November 9th, 2012
09:12 PM ET

Who will replace Petraeus atop the CIA?

By Pam Benson

So who might be the replacement for David Petraeus? The rumor mill was in full swing Friday after the CIA director stepped down, saying he had an extramarital affair.

One person being discussed is Michael Morell, the now acting CIA director, who could be named to the position permanently.


President Barack Obama thinks highly of Morell, several U.S. officials told CNN's Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin.

In his statement on the resignation of Petraeus, Obama expressed the "utmost confidence" in Morell continuing the work of the CIA.

Also: Petraeus stand-in has been through this before

Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein also expressed support of Morell, saying "the agency is in very good hands until the president selects a replacement."

But at the top could very well be John Brennan, the president's powerful adviser for counterterrorism and homeland security.

Brennan has shaped the White House's strategy to aggressively pursue suspected terrorists, dramatically escalating the use of armed unmanned aircraft to kill them in the ungoverned territories of Pakistan and in Yemen. Small teams of special operations forces have been deployed to critical locations. And Brennan is said to have the complete trust of Obama.

What could hold him back is exactly why he pulled out of contention for the CIA director's position in 2008 when the newly elected Obama was putting together his administration. Liberal bloggers accused Brennan of supporting outgoing President George W. Bush's policy of harsh interrogation techniques.

Brennan withdrew his name from consideration in an angry letter to Obama.

"It has been immaterial to the critics that I have a been strong opponent of many of the policies of the Bush administration such as preemptive war in Iraq and coercive interrogation tactics," Brennan wrote.

In the end, Brennan wound up with a more powerful position in the administration.

More recently, the White House has been criticized by some Republicans for leaks of sensitive information on counterterrorism operations. Brennan has called the leaks devastating and vehemently denied administration officials were involved. But the controversy could make for a difficult confirmation hearing if he is nominated.

Although many people say they think Brennan is ready to leave the administration after four years in an extremely demanding job, some who are close to him believe he still has his eyes set on the CIA job.

Another possibility for the position: Jane Harman, the former congresswoman from California who is well-respected within intelligence circles.

While in Congress she served as the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, chaired the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, and was a member of the Armed Services Committee. Although a social liberal, Harman was seen as a moderate on intelligence and defense issues. She voted for the war in Iraq and initially supported the controversial domestic surveillance program run by the Bush administration.

Harman left Congress to run the Woodrow Wilson International Center, but still speaks out often on intelligence and foreign policy issues.

Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers is another name being bandied about.

Vickers has spent most of his career in the military and the intelligence community. Early on, he served as an Army Green Beret and a CIA operations officer. He helped arm the mujahedeen in Afghanistan in their battle against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s. His role in that operation was depicted in the 2007 movie, "Charlie Wilson's War," based on a book written by George Crile. Vickers later was named Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations.

In his current position, Vickers simultaneously serves as the director of defense intelligence in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and as the primary military liaison to the CIA. His extensive experience working with the intelligence community and special operations forces is particularly noteworthy at a time when both services are a key component of counterterrorism strategy.

Another potential candidate is Mike Leiter, the former director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). The Harvard Law School graduate spent six years in the Navy flying missions over Bosnia and Iraq. After a stint as a federal prosecutor, Leiter served as the assistant director of a presidential commission on weapons of mass destruction, and was later named deputy chief of staff for the director of National Intelligence.

President George W. Bush appointed him director of NCTC, a position he continued in during the Obama administration. As director, Leiter oversaw more than 1,000 analysts charged with sifting through information gathered throughout the intelligence community in an effort to prevent terrorist attacks.

Although well-respected with strong support on Capitol Hill, Leiter did face criticism for the NCTC's failure to connect the dots when a Nigerian man tried unsuccessfully to blow up a Detroit bound airliner on Christmas Day in 2009.

