CIA suspends Iran operations chief for creating ‘abusive and hostile work environment’
The L.A. Times reports that the CIA has put the chief of Iran operations unit on paid administrative leave after an internal investigation found he had created an abusive and hostile work environment, putting his division in disarray.
Jonathan Bank, a veteran officer and member of the senior intelligence service, was suspended and sent home from agency headquarters last week, according to current and former officials.
Officers and analysts in the Iran operations division, which coordinates spying on Iran and its nuclear program, were informed of his departure at a meeting last week at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va.
According to three former officials, the Iran operations division was openly rebelling against Bank’s management style, with several key employees demanding transfers.
“Iran is one of most important targets, and the place was not functioning,” explained one of the officials.
While Bank is technically undercover, his name has been public since 2010 when he was pulled out as CIA station chief in Islamabad after newspapers in Pakistan, India, England published his name in connection with a court case, and he was rumored to have received death threats. U.S. officials believe Pakistan’s intelligence service leaked his name over a dispute with the CIA over drone attacks in the country’s tribal areas.
Without commenting on the specifics of the Bank suspension, Dean Boyd, the agency’s chief spokesman, explained that the agency has certain expectations of management personnel.
“As a general matter, the CIA expects managers at all levels to demonstrate leadership skills and foster an environment that helps their employees perform at the highest levels to achieve agency objectives,” Boyd said. “Whenever that doesn’t happen, we examine the situation carefully and take appropriate action.”
Several former CIA officials stated they couldn’t remember a senior manager being suspended over workplace issues, however management problems are a recurring issue for the agency.
An internal CIA workplace survey in 2009 found that those who left the spy agency frequently cited bad management as a factor, particularly those in the clandestine service.