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Thwarting Syria’s nuclear program – “Intelligence Matters: Declassified”

In this episode of Intelligence Matters DECLASSIFIED: Spy Stories from the Officers Who Were There, former career CIA analyst and non-proliferation expert Maja Lehnus tells the story of one of the intelligence community’s most important discoveries of the last decade – a covert nuclear reactor in the Syrian desert, likely built with support from North Korea. Lehnus tells Morell how U.S. intelligence agencies first acquired intelligence indicating cooperation between North Korean nuclear entities and high-level Syrian officials, and ultimately presented intelligence to the president that the reactor was part of a Syrian nuclear weapons program. Lehnus explains the confidence levels attached to each of the IC’s judgments, as well as why the CIA took the rare step of sharing its findings with the public. Intelligence Matters DECLASSIFIED is a series dedicated to featuring first-hand accounts from former intelligence officers.  

HIGHLIGHTS:  

  • FIRST ACQUIRING INTELLIGENCE: “[W]e acquired intelligence indicating cooperation between North Korean nuclear entities and high level Syrian officials. That got our attention or I should say that got the attention of the relevant analyst. So the analysts then re-examined information they had been previously collected, looking for earlier signs of cooperation that had not previously been recognized as such. And ultimately, they concluded that this cooperation between North Korean nuclear personalities and entities and high level Syrian officials began probably as early as 1997. They judged that these interactions were probably nuclear related because of the individuals involved, and they assessed that the cooperation involved work at site in sites in Syria, but they didn’t know where.” 
  • PRESENTING INTELLIGENCE TO THE PRESIDENT: “[W]hen we took first took this issue to the president, the three judgments were: Syria was building a gas-cooled, graphite-moderated reactor. The reactor would be capable of producing plutonium for nuclear weapons, was not configured to produce electricity and was ill-suited for research. Second, we were convinced, based on a variety of information, that North Korea assisted Syria’s covert nuclear activity with cooperation going back 10 years; only North Korea had produced this type of reactor in the past thirty-five years. The third key judgment was that we assessed that this reactor was part of a Syrian nuclear weapons program.” 
  • HOW THE DESTRUCTION OF THE REACTOR CONFIRMED U.S. INTELLIGENCE: “Syrian efforts to take down the building actually revealed key features of the internal structure of the building, the remains of the concrete reactor vessel, the shielded heat exchange rooms and the spent fuel pool could be seen on imagery corroborating our high confidence judgment that this had been a reactor. Interestingly enough, the intelligence also indicated that North Korea and nuclear personalities traveled to Syria shortly after the building was destroyed, and this increased our confidence that the North Koreans had been assisting with this nuclear reactor project.” 

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INTELLIGENCE MATTERS – MAJA LEHNUS

PRODUCER: OLIVIA GAZIS

MICHAEL MORELL: Maja, welcome to Intelligence Matters, it is great to have you on the show.

MAJA LEHNUS: It’s great to be here.

MICHAEL MORELL: So my you know, this is this is going to be one of our episodes in our Intelligence Matters “Declassified” series where we tell spy stories, essentially. And today we’re going to talk about a specific nuclear proliferation issue in which you were deeply involved. But before we do that, before we get to that, I’d like to ask you a couple of questions about you so that our listeners get a sense of who you are.

MAJA LEHNUS: All right. Sure.

MICHAEL MORELL: So the first one is, how did you end up at CIA and why did you end up spending a career there?

MAJA LEHNUS: I was a freshman studying engineering at Virginia Tech and CIA came to campus recruiting, I saw an ad in the school newspaper. It was a cartoon of a guy in a trenchcoat wearing sunglasses saying, ‘We want you.’ I thought, ‘What the heck, this could be interesting.’ So I signed up for an interview. And they hired me. I was hired as a co-op education student to do weapons analysis for the Office of Scientific and Weapons Research, starting right after the end of my freshman year. And over the next three years, I kept coming back for additional co-op work tours and I had the chance to try my hand at several different types of weapons analysis. And I got hooked, hooked on the mission of protecting America from the threat of foreign weapons. So after I graduated from Virginia Tech with my electrical engineering degree, I came back to CIA to continue my analytic career.

MICHAEL MORELL: Why did you stay?

MAJA LEHNUS: It was because the work was fascinating and it gave me a strong sense of purpose. No two days were the same, and I knew that the work I was doing made a real difference. Also, I was able to continue learning and growing my entire career. I held many positions and each one brought its own set of challenges and the opportunity to stretch in different directions. Though I recently retired after 40 years of service and I have absolutely no regrets.