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Filed under: CIA • Petraeus
soundoff (71 Responses)
  1. Mkeey

    Victoria‑Nuland should replace Hilary Clinton. She did a brilliant work as her spokewoman

    November 13, 2012 at 3:19 am | Reply
  2. MrCar

    How about hillary? she needs some espionage experience to boost her resume for the 2016 campaign. Bill can teach her how to go "undercover."

    November 12, 2012 at 9:10 pm | Reply
    • Frank

      That was mt first choice, as she has been involved with foreign affairs for so long. Also, I feel that she probably knows more about CIA operations than the vast majority of the possible candidates.

      November 13, 2012 at 11:33 am | Reply
  3. Banjoman

    Clint Eastwood...

    November 12, 2012 at 6:33 am | Reply
  4. Joe

    I say Douglas Feith. No big deal that he was investigated for passing secrets to AIPAC. Better we put him in charge of the CIA so that way the circle will be complete and the fig leaf is gone.

    November 11, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Reply
  5. Portland tony

    The question should be "Who will replace Patraeus atop Paula Broadwell?"

    November 11, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Reply
  6. MikeB

    I'm sure Putin has some recommendations.

    November 11, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Reply
  7. Madame Stiletto

    Strange that considerations are given to those in the political arena and not those who have been working within the agency their entire professional careers and would know most about US security and its nuances. Go figure.

    November 11, 2012 at 11:57 am | Reply
  8. andreas

    Michael Vickers

    November 11, 2012 at 5:01 am | Reply
  9. breckandy

    Jane Harman?
    Why stop there, why not Jonathan Pollard or Benjamin Netanyahu for CIA director.

    She's an Israeli spy for God's sake.

    November 11, 2012 at 1:41 am | Reply
  10. Paul Martin

    I nominate Bill Clinton though he probably wouldn't want the job.

    November 11, 2012 at 1:29 am | Reply
    • heebiejeebie

      Bill Clinton? Didn't he do the same thing that Patraeus has resigned for doing? Check your history book and see if Clinton resigned after scoring intern Monica Lewinsky. And Slick Willy would probably LOVE the job if he could get more o dat. Why break Hillary's heart by suggesting such a thing?

      November 11, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Reply
      • Paul Martin

        I said Bill Clinton because he was a damn GOOD President and would SHAPE the company up !

        November 11, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • MikeB

      Hillary can change jobs to head up the agency that manages comfort companions for Politicians, Secret Service, ...

      November 11, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Reply
    • Frederick1337

      Are you sure old Bill would be able to handle a situation in time, like say before thousands of people are starved to death? Or perhaps maybe, he would "reform" the whole office and anyone who had a wife and children would go homeless.

      November 12, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Reply
      • Frederick1337

        I almost forgot. He would remember about the starving people right after she was done sucking. Oops too late they died.

        November 12, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
  11. thumbsihave2

    I am rather puzzled that there is no mention of L. Timothy Ryan.

    November 10, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Reply
  12. tedcohen

    jane harman didn't just leave congress.

    she left in a cloud.

    here's a bit o background from our friends at wiki:

    AIPAC controversy

    In October 2006, Time magazine, quoting anonymous sources, asserted that an FBI and US Department of Justice investigation of Harman was underway. The magazine alleged that Harman had agreed to lobby the Department of Justice to reduce espionage charges against Steve J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, two officials at the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). In exchange, Time said there was a quid pro quo in which AIPAC would lobby then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to appoint Harman as chair of the House Intelligence Committee if the Democrats captured the House after the 2006 elections. Harman, the FBI, the Justice Department and Pelosi's office have all denied knowledge of or involvement with any investigation.[16] AIPAC denied it had engaged in a quid pro quo with Harman. "AIPAC would never engage in a quid pro quo in relation to a federal investigation or any federal matter and the notion that it would do so is preposterous," a spokesperson said at the time.[16]

