Michael D'Andrea

Michael D'Andrea is an officer of the Central Intelligence Agency who spent nine years as director of Counterterrorism Center (CTC) during the war on terror, serving as a major figure in the search for Osama bin Laden, as well as the American drone strike targeted killing campaign.[1] In 2017 he was appointed to head the agency's Iran Mission Center, one of the earliest moves in what became the 'maximum pressure' strategy of the Trump administration against Iran.[1] In January 2020, there were unverified reports of his death.

Michael D'Andrea
Central Intelligence Agency Counterterrorism Center
In office
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
Barack Obama
Preceded by Robert Grenier
Succeeded by Chris Wood
Personal details
Spouse(s)Faridah Currimjee D'Andrea
  • "Ayatollah Mike"
  • "The Prince of Darkness"
  • "The Dark Prince"
  • "The Undertaker"
  • Roger (cover identity)

Early lifeEdit

D'Andrea was raised in Northern Virginia.[1] His family has ties to the CIA that span two generations.[2] He met his wife while working overseas with the Central Intelligence Agency, and converted to Islam in order to marry her.[1][3] His wife, Faridah Currimjee D'Andrea is a daughter of a wealthy Muslim family from Mauritius with Gujarati origins.[4] She serves as a senior director of Currimjee Group, a business conglomerate owned by her family with holdings including print media, telecommunications, real estate, tourism, financial services and energy.[5][6]


D'Andrea joined the CIA in 1979, and he was considered an underperformer at "The Farm", the CIA's training center at Camp Peary, Virginia.[7] 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.[7][8] D'Andrea previously served as chief of station in Cairo, Egypt and later in Baghdad, Iraq.[7][9]

The War on TerrorEdit

D'Andrea is credited with an instrumental role in the War on Terror, with The New York Times concluding "perhaps no single CIA official is more responsible for weakening Al Qaeda".[1] Prior to the attacks he was reportedly one of the CIA officials who failed to track one of the hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi.[9] Following 9/11 D'Andrea was deeply involved[1] in the CIA's detention and interrogation programs, and his operatives also oversaw the interrogations of Abu Zubaydah, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, which were criticized in the unclassified executive summary of a 2014 United States Senate report.[1][10] He also targeted affiliate terror groups, and was reportedly involved in the assassination of Hezbollah member Imad Mughniyah in Damascus, Syria.[1]

He initially became head of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center in 2006, replacing Robert Grenier.[11] During his nine-year tenure, he presided over hundreds of American drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, including so-called "signature strikes", advocating for the program to the United States Congress.[1][10]

He later received blame for the Camp Chapman attack in Khost, Afghanistan, when seven CIA officers were killed by a suicide bomb detonated by a triple agent allegedly backed by Pakistan's ISI.[7][9] The bomber, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, an Al Qaeda affiliate recruited by Jordanian Intelligence, had been invited to Camp Chapman after claiming to have information related to senior al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al-Balawi was not searched as a sign of respect because of his perceived value as someone who could infiltrate the ranks of senior al-Qaeda leaders.

D'Andrea later directed the analysis of competing hypotheses as to who, besides Osama bin Laden, could be in the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan where Bin Laden was later found and killed.[12]

In 2015, leadership of the drone program was passed to Chris Wood, following bureaucratic reshuffling by Director John Brennan.[10][13]

Iran missionEdit

Since 2017, D'Andrea has served as leader of the CIA's Iran Mission Center, which observers have suggested is an example of the hard line approach against Iran which President Trump expressed during the 2016 campaign.[1] It was also alleged that D'Andrea was involved in the operation that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.[14][15]


Because of the secretive nature of his career in clandestine service, D'Andrea has been described using a number of aliases. During his time at the Counterterrorism Center many reporters referred to him only by the first name of his cover identity "Roger", which is considered unusual for an official not posted overseas.[3][7][9] A surly, chain smoking workaholic who sometimes slept in his office, other nicknames attributed to D'Andrea by colleagues and reporters include "Ayatollah Mike", "the Prince of Darkness",[16] "the Dark Prince",[1] and "the Undertaker."[17] In Kathryn Bigelow's 2012 film Zero Dark Thirty, a fictionalized CIA officer based on D'Andrea is known simply as "The Wolf".

Despite years in a prominent CIA assignment, D'Andrea's real name did not become public until a 2015 profile by Mark Mazzetti of The New York Times,[10] one month after leaving the role of CTC director.[18] His outing by the paper while still an active undercover officer of the CIA prompted backlash from many former intelligence officers, particularly after Iranian state media published photos of D'Andrea and his wife the following day.[19][20] In an opinion piece in the Washington Post, conservative author Marc A. Thiessen said that Iran often targeted Americans it considered enemies, such as with the murder of Bill Buckley, the Beirut station chief kidnapped, tortured, and executed by Islamic Jihad in 1985.[21] Mazzetti defended his decision, contending he was compelled to act after a January 2015 signature strike in the southern Pakistani region of Waziristan, which led to the collateral deaths of aid workers Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto. The strike was authorized by D'Andrea and CIA leadership independent of White House oversight, and also killed American-born al Qaeda commanders Adam Yahiye Gadahn and Ahmed Farouq, who were the intended targets.[9]

