Senior U.S. Intelligence Official Died by Suicide in June

Anthony Schinella, the national intelligence officer for military issues and a longtime CIA official, killed himself at his home.

Anthony Schinella, the National Intelligence Officer for Military Issues, testifying at a House Armed Services Committee meeting, June 21, 2018.
Anthony Schinella, the National Intelligence Officer for Military Issues, testifying at a House Armed Services Committee meeting on June 21, 2018. Video still: U.S. House Armed Services Committee

One of the nation’s highest-ranking intelligence officials died by suicide at his home in the Washington, D.C., area in June, but the U.S. intelligence community has remained publicly silent about the incident even as the CIA has conducted a secret investigation of his death.

Anthony Schinella, 52, the national intelligence officer for military issues, shot himself on June 14 in the front yard of his Arlington home. A Virginia medical examiner’s report lists Schinella’s cause of death as suicide from a gunshot wound to the head. His wife, who had just married him weeks earlier, told The Intercept that she was in her car in the driveway, trying to get away from Schinella when she witnessed his suicide. At the time of his suicide, Schinella was weeks away from retirement.

Soon after his death, an FBI liaison to the CIA entered Schinella’s house and removed his passports, his secure phone, and searched through his belongings, according to his wife, Sara Corcoran, a Washington journalist. A CIA spokesperson declined to comment for this story.

As NIO for military issues, Schinella was the highest-ranking military affairs analyst in the U.S. intelligence community, and was also a member of the powerful National Intelligence Council, which is responsible for producing the intelligence community’s most important analytical reports that go to the president and other top policymakers.

The National Intelligence Council is now under the control of the Director of National Intelligence, and has recently gained greater public prominence as its analytical work has been caught up in political controversies surrounding the Trump administration, including this summer’s public firestorm over intelligence reports about Russian bounties to kill American troops.

On June 26,  the New York Times reported that Russia paid bounties to the Taliban to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan, and President Donald Trump quickly faced criticism for having failed to do anything in response to protect American troops. Within days, the National Intelligence Council produced a memo that claimed that the intelligence about the bounties wasn’t conclusive. While the memo was not made public, it was quickly picked up in the press and seemed designed to placate Trump by raising doubts about the original news story about the Russian bounties. The NIC memo appears to have been generated at the urging of John Ratcliffe, the former Republican Texas congressman and Trump supporter who became director of national intelligence in May.

But at the time that the memo became public through press reports, there was no mention of the fact that the national intelligence officer for military issues — the one member of the NIC who should have had the most input into the analysis concerning military operations in Afghanistan — had killed himself just days earlier. In fact, Schinella was considered an expert on the Taliban and its military capabilities. Though he was an analyst, Schinella had deployed to four different war zones during his career, his wife said.

A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a graduate degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Schinella had spent much of his career in the CIA before joining the National Intelligence Council. In 2019, the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, published a book by Schinella entitled “Bombs Without Boots,” a study of the limits of the uses of air power in modern war.

Tim Kilbourn, a friend and former colleague of Schinella, described him in an interview as an “American patriot,” and said that his end was a “tragedy,” but declined to comment further. The Arlington County, Virginia, police report on the incident was not immediately available.

Ashley Savage, a spokesperson for the Arlington County Police Department, said the department’s investigation of the Schinella case remains open. She said the Arlington police notified the CIA about Schinella’s death, and that the Arlington police provided assistance to the CIA. “We will defer any questions related to the CIA investigation to their agency,” she added.

After his death, Schinella’s wife discovered a large collection of bondage and S&M gear that had been hidden in his house, along with 24 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition. His wife said that one of Schinella’s CIA colleagues contacted her recently and said the CIA has completed an investigation into Schinella’s death, but didn’t provide her with any details.

Schinella had two children from a previous marriage.

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