    In April 2009, CQ Politics, also quoting anonymous sources, said Harman had been captured on a National Security Agency wiretap prior to the 2006 elections, telling an "Israeli agent" that she would "waddle into" lobbying the Department of Justice on the AIPAC case. Harman ended the phone call, according to CQ, by saying, "This conversation doesn’t exist."[17][18] Harman denied the allegations, saying: "These claims are an outrageous and recycled canard, and have no basis in fact. I never engaged in any such activity. Those who are peddling these false accusations should be ashamed of themselves."[19]

    According to CQ, then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales pressed Central Intelligence Agency Director Porter Goss to drop the agency's investigation of Harman because he wanted Harman's support during the NSA warrantless surveillance controversy about to break in The New York Times.[16] Harman called The New York Times and urged them not to publish details on the program.[20] Gonzales and Goss declined to comment.[17]

    In point of fact, Harman had been the ranking Democrat on the House committee prior to the 2006 election,[21] making her the most likely appointee. Pelosi appointed Silvestre Reyes instead.

    November 10, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Reply
  13. PaxHominibus

    Obama has been back in office for less than a week and he's sacrificed the best military Commander since Eisenhower to save his own scrawny neck when the Benghazi hearing starts next Thursday!

    Come on! Head of CIA resigns effective IMMEDIATELY with a few days to go before he gives evidence involving Obama? And his 'replacement 'will give evidence in his place.............how? Petraeus was the bum on the seat at the time?
    Obama's safe though – ill-educated Americans [the majority]will swallow anything. I'll bet the top brass are scuttling into the woodwork in DC today trying to keep out of Obama's way. After all – nobody WANTS to be the NEXT sacrificial offering for one of the clown's mistakes!

    November 10, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Reply
    • USREP

      Ignorance is bliss…your comments simply highlight the fact that you know nothing!

      November 11, 2012 at 4:14 am | Reply
      • PaxHominibus

        "Ignorance is bliss....." "You know nothing......." BUT you haven't denied it have you, smart a$$? Because you can't!

        This unhealthy preoccupation you have with the clown you elected is soooooo sad when you think yoiu're supposed to be adult! The man is a liability and a dishonest one at that – Cope, Muppet!

        November 12, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Phil

      PaxHominibus- What is your problem? You have nothing good to say about Collin Powell and our great President? Some racist people find ways to hide their racism but for you is obviously coded in your writing. People like you don't belong to our great country and should be rounded up and send to Jupiter.

      November 27, 2012 at 11:35 am | Reply
    • Phil

      PaxHominibus- What is your problem? You have nothing good to say about Collin Powell and our great President? Some racist people find ways to hide their racism but for you is obviously coded in your writing. People like you don't belong to our great country and should be rounded up and send to Jupiter.

      November 27, 2012 at 11:38 am | Reply
  14. PaxHominibus

    Oh purleeeeeze, stop the boring snivel fest! Obama is now in his SECOND term – having failed the first one, so ole GW is off the proverbial hook!

    November 10, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Reply
    • Phil

      PaxHominibus- What is your problem? You have nothing good to say about Collin Powell and our great President? Some racist people find ways to hide their racism but for you is obviously coded in your writing. People like you don't belong to our great country and should be rounded up and send to Jupiter.

      November 27, 2012 at 11:39 am | Reply
  15. DT

    Mark my words, if John Brennan is appointed head of the CIA it will be a disaster. I have heard he has many detractors within the Intelligence Community as a result of his leadership style (or lack there of) and his treatment of others.

    November 10, 2012 at 11:30 am | Reply
  16. StanCalif

    Carl Rove spent millions of dollars to elect Romney. Too bad, Romeny lost! Maybe there is some hope! Big money does not win elections! We all get to vote, not just the Republican elite! It is refreshing to know that 'BIG MONEY' CANNOT OVER RULE AMERICAN VOTERS! American citizens are fed up GOP lies! Tax cuts for millionaires do not create jobs.

