Top CIA official departing
June 12th, 2013
07:07 PM ET

Top CIA official departing

By Pam Benson

Seemingly the perennial bridesmaid, Deputy CIA Director Mike Morell is retiring after a 33-year career.

His successor is Avril Haines, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama who will become the first woman to occupy the No. 2 spot.

Morell, 54, has been deputy director for the past three years and twice has been called to serve as acting chief.

The first time he covered a two-month gap in the summer of 2011 between the departure of Leon Panetta and the arrival of David Petraeus.

When Petraeus suddenly resigned late last year after admitting to an affair, Morell was considered one of the leading candidates to take over.

Obama instead nominated John Brennan, his terrorism adviser. Brennan was confirmed by the Senate and assumed the top job in March.

At the time, many people wondered if Morell would stay on.

Brennan said in a statement that he had looked forward to working with Morell and thanked him for helping with his transition back to the agency.

"Michael has come to personify the strengths and qualities of this great organization, and it is difficult for me to imagine CIA without Michael's exceptionally sharp mind, tremendous energy and absolute dedication to mission," Brennan said.

Morell said Brennan's presence made his decision "both tougher and easier" because he expected great accomplishments during Brennan's tenure and would have liked to be at his side.

He tried to put to rest any suggestion his departure was anything but a desire to spend more time with his family after a very demanding career.

"Whenever someone involved in the rough and tumble of Washington decides to move on, there is speculation in various quarters about the 'real reason,'" Morell said. "But when I say that it is time for my family, nothing could be more real than that."

Haines is a senior national security official who worked closely with Brennan when he was at the White House.

Brennan noted that she chaired a group that reviews the CIA's most sensitive programs.

"In every instance, Avril's command of substance, sense of mission, good judgment, and keen insights have been outstanding," Brennan said.

Haines also held posts at the State Department, worked on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and has represented the U.S. in international negotiations at the United Nations.

She only recently had been nominated by Obama to be the legal adviser at the State Department. But with Morell's decision to retire, she was designated to the CIA.

Morell began his career at the CIA in 1980 as an analyst concentrating on international energy issues.

He moved up the ranks, serving as Director George Tenet's executive assistant, and was President George W. Bush's daily intelligence briefer at the time of the September 11, 2001, al Qaeda attack on the United States.

In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Morell led the team of analysts looking at what, if any, connections Saddam Hussein had with al Qaeda.

They concluded there had been contacts, but no operational planning. Morell was not involved in the CIA's controversial National Intelligence Estimate that wrongly concluded Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, the reason cited for going to war.

After a three year overseas assignment, Morell returned to CIA headquarters in 2006 to run day-to-day operations before being named as director of intelligence, overseeing the work of all analysts.

More recently, Morell has been caught up in the flap over changes made in the talking points used by officials to publicly discuss what the intelligence community knew in the immediate aftermath of the deadly attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.

After a CIA draft of the talking points was sent around to other members of the intelligence community for comment, Morell oversaw some changes, which included removing a reference to al Qaeda being linked to the attacks and taking out a section that discussed CIA warnings about terror threats in Benghazi.

Morell last day at the CIA will be August 9, and he already has one job lined up. Obama has appointed him to be a member of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board.

soundoff (27 Responses)
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    Whenever I read anything about Petraeus I shake my head. He was so good at his job and so bad at life.

    April 1, 2014 at 8:04 am | Reply
  10. Will

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    Short and sweet, What was Petraeus thinking? When Petraeus suddenly resigned late last year after admitting to an affair. He really ruined the stellar image he had created. Avril Haines I wish you the best we need great leadership.

    January 31, 2014 at 12:25 pm | Reply
  12. Vince

    Great more woman in a mans position! Lets change the name from White House to Pink House. This nation was founded by our four fathers not woman!!

    June 14, 2013 at 2:55 pm | Reply
  13. Bangash

    This is indeed very much unfortunate for American nation that CIA being a top intelligence network should have saved America and Americans from all internal and external threats to their state and a nation but contrary to this these custodians of state security have faced them with multiple threats at home and abroad. They have openly cheated Americans on WMD and war on terror and today Americans are paying with blood and money and in the world are known as the baby killers.
    Today every one everywhere in the world hate Americans for their arrogance and merciless killings all over the world in the name of democracy and human rights which now even Americans as a nation have realized and more then 70% now demand CHANGE in this barbaric face of America but for CIA national verdict has no value and continue their death game as usual, facing Americans with more humiliations in world politics.
    Today China, as emerging super economy has challenged Amerca's super power status which remind me the commitments of Americans founding fathers to the world that America will not indulge in world's alliances politics to avoid wars in the world and will concentrate on open borders and trade to bring peace, universal justice and fraternity in the world.
    Through this august forum I on humanitarian ground appeal CIA chief and rest of them to see the past performance, especially after the second world war and compare with for what America had come into existence and then America had been till world war II. Proper analysis of the whole situation will provided clear picture of where the problem is and you will see that you In CIA has caused and is causing more threats to America then Alqaida or other enemies.
    So it is a time to change this march to the hell as soon as possible before you reach the point of no return.
    In case you do not see any way to get out of this quagmire and cannot stop your march to the hell then ask me, a poor/ weak tribal from FATA in Pakistan to show you the right way and the real track to the heaven/paradise. My services are for greater human cause, free of cost.

    June 13, 2013 at 7:03 am | Reply
    • RaisingArizona

      Interesting point of view. Do not agree with most of it.

      June 14, 2013 at 7:01 am | Reply
    • SayanIndia

      The three top infamous butchers of 20th century are Hitler, Stalin and Mao (who probably tops the list).

      Why blame the Americans, unless of course your vision is blurred by political/preferential colours. Also you have lied about your status.


      June 14, 2013 at 11:02 am | Reply
      • HD

        It looks like all the People who know abit more are getting censored. But I do agree on one point only; arrogance.

        June 15, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
      • Bangash

        Sayan I see Hitler and Stalin the way you see it however Mao has different background and has proved blessings for his nation today. But again Stalin has defended his nation when they were under aggression while Hitler and his Nazi ideology is in no way different from CIA's New World Order, based on merciless killing of the weaker to prove Germans as great nation on the surface of earth. Today CIA is following exactly his footprints in proving America the unchallenged super power by invading weaker nations. Just after WW II America has invaded more than sixty countries and have killed in millions, exactly what Hitler had done in the Holocaust and different invasions in different countries. This is the reason I suggest CHANGE for America to save them from the fate of Hitler's Nazism and also save the world from further sufferings. I do not tell lie that I am from FATA and my presentation for services is based on my eye witness accounts since last more than three decades. I being a resident on the front line of US wars in this region, have closely observed the making of the monster of international terrorism therefore wish to save succeeding generations from such inhuman policies of the few in America to make the world peaceful and prosper for our grand children. Sayan I hope now you understand that I do it with purely human spirits for the welfare of all human beings in this age of globalization.

        June 16, 2013 at 1:52 am |

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