While General David Petraeus arrived at the CIA as a war hero under an intense public spot light, his replacement is a consummate man of the shadows.
11 Nov 2012
Michael Morell is a “career spook” and 32-year veteran of the agency, who rose from his first job as a lowly economic analyst to the man briefing the President of the United States.
Mr Morell was with George W Bush at a Florida primary school as the second plane hit the World Trade Center on September 11.
When Mr Bush asked him who was responsible he replied: “I haven’t seen any intelligence, but I would bet every dollar I have that it’s al-Qaeda,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
Over the next decade he was deeply involved in the fight against al-Qaeda, including the audacious plan to storm Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.
But he was one of a number of officials urging caution on President Barack Obama. He reminded the US leader of the US intelligence failures that had led to the doomed search for weapons on mass destruction in Iraq.
“We end up having bits of information that have a multitude of possible explanations,” he told the Journal. “You’ve got to be really humble about the business we’re in.”
Mr Morell has been in the top job once before, running the CIA as an interim director for two months in 2011 while Gen Petraeus was preparing to take command.
The two men worked together closely, with the spy guiding the former Army commander in intelligence affairs, urging him not to pull rank and to make a point of mixing with staff at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
But despite the enormous respect for him in Washington, and the longing for stability at the CIA after going through five leaders since 9/11, Mr Morell is likely to again hand over the director’s office within months.
Directors of the CIA are usually appointed from outside of the agency and other possible contenders include John Brennan, a former spy who is now Mr Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, and Jane Harman, a former Democrat congresswoman with close links to the agency.