    November 10, 2012 at 10:55 am | Reply
    • PaxHominibus

      This post is about who will replace Petraeus! Duh! Get an adult to help.

      November 10, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Reply
  17. StanCalif

    Collin Powell would be a good pick. George W. lied to Collin and he chose, wisely, to get out of politics! I respect Powell, but he has no tolerance for policitcal lies! Good for him! We have too many lyers in Washington!

    November 10, 2012 at 10:06 am | Reply
    • PaxHominibus

      Powelll was a spineless wimp. HE had access to info on the mythical WMDs but still went ahead with the war. He's a grown man, nobody FORCED him. He should have resigned BEFORE the war – not after, if he had any decency. Powell , like YOU, is one of lifes weaklings.

      November 10, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Reply
      • tedcohen

        touchee!

        November 10, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
      • USREP

        What do you do for a living? Powell is a retired 4 star General who served this country with dignity. You should shut up…unless you are also a retired (or serving) 4-star General with credentials as impressive as Powell's!

        November 11, 2012 at 4:17 am |
      • heebiejeebie

        Powell would still be a better president than the one we just elected who grew up muslim in a third world country, attended a racist church, never served in the military, and only dabbled in politics briefly before being backed by foreign contributions, styled by the media as a fresh young JFK, and elected by special interest groups with their flaky left-wing seal of approval. Heck, his own mama didn't even raise him.

        November 11, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
      • PaxHominibus

        USREP – How old are you????? 4-star General means he had military know how........ it doesn't mean he can walk on water! He is, at the end of the day, a MAN I mean Obama is President [lol] and HE's made enough mistakes to sink a battleship! He too is a man. Weak, clueless and dishonest, but a MAN just the same,
        Now run along and finish your lego model, there's a good lad!

        November 12, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  18. goosegun

    Julian Assange is the man for the job.

    November 10, 2012 at 9:55 am | Reply
    • heebiejeebie

      Great idea! Lure him into the US with a job prospect that involves access to classified information. He won't be able to resist.

      November 11, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Reply
  19. Bangash

    Intelligence networks all over the world are required to secure the interests of the state and make it secure from external as well as internal threats. Does CIA has done or doing that? Certainly not as today USA is surrounded by multiple threats and all over the world Americans are being targeted for their Govt's or in the other words CIA's involvement in trouble making all over the world. Trillions of dollars have been spent on invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan and in return getting coffins of soldiers and civilians beside rising hate against Americans for deaths and destructions abroad. So it makes no difference who is leading as every one has to follow the policies of his predecessors and continue with the past practices. President Obama had promised to change this self destructive trends but as usual he too cheated American public during his four years in the white house. In second term although he has promised the best to come but how he will do that when there is no change in the self destructive policies of CIA and their vision of the world. What is encouraging to me is the last election campaign address when he said that trillions of dollars of American taxpayers have been spent on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq if had been spent on the welfare of Americans it would have helped American to strengthen economy and would have provided better opportunities and facilities to Americans at home and abroad.

    November 10, 2012 at 2:15 am | Reply
    • PaxHominibus

      So WHY did he extend Afghanistan till 2014 if he knew the money could have been better spent????? Words from Obama are CHEAP [and shoddy!]

      November 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Reply
      • Bangash

        He fixed year 2014 for withdrawal from Afghanistan and also left Iraq. So how you can say he has extended?

        November 11, 2012 at 1:56 am |
      • PaxHominibus

        Bang – I can say he extended because in 2008 during his campaign – he PROMISED to end BOTH wars within his first year in office. That would have been the end of 2009. Ergo, 2014 is one he!! of an extension. As was Iraq which ended in 2011.

        November 12, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  20. peter

    This man petraeus is a good man we all make mistakes clinton got impeached but the kennadies didnt if his girlfriend is suspect then fry her

    November 10, 2012 at 1:30 am | Reply
  21. Bob

    Lt general Ben Freakley retired would make a great director

    November 10, 2012 at 12:01 am | Reply
  22. Rick Buggy's Rants & Ravings

    Nobody's mentioned Collin Powell!?

