Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet, who presided over intelligence failures and successes of historic proportions, announced that he will leave the job in July, telling CIA employees in a tearful speech that his decision had "only one basis in fact," a desire to spend time with his wife and teenage son.
President Bush named Deputy Director John E. McLaughlin, a mild-mannered, professorial analyst, as acting director and is not expected to name a successor before the election. James L. Pavitt, the CIA's deputy director of operations, has also told associates recently that he will resign in midsummer, leaving the agency with new leaders at a time of a heightened threat of terrorist attacks during the political conventions and the Olympics in Greece.
Current and former intelligence officials described Tenet, who has held the job seven years, as being psychologically worn down by the pace of clandestine counterterrorism operations and by the barrage of public criticism over the CIA's inability to prevent the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and its failure to accurately characterize the threat from Iraq's prewar weapons programs.
Tenet had wanted to leave the job more than a year ago, but Bush asked him to stay. On Thursday, the president said Tenet had "done a superb job on behalf of the American people. He's been a strong leader in the war on terror, and I will miss him."
A senior administration official with firsthand knowledge, however, said that although no one at the White House asked Tenet to leave, nobody asked him to stay.
White House officials have sought to blame Tenet for leading the president into war based on bad intelligence.
But even before the intelligence community had produced its definitive reports on Iraq, Vice President Cheney and other top administration officials had been describing the threat from Saddam Hussein in more dramatic and unequivocal terms than the intelligence ever supported.
-- Dana Priest and Walter Pincus