Who Will Take Over as New CIA Chief?

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Nov. 10 2012 11:31 AM

Who Will Replace Petraeus at CIA Helm?

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A man crosses the Central Intelligence Agency logo in the lobby of CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia

Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

By all accounts, David Petraeus’ resignation as CIA chief took President Obama by complete surprise. But with such a sensitive position there seems little doubt the White House quickly began to analyze who would be the best choice to take over the critical position. The answer is likely to be the most obvious. CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell will serve as acting director and many think he’s the right man for the job.

Morell certainly has the experience. He was the key CIA aide in President George W. Bush’s White House during the Sept. 11 attacks, points out the Associated Press. He has been serving as deputy director for more than two years after holding a number of senior roles within the agency and has often briefed Obama directly, “earning the president’s trust and developing a close relationship with him,” reports Politico. But he’s hardly the only contender.

John Brennan, the president’s adviser for counterterrorism and homeland security, might also be picked, particularly considering that he played a key role in shaping the White House strategy of using drones to kill suspected terrorists, notes CNN. Still, his previous support for harsh interrogation techniques, as well as controversy over sensitive news leaks, could make a confirmation difficult.

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Jane Harman, the former congresswoman from California, could also be a contender, particularly considering she is well-respected in the intelligence community. Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers is also being discussed as a possible successor as is Mike Leiter, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, according to CNN.

Politico points to Jack Reed, Rhode Island’s senior senator, Obama national security adviser Tom Donilon, and outgoing Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar, as other possible candidates for the job. For its part, the Washingtonian adds Sen. Joe Lieberman to the ring, noting the retiring senator has often been mentioned as a contender for the post of Secretary of Homeland Security.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.