MICHAEL MORELL: Congratulations, by the way, on your retirement and all of that service to your country. Can you give us a sense of your career trajectory at the agency, the different kind of jobs you had?

MAJA LEHNUS: I’m glad to. My career had two very distinct phases. The first 34 years were focused on the threat of foreign weapons and protecting America from weapons of mass destruction or WMD. And as I already mentioned, I started as an analyst responsible for assessing foreign weapons capabilities, and then I became a manager, leading analytic programs responsible for assessments of different types of foreign weapons. And ultimately, I led all of CIA’s analysis on weapons issues, including counterproliferation and arms control. I then went to the Office of the director of National Intelligence, or ODNI, on a rotational assignment where I was responsible for integrating the counterproliferation and WMD efforts of 11 intelligence community agencies. And as my rotation at ODNI was coming to an end, I had to figure out what I was going to do next. I had already done all of the weapons-focused jobs, so I decided to try something completely different – thus beginning the second phase of my career. And I returned to CIA and held a series of functional enterprise positions where I was responsible for Diversity and Inclusion, Finance and finally Talent.

MICHAEL MORELL: And this was part of Director Brennan’s modernization program where he wanted to put a lot more emphasis on those things. Correct?

MAJA LEHNUS: Yes, the establishment of the talent center was a major aspect of the modernization effort,

MICHAEL MORELL: So Maja, one of the things you did in your career is lead a deep dive into what happened with the intelligence community’s incorrect analysis of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in the run up to the 2003 war. Can you give us a sense of what the key lessons learned were, particularly those that apply to any kind of analysis, whether in government or not?

MAJA LEHNUS:  Absolutely. I’m happy to. Let me preface my response by noting that CIA and the intelligence community embraced the Iraq WMD intelligence failure as a learning opportunity and put a great deal of effort and significant investments into addressing the problems that were identified. As I thought back on the key lessons, it occurred to me that all of them really are applicable to broader types of analysis.

I’ll start with the Iraq WMD lesson of how important it is to understand and explain the quality of the intelligence sources on which judgments are based. In the broadest context, you need to understand and explain the quality of the information or perhaps the data sets that underpin your judgments. A key finding of the Iraq WMD review was that analysts failed to adequately represent the sourcing, on which important judgments were based. In fact, analysts were often unaware that there were issues or uncertainties regarding key sources and therefore their confidence in the information was much stronger than it otherwise would have been.

Another Iraq WMD lesson is the importance of examining alternative analytical possibilities or outcomes. No alternative analysis had been done on the Iraq WMD topic prior to the intelligence failure. No mechanism existed to force analysts to ask whether there might be another explanation for what they were observing or to ask themselves, ‘Could we be wrong? What might Alternative X look like? Hmm?’

A third lesson is the importance of clearly articulating key judgments and the levels of confidence for each judgment. This is a means of alerting customers to uncertainties and key intelligence gaps. In the Iraq WMD review, we found that key gaps and uncertainties were not highlighted and confidence levels were not clearly articulated. Moreover, when probabilistic language was used, such as possibly, probably and likely the review found that the analysts intended meaning and the readers’ interpretation were not always the same.

A final lesson I’ll mention that came out of the Iraq WMD review was the importance of conducting analytic line reviews, especially as accounts transitioned to other analysts or other offices right on related topics. History matters; you need to understand the historical context in which you’re working. It is fine to change an analytic assessment, but it’s important to highlight to your customers the fact that you’re doing so and explain the basis for the change. In the Iraq WMD review, we found unintentional shifts in the key analytic lines were occurring regularly. This was because the analyst lacked the historical context. The analyst writing a piece lacked awareness of what had been previously written by analysts from different part of the organization.

MICHAEL MORELL: Yeah, I think I think you did an amazing job with the review. I think the organization – in fact, I know the organization is much healthier today and the analysis is much healthier today as a result of of learning these lessons and actually applying them. So, you know, a terrible analytic mistake. But we really did learn from it. And you played a major role in that.

OK, Maja, let’s get to our story. I actually love this story because I think it captures every key piece of the intelligence process: great intelligence collection and great analysis, both in terms of the analysis, both the judgments and the confidence levels that you just talked about. I think it also shows how analysts don’t just assess a stack of evidence at one point in time, but rather how the intelligence picture evolves over time and therefore so does the analysis. And that’s something that a lot of people don’t understand. The story’s about North Korea, Syria and a nuclear reactor. And as I said, it takes place over a long period of time. We first saw tidbits of it in the late 1990s and early 2000s. What did we see in those early years?