    November 9, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Reply
    • StanCalif

      Fortunately, Powell is smart enough to stay away from politics. George W. lied to him, simple fact. No one with intellegence wants to be used! Powell was used by George W., a man who now lies low and doesn't say anything! Did Romney seek an endorsement from stupid George? Of course not! George W. wrecked havoc during his time in office. His advisors, Carl Rove and Dick Cheney sent him down the wrong path. Bush never had an origianal thought, he simply followed very bad advise!

      November 10, 2012 at 10:25 am | Reply
      • Rick Buggy's Rants & Ravings

        Valerie Jarrett! I wouldn't put it past him LOL

        November 10, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • PaxHominibus

      Powell was a weak man. HE had access to info about the "WMD s" that never were. If he had a spine, he would have resigned BEFORE the war started! NOT after.
      He left politics because he recognized his own failure to actethically!

      November 10, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Reply
      • PaxHominibus

        Oops should read 'ethically'

        November 10, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  23. reply

    This, of course, is all Bush's fault. And, of course, YouTube postings!

    November 9, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Reply
    • StanCalif

      Of course! Bush screwed up everything! He couldn't win a war, afer claiming "mission accomplished", he flew over Karina and declared "Brown is doing an excellent job", he allowed Dick Cheney to make secret deals with BP resulting in the worst oil spill in history, he ignorned warnings about financial collapse!!! Then, when he got booted out of office, he refused to participate in anything! Just tend the cows and enjoy the "good life"! What a coward!

      November 10, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Reply
      • Blandly

        Stan,

        That's some deep and rewritten ignorance you're spouting. I've found it quite interesting (and sad) to see how quickly history is being written real-time, Benghazi and a world-wind example...we're talking as it happened. "Ignored warnings of financial collapse," is one (although sticking Cheney w/BP is rewritten like a mad lib looking for a noun) that's about 5 to 7 yrs old, but still as weak and tired...recall someone wanting to "roll the dice a little more?" But hey, Dodd/FRANK ought to resolve it, well if Dodd/FRANK were about the housing market instead of everything that isn't really a dire problem.

        Do us a favor and start thinking for yourselves and start questioning the things/sides you agree with. It's the advice you're giving Repubs, you should take it yourself.

        November 10, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
      • Blandly

        Bush did preside over Iraq and win a war after "claiming Mission Accomplished." It didn't happen as quickly as TV adventure as you might like, but then not everything can go away like Benghazi. It did come about following the "surge." President Obama promised to "end" the war and he "ended" the war, which by the way doesn't "end" reality. Our President voluntarily surrendered after the fact. So, yes a lot of blood was wasted and for absolutely nothing more than overthrowing Saddam Hussein (anyone remember him here?)

        November 10, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  24. mario

    Shouldn't Obama nominate one of his high contributers? Dosen't that the way it goes? Regardles of party?

    November 9, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Reply
    • aj

      Nah. He's not a Republican so I'm willing to bet you that he doesn't. And if he doesn't, then that's a sterling example of the veracity of people who make these baseless assertions.

      November 10, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Reply
      • heebiejeebie

        Then I suggest he choose Stanley McChrystal. But Nah. He's a Democrat so I'm willing to bet you that he doesn't. He'll pick a yes-man for sure.

        November 11, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • PaxHominibus

      mario – Obama's looking for someone new BBfs with short term availability and no ambition. That's all it takes to be a sacrificial lamb on team Obama.
      To be his friend you have to be willing to give up everything for HIM whenever he fouls up. He'll need many more BBFs before he's finished wrecking Americ a!

      November 12, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Reply
      • NoName

        It appears you have got an axe to grind with Obama. The point is he has been re-elected without your vote, so shut until 2016 to exercise your right again.

        November 13, 2012 at 2:05 am |

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