The Spy Who Cracked Up In The Cold

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From Afghanistan to Iraq, Andrew Warren  was a star CIA agent in the War on Terror.  But did a life of secrets and severe interrogation lead to the sex crime he’s in prison for?

By Michael Hastings
Apr 07, 2013

EARLY ONE MORNING IN APRIL, the former CIA agent sat inside a room at a seedy Ramada Inn in Norfolk, Virginia, smoking crack with a Glock 9mm service pistol in his shorts. He was 42 years old, three weeks into an epic bender, and believed he had only two choices in life: die or go to jail. With him was a young couple he’d met a few weeks earlier who only knew him as Dave – a guy with a raging two-ounce-a-week crack-and-cocaine habit and some serious boundary issues. “He would say, like, a lot of creepy things to me,” the woman, Jessica, would later tell a local TV news reporter. “Like, when my boyfriend wasn’t around, like inappropriate things.” She also didn’t know that she was about to witness the final act in the collapse of a man who had done and seen acts committed in the shadows of the War on Terror.

Andrew Warren was a rarity in the CIA’s Clandestine Service – African-American, fluent in Arabic and relatively young for an agent who’d already spent nearly a decade chasing terrorists in Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq and Algeria, so deep undercover­ that few of his friends or family knew the nature of his work. Throughout the wildest days of the fight against Al Qaeda, when the CIA ran torture, rendition and assassination programs from black sites around the globe, Warren was a key player, “the black Steven Seagal,” in the words of one of his mentors.

But all that had ended 18 months earlier, in October 2008, when Warren was called back to America, charged with sexual assault – the government claimed he’d drugged and raped an Algerian woman while serving there as station chief – and fired from the agency.

Since then, another warrant had been issued, for indecent exposure: Warren had allegedly visited a Norfolk neighbor’s house with his “genitals hanging out of his pants,” the neighbor told the local news. He skipped a court date without telling his lawyers. His father had filed a missing-persons report.

Inside the hotel room, the phone rang. Jessica picked it up.

We are law-enforcement officers with the United States government, and we’re here to arrest Andrew Warren. The rest of you, come out with your hands up.

Jessica and her boyfriend walked out into the sunlit parking lot “without incident,” according to a court document, where a small army had gathered. There were agents from the U.S. Marshals Service, Diplomatic Security Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Snipers had positioned themselves out of sight, and a SWAT team in full-body armor was prepared to storm the room. As Warren stumbled out behind Jessica, a deputy U.S. marshal yelled commands.

Keep your hands up! Warren’s hands fluttered toward his waistline. Lay down on the ground!

Warren refused and, as the officers approached, ran, with six agents in pursuit. The marshal tackled him to the ground, and five other agents piled on. Warren lifted his shirt, revealing the Glock. He was tasered, cuffed, thrown in the backseat of a police sedan and delivered to a local hospital.

In June 2010, he was sentenced to 65 months in prison at Federal Correctional Institution Ashland in northeastern Kentucky. For the past two years, he’s been desperately trying to get out of jail, arguing that he’s innocent and feeling abandoned by the government that had trained him to play a dirty game.

Last August, Rolling Stone began a long e-mail correspondence with Warren. The story he tells, and that all available evidence confirms, presents a harrowing account of the morality-scrambling life of a covert operative in the age of enhanced interrogation and “black sites.” Vice President Dick Cheney had famously ordered the agency to use “any means at our disposal” after September 11th, and Warren enthusiastically obliged. But in the end, a spy who’d been everywhere and seen everything wasn’t brought down by the extra­legal activities of the CIA – the drones, the kidnappings, the torture. He was undone by a sex crime.

This is an extract. To read the full story, pick up a copy of Rolling Stone Middle East, available at over 200 outlets in the UAE and GCC.



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