MAJA LEHNUS: Exactly. In 2001, we acquired intelligence indicating cooperation between North Korean nuclear entities and high level Syrian officials. That got our attention, or I should say that got the attention of the relevant analyst. So the analysts then re-examined information they had been previously collected, looking for earlier signs of cooperation that had not previously been recognized as such. And ultimately, they concluded that this cooperation between North Korean nuclear personalities and entities and high level Syrian officials began probably as early as 1997. They judged that these interactions were probably nuclear related because of the individuals involved, and they assessed that the cooperation involved work at site in sites in Syria, but they didn’t know where.

MICHAEL MORELL: And at that point in time, we didn’t have enough information to take us any further than that. That was as far as we could go at that point.

MAJA LEHNUS: We provided strategic warning, and that’s as far as we could take it.

MICHAEL MORELL: So in 2005, we received information that allowed us to conclude something about a general location. What was that?

MAJA LEHNUS: Right, in 2005, we received additional intelligence indicating that the Syrians and the North Koreans were involved in a project in the Deir ez-Zor region of eastern Syria. But again, there was no specific information about the nature of the project or the exact location. The new reporting, however, did increase our confidence that there was ongoing cooperation between Syria and North Korea involving nuclear related people.

MICHAEL MORELL: And this strengthened, right, that original judgment that we’d made in the early 2000s about the nature of the cooperation between North Korea and Syria.

MAJA LEHNUS: It did strengthen that. It did.

MICHAEL MORELL: And because we had a general area, we went searching with with imagery.

MAJA LEHNUS: Correct.

MICHAEL MORELL: And what did we find?

MAJA LEHNUS: Right. So this new information triggered imagery, searches of the region. And these searches located a large, nondescript building in a remote area of Syria near the Euphrates River, the closest town’s name was al Kobar. Unfortunately, we didn’t have historical imagery of the building taken during the early phases of construction; the building was externally completed on the earliest image we had, and there was nothing unique about this building’s external structure that could tell us what its purpose was. There was no evidence of any security measures, no gates or guards, yet it was in a very remote area and constructed in a canyon, a location that was largely hidden from view by the terrain. We thought the building’s proximity to the river was interesting, potentially providing a source of water for some activity. So we just continued to monitor this ‘Enigma’ facility, looking for additional clues regarding its intended purpose.

MICHAEL MORELL: One of the points that might be worth making here is that this work that we’re talking about now, right, was done during the height of the war against al-Qaida and the significantly worsening civil war in Iraq. So I just want to make sure people understand that just because CIA is focused on one thing does not it does not mean it’s not doing its job in other areas. Can you just comment on that?

MAJA LEHNUS: Absolutely. CIA has analysts with many different areas of expertise and specialty, allowing them to make assessments on a broad range of regional and functional topics. So the counterterrorism analysts and the Middle Eastern military analysts were focused on the war against al-Qaida and the war in Iraq, respectively. Analysts in the Weapons, Intelligence, Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Center, or WINPAC, were responsible for assessments of nuclear programs and proliferation.
Of course, the IC’s collection capabilities are finite and have to be allocated judiciously across many priorities. The lack of imagery of the Syrian ‘Enigma’ facility during the early stages of construction was very likely the result of competition for imagery imagery collection resources during that time period.

MICHAEL MORELL: So Maja, back to our story. In the spring of 2007, we hit pay dirt. What happened? What did we get?

MAJA LEHNUS: We obtained some amazing handheld photos of the interior and exterior of a building reportedly in the Deir ez-Zor region of Syria. So our first step was to determine whether these photos were of the same building that we’d previously identified on overhead imagery, our ‘Enigma’ facility. We meticulously compared the handheld photos to the overhead photos. In fact, we asked our colleagues at the National Geospatial Agency, or NGA, to build a three dimensional computer model of the building based on the new handheld photos. All of the windows, doors, ventilation holes in the wall all matched up exactly, we were able to conclude with high confidence that the handheld photos were of the same building we’d previously identified on overhead imagery.

MICHAEL MORELL: And I know everybody would be dying to know. Well, how did you get those photos? And unfortunately, we can’t share that information. So that’s too bad. But what did the photos show and what did we conclude from them? And I know this may take a little bit of time for you to walk through.

