Duane Ramsdell Clarridge, a legendary CIA officer who established the agency’s counterterrorism center, died Saturday due to complications from throat cancer. He was 83.
Born in Nashua, N.H., in 1932, Clarridge’s 33-year career included a stint in the early 80’s as the chief of the CIA’s Latin America Division, where he directed the operations of the Nicaraguan Resistance, along with other major intelligence and security programs in Central America and the Caribbean.
After two years as the head of the European Division, Clarridge -- known by his nickname Dewey -- was chosen in 1986 to organize and direct the Counterrorist Center, authorized by President Reagan to penetrate and destroy international terrorist groups.
The center, under his guidance, paired CIA agents with intelligence and tech specialists in order to better combat the growing threat of terrorism.
“Most importantly, the model originally established by Mr. Clarridge remains the centerpiece of the United States’ operations today globally against Islamic extremist terrorist groups," CIA colleague Charlie Allen said in a statement.
He retired in 1988 and in 1991 was indicted over the Iran-Contra affair. When asked why he was wearing a World War II British SAS battle jacket to a court appearance, he replied “because I’m going to a war I intend to win.” He was later pardoned along with five others by President George H.W. Bush in 1992.
After he retired, he set up the Clarridge “Eclipse Network,” which provided a constant flow of information on the threat to U.S. personnel and facilities in the Middle East. The Eclipse Network confirmed Usama bin Laden’s base in Pakistan, helped locate and rescue hostages and found evidence of Saddam Hussein’s weapons research in Iraq.
In November, he dealt a serious blow to former neurosurgeon Ben Carson’s presidential campaign. As an adviser to Carson on terrorism and national security, he told The New York Times in November: “Nobody has been able to sit down with him and have him get one iota of intelligent information about the Middle East.” He also called for Carson to have weekly meetings so “we can make him smart.”
Clarridge is survived by his wife, three children and five grandchildren.
Fox News’ Catherine Herridge contributed to this report.