A USAF Bombardier E11A intelligence gathering jet was cruising over Afghanistan on a secret mission, transporting two crewmen and allegedly, a mysterious chain-smoking CIA operative, Michael D’Andrea — also known as Dark Prince and Ayatollah Mike — when something bad happened over a remote, mountainous region.
Media reports on Iranian State television showed a crumpled, burning wreck — clearly there were no survivors. It also claimed that D’Andrea, chief of the CIA’s special Iran task force, which goes by the name Iran Mission Center, was one of the casualties.
According to a special report by Philip Giraldi in the American Herald Tribune, forty-eight hours after the crash the Pentagon released a statement confirming that the two crewmen were Lt. Col. Paul K. Voss, 46, of Yigo, Guam; and Capt. Ryan S. Phaneuf, 30, of Hudson, New Hampshire. The CIA and the White House, refused further comment.
The Iranian account was picked up throughout the Middle East, to include photos taken of the downed plane and of burned corpses, the report said. Russian media also featured the story and it was eventually even reported, though with some editorial skepticism, by the Independent and Daily Mail in the UK.
Many who were following the story were inclined to believe the account circulated by Iran and other media outlets because the US has a horrible track record of lying about nearly everything, the report said.
Iran would have had plenty of motive to create confusion about the United States and what it was doing in Afghanistan, particularly if the implication is that Afghanistan was being used as a launching pad to destabilize or even attack Iran, the report said.
Was it shot down deliberately, payback for the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the once dashing commander of the elite Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard?
Going by the wreckage photos, the aircraft looks to be level, relative to the ground … not the kind of wreckage of a plane shot out of the sky. In fact, it looks like the pilot(s) tried to make a last ditch attempt to make an emergency landing in rough terrain.
Some Iran-linked websites have claimed responsibility. Reportedly, the CIA officer’s body was taken by the militants, along with a stash of top secret CIA documents. On that basis, alone, this is a major intelligence coup for Iran.
The White House and CIA have neither confirmed nor denied the reports, or if D’Andrea is alive or dead. Cue the media speculation.
The former chief of the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center, he was appointed to his current position by then Agency Director Mike Pompeo in 2017. The New York Times reported that his appearance would mean a much harder line in opposing Iran by the Trump administration, the report said.
Within the Agency, D’Andrea was reportedly referred to as the Dark Prince or Ayatollah Mike, nicknames he acquired while heading the search for Osama bin Laden and also while directed drone strikes against al-Qaeda targets, the report said.
A chain-smoking convert to Islam, he is not your conventional Agency officer, many of whom are more comfortable working from an embassy desk rather than a helicopter. A workaholic who keeps a roll away bed in his office, D’Andrea is, as a result of his abrasive style, reportedly extremely difficult to work with.
Whether he is alive or dead, the tale of his so-called death serves as a warning from Iran. Even an obstinate White House can’t help but think that killing men like Soleimani might not be such a great idea — if we continue to do it to “them,” “they” will turn around and “do it to us.”