MAJA LEHNUS: The handheld photos revealed the purpose of the building. They showed components of the type of reactor that North Korea uses, a gas-cooled graphite-moderated reactor. These components included vertical tubes at the top of the reactor for control rods and refueling ports, a concrete reactor vessel and its steel liner, and a water supply to move heat. The similarities to North Korea’s plutonium power reactor were striking; only North Korea had built this type of reactor in the past thirty five years.

In addition, some of the newly acquired photos had been taken prior to the completion of the building. And they showed that the Syrians had gone to great lengths to change the external appearance of the building and hide its purpose. At earlier stage of construction, the building’s appearance greatly resembled North Korea’s Yongbyon plutonium power reactor. The photo showed curtain walls and a light roof being added to the building so as to change its external appearance and mask the similarity to that North Korean facility.

Having taken the Iraq WMD lessons to heart, we did alternative analysis exploring whether the site could be for any other purpose. The site lacked fuel storage and turbines needed for an oil fired power plant, i.e., it was not configured to produce electricity. The site also lacked pipes that might indicate irrigation or water treatment. No other viable explanations were identified. We had high confidence that this was a nuclear reactor designed to produce plutonium.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, we continue to monitor the building on overhead imagery. And overhead imagery revealed that Syrians were running pipes up a canyon from the Euphrates River to a buried water storage tank just beside the reactor building. This would allow water to be pumped through the heat exchangers in the building and a separate pipeline was built to return the hot water to the river.

In early August of 2007, the pumphouse and the pipelines were nearing completion. This was a big deal because those were the last observable indicators we would have once they were completed; reactor startup operations could have begun at any time.

MICHAEL MORELL: So Maja, we have all of this information and we go to President Bush with three key judgments. What were they? 

MAJA LEHNUS: So when we took first took this issue to the president, the three judgments were: Syria was building a gas-cooled, graphite-moderated reactor. The reactor would be capable of producing plutonium for nuclear weapons, was not configured to produce electricity and was ill-suited for research. Second, we were convinced, based on a variety of information, that North Korea assisted Syria’s covert nuclear activity with cooperation going back 10 years; only North Korea had produced this type of reactor in the past thirty five years. The third key judgment was that we assessed that this reactor was part of a Syrian nuclear weapons program.

MICHAEL MORELL: And do you remember the confidence levels that we attached to those judgments, and in answering that, I’m wondering if you can explain exactly what confidence levels are and why they differed in this case from judgment to judgment. 

MAJA LEHNUS: Sure, yes, I can walk through the confidence levels. So let me start by explaining a bit about confidence levels. Confidence levels are designed to help explain levels of certainty or uncertainty. Analyst confidence in an assessment or a judgment is based on the logic and the intelligence base that underpins it. So a key factor is the quantity and the quality of source material supporting the judgment.

As I mentioned earlier, after the Iraq WMD intelligence failure, the IC embraced the need for confidence levels associated with important analytic judgments because they provided this additional measure of transparency to our customers. So our confidence level in the first judgment was high; we had high confidence that Syria was building a gas-cooled, graphite-moderated reactor that would be able to produce plutonium. The handheld photos of the reactor components and their striking similarity to the North Korean reactor were the basis for that high confidence. When we took our assessment that the North Koreans were assisting the Syrians with the nuclear reactor project to the president, it was a medium-confidence judgment. And I’ll explain why. The volume of intelligence supporting the broader judgment that North Korean was assisting Syria with some nuclear activity had continued to grow. For example, we had obtained a photograph of the head of the North Korean reactor fuel plant with the head of the Syrian Atomic Energy Commission that had been taken in Syria.

MICHAEL MORELL: We had to remember they were smiling.

MAJA LEHNUS: Yes, they were smiling. One was in an interesting jumpsuit, jogging outfit. So we had intelligence reporting on multiple visits of senior North Koreans from Yongbyon to Syria.

MICHAEL MORELL: Yongbyon is the nuclear site in North Korea.

MAJA LEHNUS: Yes. The location of their their plutonium power reactor.

MICHAEL MORELL: Yeah.

MAJA LEHNUS: Other intelligence reporting revealed North Korean officials procuring equipment for an undisclosed site in Syria.

And finally, we had reporting that both a North Korean nuclear organization and Syrian officials who we knew were associated with the covert nuclear reactor program were involved in a cargo transfer from North Korea. So while all of this intelligence made a compelling case for North Korean nuclear assistance to Syria, it didn’t explicitly connect North Korea to the al-Kibar reactor project.

