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Top Counterterrorism Officer Removed Amid Turmoil at CIA
Immediately after Sept. 11, the center's chief was tough-talking Cofer Black, who told Bush it was time to "take the gloves off" against terrorism and promised "heads on spikes." Some of the center's responsibilities have since shifted to a new interagency counterpart that reports to Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte.
There were rumors last September, when Robert Richer, the number two in the clandestine service, abruptly resigned, that Grenier was considering leaving with him. But the CIA denied the rumors at the time and said Grenier was very happy in his job.
Several candidates are under consideration for Grenier's job, according to one knowledgeable official. Grenier, another official said, will be offered a job elsewhere in the CIA.
Grenier's departure comes at a time when the agency is bleeding top talent, robbing the CIA of institutional memory and damaging morale among case officers and analysts. Since Porter J. Goss became director in September 2004, well over a dozen senior officials -- several of whom were promoted under Goss -- have resigned, have retired early or have requested reassignment. Grenier was the third person to be head of counterterrorism since the Sept. 11 attacks.
Like Grenier, most of those leaving the agency had spent their career in the clandestine service and had years of experience in the Middle East and, more specifically, with al Qaeda. Charlie Siddel, the station chief in Amman, Jordan, took early retirement late last year when he was recalled to headquarters. In the fall, the head of the European division, whose undercover role included overseeing the hunt for al Qaeda on the continent, also left.
Last month, John Russack, the program manager for information-sharing in the office of the director of national intelligence, was forced out after less than a year on the job. Russack, who had run the Energy Department's intelligence shop before moving to the DNI's office, apparently left after personality clashes with other top officials.
In the early days of war with al Qaeda, Grenier emphasized the need to convince Afghans that the United States had no desire for permanent bases in Afghanistan and wished only to help drive Arab outsiders from the country. Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda's Saudi-born leader, had built a state within a state, recruiting and training operatives from around the Arab and Islamic worlds.
Staff writer Peter Baker and researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.