The 2005 destruction of the tapes, which went against White House lawyers’ warnings, prompted a criminal investigation, but no charges were filed.
To help navigate the clandestine service decision, Brennan assembled a group of advisers that included former senior CIA officials John McLaughlin, Stephen Kappes and Mary Margaret Graham. McLaughlin declined to discuss the group’s deliberations, but said in an e-mail that the interim spy chief and her successor “are very fine officers with wide-ranging and successful experience both substantively and in terms of developing and leading people.”
He added that “past counterterrorism policy simply did not come up and was not a factor.”
The new spy chief is a Marine Corps veteran who initially joined the CIA’s paramilitary branch but spent most of his career in traditional espionage assignments. He assumes control at a time when Brennan has signaled concern that intelligence collection has been hampered by the agency’s emphasis on drone strikes.
The names of both officers are widely known in the intelligence community, but the agency requested that they not be identified because they are undercover. The female officer is expected to resume her prior role as deputy of the clandestine service.
Brennan’s decision was complicated by the agency’s history of gender imbalance in its upper ranks. No woman has ever served as director or deputy director of the CIA, and none had been head of the clandestine service until the female officer was elevated to that role on an interim basis when her predecessor retired.
A former senior CIA official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that women at the agency “will be outraged” that the female officer was denied the job. “She is very popular. She is an excellent officer and very good administrator.”
The CIA’s statement identified the two women chosen for senior posts as Meroe Park, who was named executive director, and Deb Bonk, who will serve as Brennan’s chief of staff. “Women will hold fully half of the positions” on Brennan’s leadership team, Youngblood said.
Julie Tate contributed to this report.