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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.[citation needed]



Pavitt was born in St. Louis, Missouri and graduated from the University of Missouri (B.A., 1968) in Columbia, Missouri[1] as a member of Phi Beta Kappa.[2] 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,[2] 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.[1]

Intelligence careerEdit

Pavitt served in the United States Army from 1969-1971 as an intelligence officer and was a legislative assistant with the House of Representatives from 1971 until 1973.

Pavitt joined the CIA in 1973 as a Career Trainee with postings to Europe, Asia and Washington.[citation needed] He was posted to Vienna (1976-1978), East Berlin (1978-1980), Budapest, Hungary and Malaysia (1980-1983).[3] He was expelled (PNG'd) from East Germany.[3] He was chief of station in Luxembourg (1983-1986).[3][4] He served as a Branch Chief in the Africa Division.[5] 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.[6] 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.[5] In 1997 he was appointed Associate Deputy Director of Operations. He was Deputy Director of Operations from 1999 until his resignation in 2004.[1][7] In 2003, the CPD took down the nuclear black market being operated by Abdul Qadeer Khan.[5]

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.[1]

In April 2004 he appeared before the 9/11 Commission.[7] The BBC called his 9/11 commission appearance 'unprecedented'.[7] 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.[8]

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."[9] 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.[citation needed] 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.[10]

Pavitt is a recipient of the CIA's Distinguished Intelligence Medal.[2] He is also a recipient of the CIA Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal, the CIA Director’s Medal and the Donovan Award.[11]

Post-CIA workEdit

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.[6] to Olton Solutions Ltd. in the United Kingdom and to The Scowcroft Group.[2][11]

He is a director of CACI International, Inc.[11]

Criticism and controversyEdit

Some former operations officers are critical of Pavitt, citing his four international postings over ten years in a 30-year career as insufficient experience for a Deputy Director of Operations.[4] 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.[12]

External linksEdit



  1. ^ a b c d Dana Priest, Retired Official Defends the CIA's Performance, [1], Washington Post, November 5, 2004
  2. ^ a b c d James L. Pavitt Bio, [2], Scowcroft Group
  3. ^ a b c Vernon Loeb, Rebuilding Clandestine Operations, [3], Washington Post, September 20, 1999
  4. ^ a b Jason Vest, Spy Versus Spy, [4], The American Prospect, June 4, 2004
  5. ^ a b c Valerie Plame Wilson, Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House, [5], pp 353., Simon and Schuster, ISBN 141658336X, 9781416583363, Oct 22, 2007
  6. ^ a b James L. Pavitt Biography, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-12-31. Retrieved 2013-03-13.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link), Patriot Defense Group
  7. ^ a b c "Second top official to quit CIA". Retrieved 2009-04-15.
  8. ^ "Transcript: Wednesday's 9/11 Commission Hearings". The Washington Post. March 24, 2004. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
  9. ^ "Goss pushes changeat CIA". The Washingtion Times.
  10. ^ Remarks by Deputy Director for Operations James L. Pavitt at the Foreign Policy Association. [6], June 21, 2004
  11. ^ a b c Forbes Profile: James Pavitt, [7], Forbes, retrieved 2013-03-13
  12. ^ 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.
Government offices
Preceded by
Jack G. Downing
CIA Deputy Director for Operations
August 1999 – June 4, 2004
Succeeded by
Stephen Kappes