By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
Proving that once you're in the CIA you can never leave, longtime agency officer Mark Mansfield is bowing out as director of public affairs for another slot, clearing the way for new spy chief Leon Panetta to pick his own press aide. In the meantime, Mansfield's deputy Paul Gimigliano will serve as acting director of public affairs.
"As is frequently the case when new CIA directors take the helm, Director Panetta had indicated shortly after being confirmed that he wanted to bring in his own person to head up public affairs. This is something that I understood, respected, and anticipated fully," said the well-respected Mansfield.
It's unclear where he will end up, but Mansfield said he is not leaving the agency he joined in 1982. "I love the place, and I love the people. And I did the public-affairs job here for a good, long stretch," he told Whispers this morning. He has worked for nine directors, holding various media and speechwriting jobs. He won the CIA's highest award, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, in 2005, and was given the Director's Award by former CIA Directors Mike Hayden and George Tenet for whom he handled questions about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the drawn-out torture debate.
Here's Mansfield's note to the media going out today:
"During my career, I have had the pleasure of serving in one or another public affairs capacity for nine different CIA directors, and that has included assisting Director Panetta as he settled in at the Agency. It has been an honor to serve all of them.
"It has been said that doing public affairs work at the CIA is the ultimate oxymoron. I'm not convinced that's the case. But hardly a day passed when I didn't see the humor in—and incongruity of—doing this sort of work for an espionage organization that, by necessity and in order to be successful, must keep certain matters secret. It has been one heck of a ride, and though some days were a little tougher than others, I enjoyed them all. It has been a privilege not only to help defend the agency as an institution, but to help defend the talented, courageous CIA officers who do everything they can, within the laws of our great nation, to keep America safe.
"Even though far more brickbats come their way than they deserve—and they seldom get credit for the enormous good that they do on behalf of our country—CIA officers are resilient and take great pride in their work. They are patriots and heroes. It has been—and continues to be—a blessing to serve with them.
"I also want to thank my terrific team in CIA's Office of Public Affairs. Pound for pound, I think they are among the finest, most responsive public affairs officers in government. They made it a delight to come to work every day, and I know they'll continue to serve with distinction.
"I look forward to the opportunities ahead. But I also want to take the opportunity to thank you and your colleagues for your professionalism over the years and the vital service that you provide our country. Those of us in intelligence understand the risks inherent in your own work. We know how difficult your job is, how thankless it can be, and how critical it is to our democracy."