Michael Morell, 54, made a joint statement with CIA Director John O. Brennan this afternoon explaining that he wants to devote more time to his family.
He is married with three college aged children.
Departing and arriving: Michael Morell, left, will step down as CIA Deputy Director while White House lawyer Avril D. Haines, right, will take his place
The deputy, who has twice served as acting director, recently made the headlines after it emerged he agreed to the State Department’s request to remove a reference to militants in a controversial memo of talking points on Benghazi.
But he insisted that any speculation that family wasn’t his ‘real reason’ for stepping down was misplaced.
His replacement will be White House lawyer Avril D. Haines, who will take over the role on August 9.
She is currently deputy counsel on national security issues to President Obama and will be the first woman to hold such a senior role in the Agency.
‘I am passionate about two things in this world — the Agency and my family,’ Morell said in his statement.
‘And 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.’
‘I will miss many things about this Agency and about the job that I have been blessed with for the last three years.’
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‘But most of all, I will miss the people—the talented and dedicated officers on the senior leadership team, my colleagues on the Deputies Committee with whom I have spent countless hours in the Situation Room, and, most of all, the CIA workforce—the heroes of this place, the people at the pointy end of the spear, the patriots who do the work of keeping the country safe every day.’
‘The presence of John Brennan in the office next to mine has made this decision both tougher and easier.’
‘It has made it tougher because John has been a friend and a mentor for years and because the Agency is going to accomplish great things under his leadership, and I am sorry that I will not be at his side as that unfolds.’
‘At the same time, it is easier because I will leave knowing that the Agency is in the best possible hands. Given my love for this place, that is a very reassuring thing.’
He added: ‘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.’
Full of praise: CIA Director John Brennan had kind words for his deputy of 33 years Michael Morell, who announced his shock resignation today
Morell a Georgetown economics graduate joined the CIA in 1980.
He quickly rose through the ranks and has twice served as acting director.
He stepped in and managed the resignation of former CIA Director David Petraeus over an extramarital affair but was passed over for the top spot in favor for Brennan, who was selected his permanent replacement.
Morell has drawn criticism for stating that the CIA’s interrogation program produced some useful information and unusually went public to criticize the movie Zero Dark Thirty for its depiction of the agency.
Brennan underlined that it was fully Morell’s decision to leave the agency and complimented him on a long and prestigious career.
‘Michael’s devotion to the men and women of the Agency, our intelligence mission, and to a job well done has been exemplary,’ his statement said.
‘As much as I would selfishly like to keep Michael right where he is for as long as possible, he has decided to retire to spend more time with his family and to pursue other professional opportunities.’
‘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.’
‘But I am comforted by the fact that Michael will be able to spend more time with his wonderful family.’
Brennan also praised Haines, calling her ‘a tremendously talented public servant with whom Michael and I — and many other senior national security officials — have worked closely over the past several years.’
Morell also welcomed her to the agency.
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