On the other hand, North Korea was the only country who had made this type of reactor in the past thirty five years. So because that intelligence reporting connecting North Korea nuclear assistance directly to the project was limited, this was communicated as a medium confidence level judgment.

The third judgment that the reactor was part of a Syrian nuclear weapons program was a low confidence level judgment. It was a key judgment that we took to the president because we believed it to be true, the reactor was designed to produce plutonium. Syria went to great lengths to try and keep this facility secret. We considered, but found no other alternative explanations for the facility. And Syria took a major risk by developing this reactor. And that risk only seemed to make sense of the goal were to have nuclear weapons.

However: we had not identified a reprocessing plant in Syria, nor had we identified any Syrian nuclear weapons design or development efforts. A viable nuclear weapons program would require not only the reactor, but those other capabilities as well. We also lacked reporting on intent to have nuclear weapons, so the low confidence level associated with this final judgment was intended to highlight this intelligence gap, the lack of intelligence reporting on the other necessary pieces of the nuclear weapons program and on intent to have nuclear weapons.

MICHAEL MORELL: So Maja, as the Bush administration is taking in all this intelligence and having policy discussions about what to do about all this, something very significant happens in the Syrian desert. What is it?

MAJA LEHNUS: The reactor was destroyed early in the morning of September 6, 2007. Before the reactor was loaded with nuclear fuel or operated, it was destroyed by an Israeli strike operation. Outside the box, a strike that the Israeli government did not officially acknowledge until 2018.

MICHAEL MORELL: And one of the fascinating things to me is the Syrians don’t go public and say that they were attacked by Israel, they don’t retaliate against Israel. They do something else. What do they do?

MAJA LEHNUS: No, they don’t go public, they don’t retaliate. Instead, they forcefully denied that a nuclear facility was destroyed or that they have any undeclared nuclear facilities. What they did was to quickly begin dismantling the ruined reactor building, trying to remove all potentially incriminating nuclear related equipment or structures. They did a lot of work at night and had it hidden by tarps to try to conceal it from our overhead collection.

On 10 October of 2007, they used a massive controlled demolition to try to take down what remained of the building. Now, key reactor components are made with very hard reinforced concrete and are extremely difficult to destroy. So the Syrian efforts to take down the building actually revealed key features of the internal structure of the building, the remains of the concrete reactor vessel, the shielded heat exchange rooms and the spent fuel pool could be seen on imagery corroborating our high confidence judgment that this had been a reactor.
Interestingly enough, the intelligence also indicated that North Korea and nuclear personalities traveled to Syria shortly after the building was destroyed, and this increased our confidence that the North Koreans had been assisting with this nuclear reactor project.

The Syrians’ denial that any nuclear facility was destroyed and their efforts to eliminate all evidence of the reactor also reinforced our assessment that the reactor had been part of a nuclear weapons program.

Syria did eventually manage to remove the incriminating equipment. But that wasn’t where their cover up efforts stopped, they then bulldozed an adjacent hill, putting the dirt on top of the former reactor site and then built a new building right where the reactor had been. These actions were very likely intended to preclude international inspectors from finding reactor debris.

The Syrians also added a water pipeline to a pipeline to a water treatment facility several kilometers away. And the story doesn’t quite end there. In June of 2008, Syria did allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, to visit the al-Kibar site. And despite the Syrian concealment efforts, the IAEA included in their Board of Governors report their assessment that a Syrian facility destroyed by Israel in 2007 was very likely a nuclear installation under construction that should have been declared to the IAEA. And after years of attempting to get Syria to provide additional information, the Board of Governors eventually reported Syria’s non-compliance with its safeguards agreement. They reported this to all IAEA members, to the Security Council and to the General Assembly of the United Nations.

MICHAEL MORELL: So Maja, that’s just a great story. I love that story. Just a few more questions in the time that we have here. Where were you during this time frame? Right from the late 1990s to 2008? What were you doing? What was your role in all this?

MAJA LEHNUS: So I was in the WINPAC front office during much of the period when this story was unfolding. I’ll remind our listeners that WINPAC stood for Weapons Intelligence Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Center. I was selected as the deputy director of WINPAC in late 2003, immediately after leading the internal Iraq WMD review. And I was in that role when we honed in on the particular region of Syria, when we found the Enigma building, when we obtained and analyzed the handheld photos.

I became director of WINPAC in October of 2007, one month after the reactor was destroyed. And I was in the director role during the Syrian cover-up and the administration’s public rollout of the story.