Speculated deathEdit

At 8:30 AM (UTC) on January 27, 2020, a United States military aircraft crashed in eastern Afghanistan. Soon after, several websites affiliated with Russia and Iran[22][23] subsequently reported that D'Andrea died in the crash after the U.S. Air Force Bombardier E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft was shot down by the Taliban.[14] Reports speculated that D'Andrea's body, along with top secret CIA documents, were taken by militants.[14][24]

Early reports from an Iranian television network provided no evidence to confirm D'Andrea was killed.[15][22] According to witnesses and officials, the plane crashed and was not shot down.[14] 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.[24] Time described reports that D'Andrea had died in the crash as "propaganda" and a "dubious story", quoting two anonymous sources within CIA who denied the story, saying it’s “business as usual” for the senior official, stating that if someone as senior as D’Andrea were killed, he’d likely be buried with full honors in Arlington Cemetery, and within 24 hours of his demise in keeping with Islamic funeral custom.[23] Polygraph.info said the claims D'Andrea died in the crash were unsupported and likely false.[14] According to their reporting, there has also been no confirmation of D'Andrea's involvement in Soleimani's death.[14] Voice of America reported that all five people on board were killed.[25] The Department of Defense only confirmed two fatalities recovered at the crash site.[26]

The CIA neither confirms nor denies whether any of their personnel were onboard.[23]

In popular cultureEdit

D'Andrea was the inspiration for the character of "The Wolf" in Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty.[3][9]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k 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.
  2. ^ L'homme de la Maison-Blanche : les mille et une vies d'Ayatollah Mike
  3. ^ a b c Cook, John (March 26, 2015). "Why Won't the Post Name CIA Counterterrorism Chief Michael D'Andrea?". Gawker. Retrieved June 2, 2017.
  4. ^ "CIA Agent Ayatollah Mike's Face Revealed: Iran's View". Iran's View. June 3, 2017. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
  5. ^ https://www.currimjee.com/
  6. ^ https://www.ahaber.com.tr/yazarlar/ergun-diler/2018/01/03/cumaya-dikkat-1514957774
  7. ^ a b c d e Miller, Greg (March 24, 2012). "At CIA, a convert to Islam leads the terrorism hunt". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 13, 2012.
  8. ^ Key Officers of Foreign Service Posts: Guide for Business Representatives. DIANE Publishing Company. 1998. p. 113. ISBN 9780788148682. RAO: Michael A. D'Andrea
  9. ^ a b c d e f Schou, Nicholas (June 28, 2017). "Outing the CIA's 'Undertaker'". Newsweek. Archived from the original on June 2, 2017.
  10. ^ a b c d 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.
  11. ^ Cockburn, Andrew (2015). Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins. Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 9780805099270.
  12. ^ Zenko, Micah (2015). Red Team: How to Succeed By Thinking Like the Enemy. Basic Books. pp. 100–101. ISBN 9780465073955.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ a b c d e f Tlis, Fatima (February 4, 2020). "Unsupported Claims that CIA’s Iran Chief Died in Afghan Crash" Polygraph.info.
  15. ^ a b 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.
  16. ^ Blout, Emily (2020-03-03). "Ayatollah Mike and the IRGC's growing credibility gap". Atlantic Council. Retrieved 2020-11-25.
  17. ^ "CIA chief 'behind Soleimani's assassination' killed in downed plane in Afghanistan". Middle East Monitor. 2020-01-28. Retrieved 2020-11-25.
  18. ^ Gidda, Mirren (2017-06-02). "Who is Michael D'Andrea, Trump's new Iran chief?". Newsweek. Retrieved 2020-11-25.
  19. ^ "CIA Agent Ayatollah Mike's Face Revealed: Iran's View". Iran's View. 2017-06-03. Retrieved 2020-12-01.
  20. ^ Balestrieri, Steve (2017-07-26). "The Public's Need to Know Doesn't Include Names of Covert Operatives". SOFREP. Retrieved 2020-12-01.
  21. ^ Thiessen, Marc A. (2017-06-07). "Opinion | The New York Times recklessly exposes a CIA operative's identity". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2020-12-01.
  22. ^ a b 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.
  23. ^ a b c Dozier, Kimberly (January 31, 2020). "A U.S. Plane Crashed in Afghanistan. Why So Many Believed a CIA Chief Was On It." Time.
  24. ^ a b Makichuk, Dave (2020-02-06). "CIA mystery: Did Iran kill 'Ayatollah Mike?'". Asia Times. Retrieved 2020-04-17.
  25. ^ Tanzeem, Ayeesha. "Official: 5 Killed in Afghanistan Plane Crash". Voice of America. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  26. ^ "U.S. forces recover bodies of two U.S. service members from site of plane crash in Taliban territory in Afghanistan". The Washington Post. 28 January 2020. Retrieved 28 January 2020.