last updated: November 29, 2012
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- Mitt Romney 2012 Presidential Campaign: Foreign policy advisor
- Mitt Romney 2008 Presidential Campaign: Foreign policy advisor
- Blackbird Technologies: Vice President (current)
- Blackwater USA/International: Vice Chairman, Head of Total Intelligence Solutions (2005-2008)
- U.S. State Department: Ambassador at large for counterterrorism (2002-2004)
- Central Intelligence Agency: Various posts from 1974-2002, head of Counterterrorism Center 1999-2002
- University of Southern California: MA, BA
Cofer Black is a former CIA officer, State Department official, and Blackwater executive who advised both the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
During the 2012 campaign, conservative journalist Eli Lake described Black as “Mitt Romney’s trusted envoy to the dark side” of the U.S. intelligence community. “Black has known Romney since 2007, when the candidate was running for president the first time, and has been an important adviser ever since,” Lake wrote. “But unlike other Romney foreign-policy aides, he does not spend time tweaking speeches or coming up with nuanced ways to explain the candidate’s positions on international affairs. Instead, he often acts as the campaign’s in-house intelligence officer,” arranging meetings for the candidate with former intelligence officials and providing briefs from foreign intelligence agencies.
Black’s 28-year CIA career reached its peak from 1999-2002, when Black served as the head of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center (CTC). As one of the primary CIA officers charged with pursuing Al Qaeda operatives both before and after the September 11 attacks, Black faced considerable scrutiny for his role in the government’s failure to stop the attackers. A classified report from the CIA’s internal watchdog, reported the Guardian, implicated Black in the CIA’s “failure to place hijackers Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf Alhazmi on a government watchlist in 2000 and to inform the FBI that the other September 11 hijackers had entered the US,” leaving Black subject to a possible formal reprimand.
After the September 11 attacks, Black famously remarked of Al Qaeda, “When we're through with them they will have flies walking across their eyeballs.” He later told Russian officials, whose help he sought as the United States prepared to invade Afghanistan, "We're going to kill them. We're going to put their heads on sticks. We're going to rock their world."
In the early days of the war on terror, according to theWashington Post, Black was “known for his leading role in many of the [CIA]’s more controversial programs, including the rendition and interrogation of al-Qaeda suspects and the detention of some of them in secret prisons overseas.” According to the 9/11 Commission Report, Black was also an early advocate of launching unmanned drone strikes against alleged enemy combatants in Afghanistan.
Black left government service in 2004 after serving two years as the Bush administration’s ambassador at large for counterterrorism, signing on as a Vice Chairman of Blackwater USA, the controversial private security firm founded by Erik Prince. At Blackwater, Black assembled the “Total Intelligence Solutions” operation, a risk consultancy for private corporations doing business overseas that, Black told the Washington Post, brought “the skills traditionally honed by CIA operatives directly to the board room.” He added, “We provide intelligence to our clients. It's not about taking pictures. It's business intelligence. We collect all information that's publicly available. This is a completely legal enterprise. We break no laws. We don't go anywhere near breaking laws. We don't have to."
Black resigned from Blackwater in 2008, reportedly after learning of the company’s bribing of Iraqi officials as protests came to a head over the Nisour Square massacre, a 2007 incident in which Blackwater employees murdered 17 Iraqi civilians and wounded dozens more in an apparently indiscriminate attack.
According to the biography from his speakers bureau (which also credits him with having “conceived, planned and led the CIA’s war in Afghanistan”), Black “is currently the Vice President of Blackbird Technologies, a military contractor that offers state-of-the-art technology-based solutions to intelligence, defense and corporate challenges.”