CIA Deputy Director Michael J. Morrell, who did the final, controversial editing of the much-discussed Benghazi talking points last year, is stepping down to spend more time with his family.
“While I have given everything I have to the Central Intelligence Agency and its vital mission for a third of a century, it is now time for me to give everything I have to my family,” Morell said in a statement.
He looked to puncture any speculation that his decision had another motive.
“Whenever someone involved in the rough and tumble of Washington decides to move on, there is speculation in various quarters about the ‘real reason.’ But when I say that it is time for my family, nothing could be more real than that,” he said.
Morell had been pinned by the administration as the editor of the talking points on the attack on the U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya, before they were given to U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice and members of Congress, but he had been expected to leave the CIA after he didn’t get the top job. He and recently minted CIA Director John O. Brennan, however, lavishly praised each other in the CIA statement.
Brennan noted that he and Morell both started with the agency in 1980, in the statement Wednesday afternoon.
“In many respects, Michael has come to personify the strengths and qualities of this great organization, and it is difficult for me to imagine CIA without Michael’s exceptionally sharp mind, tremendous energy, and absolute dedication to mission,” Brennan said.
Morell, for his part, noted some of the momentous occasions he took part in.
“From being the PDB briefer at the side of President Bush on that horrific day in September 2001 to being at President Obama’s side as the United States brought Bin Laden to justice in May 2011 — and all the ups and downs in between — few Americans have been as privileged as I have been to work at, and to represent, such an extraordinary organization,” he said.
The White House separately announced that the president planned to appoint Morell to the president’s intelligence advisory board.
Avril Haines, the deputy assistant to the president and legal adviser to the National Security Council, will succeed Morell. She previously worked at the State Department and has taught as an adjunct at Georgetown University Law School.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.