Deputy Director Kappes to leave CIA

By Greg Miller
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 15, 2010

CIA Deputy Director Stephen R. Kappes, a veteran spy who has played a major role in overseeing the agency's counterterrorism operations since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, will retire in May and be replaced by the service's top analyst, CIA officials said Wednesday.

Michael J. Morell, 51, will take over the No. 2 position at a time when the CIA is battering the al-Qaeda terrorist network with an escalating campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan but also enduring severe setbacks, including a suicide bombing that killed seven agency employees and contractors near the Afghan city of Khost in December.

CIA officials portrayed the personnel moves as part of a long-expected transition. Kappes has made clear his desire to retire and was talked out of doing so twice by President Obama, officials said.

The elevation of Morell, the officials added, will maintain continuity in leadership ranks at an agency that endured a series of morale-draining shake-ups in the years following the Sept. 11 attacks.

In a message to CIA employees, Director Leon E. Panetta described Morell as a 30-year CIA veteran who "understands intelligence as few others do -- from collection and analysis to interaction with our customers."

Morell served as a top briefer to Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and was with Bush in Florida on the morning of the Sept. 11 attacks. From 2006 to 2008, he served as associate deputy director, the No. 3 position at the CIA, making him responsible for day-to-day operations.

The appointment was applauded by members of Congress and agency veterans, although some said the change would mean less expertise in the executive ranks on overseas operations -- a core mission that has often been a source of controversy for the CIA.

"Michael will bring some knowledge of the nuts-and-bolts functioning of the agency," said a former senior CIA official who worked with Kappes and Morell. But aside from Kappes, the former official said, "no one in the executive suite has ever run a source."

As a result, Panetta may rely more heavily on Michael J. Sulick, the head of the CIA's clandestine service. Sulick, a close colleague of Kappes, has also been the subject of recent retirement rumors. But officials said that, for the time being, Sulick is not expected to leave.

Other former officials said that the agency might see subtle changes under Morell, a scholarly figure who lives in the Virginia suburbs with his wife and three children.

"He may get the agency back to having analysis drive collection instead of vice versa," said Patrick Murray, who served as chief of staff at the CIA under then-Director Porter J. Goss. "It also probably positions Morell to be the next director, if and when Panetta decides to leave."

The son of an autoworker from Akron, Ohio, Morell joined the agency in 1980 and went on to become a top analyst on Asia and Latin America.

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