original on June 2, 2017.
- L'homme de la Maison-Blanche : les mille et une vies d'Ayatollah Mike
- Cook, John (March 26, 2015). "Why Won't the Post Name CIA Counterterrorism Chief Michael D'Andrea?". Gawker. Retrieved June 2, 2017.
- "CIA Agent Ayatollah Mike's Face Revealed: Iran's View". Iran's View. June 3, 2017. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
- Miller, Greg (March 24, 2012). "At CIA, a convert to Islam leads the terrorism hunt". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 13, 2012.
- Key Officers of Foreign Service Posts: Guide for Business Representatives. DIANE Publishing Company. 1998. p. 113. ISBN 9780788148682.
RAO: Michael A. D'Andrea
- Schou, Nicholas (June 28, 2017). "Outing the CIA's 'Undertaker'". Newsweek. Archived from the original on June 2, 2017.
- Cockburn, Andrew (2015). Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins. Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 9780805099270.
- Mazzetti, Mark; Apuzzo, Matthew (April 25, 2015). "Deep Support in Washington for C.I.A.'s Drone Missions". The New York Times. Retrieved June 2, 2017.
- Miller, Greg (June 16, 2016). "Why CIA drone strikes have plummeted". The Washington Post.
"I suspect that has an awful lot to do with it," said a former senior U.S. official who was involved in CIA and Pentagon discussions about collaboration in Yemen, and described Michael D'Andrea, the former CTC chief, as an obstacle. D'Andrea was replaced by Chris Wood, a longtime CIA officer who is widely considered more collegial and willing to compromise with U.S. military officials.
- Zenko, Micah (2015). Red Team: How to Succeed By Thinking Like the Enemy. Basic Books. pp. 100–101. ISBN 9780465073955.
- Tlis, Fatima (February 4, 2020). "Unsupported Claims that CIA’s Iran Chief Died in Afghan Crash" Polygraph.info.
- Bostock, Bill. "Iranian state TV used a photo of an actor from 'Zero Dark Thirty' to spread a wild theory that a senior CIA official was killed in a plane crash in Afghanistan". Business Insider. Retrieved 2020-04-17.
- Makichuk, Dave (2020-02-06). "CIA mystery: Did Iran kill 'Ayatollah Mike?'". Asia Times. Retrieved 2020-04-17.
- O'Connell, Oliver (January 28, 2020). "Iran TV uses ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ screenshot to claim CIA boss was killed in Afghanistan plane crash" The Independent.
- Dozier, Kimberly (January 31, 2020). "A U.S. Plane Crashed in Afghanistan. Why So Many Believed a CIA Chief Was On It." Time.