MICHAEL MORELL: And how many, just to give people a sense, how many different analysts from across the intelligence community do you estimate worked on this issue over the time frame we’ve talked about?

MAJA LEHNUS: This was extremely tightly held. Director Hayden personally approved who could have access to the handheld photos. I don’t know the precise number of IC analysts who worked on the issue. My recollection is that there was a small core group, probably no more than 10 analysts across the entire IC who worked on the issue from the beginning. Now, the number grew over time as unique expertise or capabilities needed to be tapped and to ensure that we considered all alternatives. The alternative analysis needed to be conducted by different analysts, analysts who could provide a fresh perspective and were not invested in the existing analytic line. And as the public rollout approached, we had to bring in help to make the video.

MICHAEL MORELL: So so maybe this is a bit of a hard question, Maja, but what was typical about this issue, the analysis on it, and what was atypical.

MAJA LEHNUS: I would say that it is fairly typical for an analytic effort to begin based on a single intelligence report highlighting some interesting activity, and that initial report then leads analysts to look at past reporting through a different lens, thereby potentially finding some additional relevant reporting. And that initial report leads analysts to generate collection requirements for all types of collectors to gather additional intelligence related to the activity going forward.

What was atypical about the analysis on this topic was that CIA was asked to make a video documenting our analysis that would be shared with the press and the American public. Most of CIA’s analytic work is and remains classified.

MICHAEL MORELL: So this this video that we made, and I remember it like it was yesterday, people can actually – our listeners can actually find it online. Where can they find it? And I guess more broadly, why why did the administration decide to make a public video?

MAJA LEHNUS: So the unclassified video the CIA made can be found on YouTube, it’s been broken into two parts, so just search on YouTube, ‘Syria nuclear reactor, Part One and Part Two.’ And they’ve abbreviated Part Two.

As for why we made it, we were tasked by the White House with producing the video, a video that could be made public. As to why a video was chosen, This was a relatively complex topic. And the Iraq WMD failure was still fresh in the minds of many. The presentation laying out the story of the Syrian covert nuclear reactor at al-Kibar needed to be easily understood and very compelling. So it was decided that a video would be the best approach. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words and we had great pictures.

Syrian nuclear reactor allegedly destroyed by Israelis in 2007.

VOA screen grab from Youtube.com

MICHAEL MORELL: We have a few minutes left here. And before we finish up, I’d love to ask you a couple of more questions about your career at CIA and start by asking you what advice you would give to new intelligence officers as they start their career in and as they think about how they can do their best at the job and be successful in their careers.

MAJA LEHNUS: I would love to share some advice for new intelligence officers. In fact, in my last job, I had the opportunity to speak to all of CIA’s new officers at their swearing in ceremony. So I’ll share with our listeners the five pieces of advice that I gave to those officers.

First and foremost, master the tradecraft skills of your occupation, in other words, become expert at the job you were hired to do; those key skills provide the foundation on which you can build a career.

MICHAEL MORELL: You mean both how you do analysis and the knowledge base of the issue that you’re working on? Is that right? Is that how you think about that?

MAJA LEHNUS: Absolutely. So since every directorate has many different occupations and they all have different tradecraft skills, so I just I couch it more broadly. But absolutely in the analytic realm, you have to become expert on your topic and expert at the tradecraft of doing analysis.

MICHAEL MORELL: Yeah, great.

MAJA LEHNUS: You know, my second piece of advice is to network. Intelligence as a team sport. And you can’t succeed in this business on your own. So build relationships across the agency and the. IC. Understanding what different parts of the agency do and the IC do and having a network that allows you to tap expertise residing elsewhere is a great way to facilitate integration.

My third piece of advice is to demonstrate leadership, and I feel very strongly this is something you can do regardless of your role or position. Speak up, have a voice. If you see something that needs to be done, step forward to help get involved. For example, you can join a management advisory group or an employee resource group.

My fourth piece of advice is to never stop learning, take advantage of all learning opportunities. The more you learn, the more valuable you become to your agency and the IC.

And my final piece of advice is to enjoy, enjoy being part of a greater purpose. CIA and sister agencies do amazing work each and every day, enjoy helping deliver on the mission of protecting America.

MICHAEL MORELL: You know, I think what’s great about that list is you can see pieces of all of that in the Syria covert reactor story. I think it kind of all comes together here at the end. Maja, thank you so much for spending time with us today and sharing that great story.

MAJA LEHNUS: Thank you so much for having me. 



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