This tribute was written by Mr Schinella's current and former colleagues at the Central Intelligence Agency
Tony Ming Schinella, 52, passed away unexpectedly on 14 June 2020, rendering the world a smaller, bleaker place and complicating the work of US leaders grappling with this nation's thorniest national security problems.Tony was a double major at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with degrees in Computer Science and History. He also obtained a Master’s in Public Policy (MPP) degree from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. He possessed a towering intellect—a college friend once remarked even his MIT classmates envied him his brains—and he could easily have gone on to a life of extraordinary success in the information technology business world where he started his career. In an act that speaks to his bone-deep patriotism, he chose instead to apply his energy and ability at the CIA. Rather than the plaudits and financial rewards that surely would have been his in a more public life, he led a highly distinguished—if largely hidden—career in the world of intelligence. Outside of public view across some 30 years, he achieved high rank, earned the respect of senior government officials with whom he worked, and garnered numerous awards for his work here and abroad. Without question, he was among the finest officers of his generation at the CIA.
Tony's singular talent in his chosen profession drew upon and reflected both his astonishing intelligence and an heroic work ethic. At the time of his death, he was serving as the National Intelligence Officer for Military Issues on the National Intelligence Council, functioning as the most senior military analyst in the US Intelligence Community. His rise to that position from his start in 1991 as a graduate fellow was a steady one. He had a seemingly limitless ability to comprehend and retain an enormous amount of information, discern underlying patterns, figure out causal relationships and draw clear conclusions about the nature of events. His ability to express his conclusions in clear, precise language made him invaluable within and beyond the CIA in any number of crises across the past several decades. In conflicts ranging from the Balkans, to Afghanistan, Yemen, and Iraq, he provided unique insights and a clear decision advantage to the most senior US policymakers.
Over the decades, whenever the nation called, Tony responded by taking on some of the most difficult analytic assignments confronting the Intelligence Community. He followed nearly the entirety of the Balkan conflict and his analytic judgments helped US diplomats bring a restive peace to Bosnia. Volunteering after 9/11, he was among the first to help US forces understand Taliban military capabilities, saving US lives, and providing direct support to the US forces and allies who fought al Qa'ida in Afghanistan. For years his work on the ground war in Afghanistan was required reading for policymakers struggling to bring to a conclusion America's longest war, just as years earlier he and a small group of colleagues were instrumental in forging a deeper understanding of the dynamics at play within Iraq.
Tony's analytic skills were grounded in his love for and understanding of history. As the author of Bombs Without Boots: The Limits of Airpower, published by Brookings Institution Press in 2019, he broke new analytic ground on the limitations of using air power with his assessment of five post-Cold War cases. A former US undersecretary of defense for intelligence stated that this work would become foundational reading for intelligence officers and military strategists for years to come. A natural and gifted teacher, Tony's legacy will live on in the hundreds of intelligence and military officers that he mentored. Tony was a member of the Senior Intelligence Service and had earned multiple awards for his exceptional performance and support to the US military.
Those of us who had the pleasure to know Tony know that there is a little less laughter in the world today. The editor of MIT's humor magazine in his undergraduate days, and a participant in several legendary stunts when he was there, including the construction atop a domed university building of a replica Cambridge police car, replete with cops eating donuts, he was as funny as he was brilliant. In graduate school, he wrote for the Let’s Go Guides, contributing to their Tunisia edition where he swore his life was saved by a bottle of Coke. In a different life, he could easily have been a gifted comic. An inspired raconteur, he not infrequently made his colleagues laugh until they cried with a random observation about some bureaucratic inanity or other. He sought out the most exotic and frequently overlooked destinations. He travelled to more than 100 countries on six continents, spoke several languages and was able to pick up the basics of practically any language before he even left for the airport. He was always happy when his passport was full of stamps before the expiration date- and that happened quite often.
Absent his wisdom, the country's leaders will struggle all the harder to address a range of crises. American national security is the weaker for his passing. He was a good man, and his friends and family will miss him. He is survived by his father, Roger, and his brothers, Gregory and Matteo. He was predeceased by his loving mother, Clara. He is survived by his loving wife, Sara Corcoran. He is also survived by his two daughters, Katherine and Suzanne.
A memorial will be announced at a later date.
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