By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers.
Working in a war zone isn't much fun during the holidays, and it's even worse if you don't have a support group like, say, the military's USO. Well, we hear that the CIA knows that, and it established "Operation Holiday Express" to send some traditional American treats to its gang in Iraq and Afghanistan. This year, CIA employees played Santa and donated 9,428 pounds of coffee, chocolate, cookies, snacks, DVDs, CDs, magazines, and other goodies hard to get on the war front to colleagues, a 25 percent increase from last year's haul. It all came together last month when workers across the CIA collected, sorted, and packed the donations for what one insider called "a highly successful clandestine operation."
The giving came with a broader Christmas message sent out by CIA Director Mike Hayden-said to be in line to stay on in the Obama administration. He thanked his team for its "selfless dedication" and extended good wishes to the families of his staff "whose sacrifice is equally appreciated." Hayden has made it a practice to focus on his troops in announcements to the agency. We hear that in a year-end message to senior managers, he noted the difficulties of the job but pointed out the agency's stepped-up effort to fight terrorists, boost morale, and hire analysts, operations officers, scientists, engineers, and administrative specialists. He said that 2008 "has not been without challenges or an occasional speed bump, but it has been a wonderful year for the agency."