White House lawyer to become CIA deputy head

White House lawyer to become CIA deputy head

WASHINGTON - The Associated Press
White House lawyer to become CIA deputy head

Michael Morell. AP photo

CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell is stepping down and being replaced by White House lawyer Avril Haines, who will be the first woman to hold the post.

When President Barack Obama named a successor to former CIA Director David Petraeus in January, Morell was passed over in favor of the White House counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan. Morell had been acting director since Petraeus’ resignation.

Morell, 54, announced his retirement on June 12, saying he will leave his CIA post Aug. 9. The White House announced he has been appointed to the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, a group of mostly retired intelligence officers who advise the president on intelligence policy.

Morell is retiring after 33 years at the CIA, including two stints as acting director. During the last stint he managed the fallout inside the agency after Petraeus resigned over an extramarital affair. Morell ordered an internal investigation into his former boss’ conduct that is ongoing.

Defended CIA’s Benghazi performance

Haines, 43, has been a White House deputy assistant and deputy counsel for national security affairs since 2010. Before that, she was assistant legal adviser for treaty affairs at the State Department, according to a White House statement. Haines had been nominated to serve as the State Department’s legal adviser earlier this year, but Brennan chose her for the deputy post when Morell made clear that he was retiring.

Brennan said that Haines had participated in virtually every senior-level meeting at the president’s National Security Council over the past two years and chairs the White House legal team that reviews the CIA’s most sensitive programs. Morell bore the brunt of defending before Congress the CIA’s performance after the attack on the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, last September, which killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.