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Powerful Steve Kappes Will Retire as CIA’s Deputy Director

In a surprise development, the CIA just announced that longtime and well-respected Deputy Director Steve Kappes will retire from the agency in May. Kappes was the initial favorite of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to be CIA director, and Leon Panetta’s ultimate decision to retain Kappes as his deputy was crucial in winning her support for Panetta to get the top CIA job.

While a statement released by Panetta portrayed Kappes as planning on stepping down “a few months ago,” the deputy director came under withering attack in a new Washingtonian profile by Jeff Stein for being complicit in the agency’s torture programs during the Bush administration. Further underscoring the perception that that’s why Kappes is stepping down is his replacement: Michael Morell, a veteran not of the agency’s operations directorate — where anyone involved in torture would have worked, if not in the director’s office — but the intelligence analysis directorate.

Panetta’s full statement is after the jump.

When I came to the CIA in February of 2009, I was extremely pleased that Steve Kappes agreed to stay on as my Deputy. He was a great partner and I, like so many others, valued his advice and experience. Steve is a one-of-a-kind professional who has dedicated himself to the CIA. He has helped me tremendously in guiding this great organization. Having worked side-by-side on some of the toughest issues around, I’m proud to call him a friend.

Throughout his life, Steve has put the needs of others first, as he did in returning to the CIA in the summer of 2006. He hadn’t planned on so lengthy a stay this time around. So when he told me a few months ago that it was time for him to move on, I understood. Steve has, to put it simply, more than met the highest standards of duty to the nation. He excels at what he does, because he embodies the very best of this outfit—skill and loyalty, dedication and discipline, integrity and candor. He also has, if you know him, one hell of a sense of humor.

After a superb career of public service that stretches back to the mid-1970s, when Steve was in the United States Marine Corps, he deserves the gratitude of his colleagues and his country. As he prepares to retire in May, I know I speak for every one of you when I wish him and his family all the good things.

It was, of course, crucial to both of us that we find an outstanding successor. Today, as we celebrate the achievements of one extraordinary public servant, I am announcing the promotion of another. I have asked Michael Morell, a 30-year veteran of the Agency, to become our next Deputy Director. Michael, as many of you know, has spent much of his career in the Directorate of Intelligence, most recently as its chief. He has also been a Presidential briefer, and was, from July 2006 until May 2008, CIA’s Associate Deputy Director. His focus in that assignment was the administration of the Agency as a whole, assisting and advising the Director on key policy and personnel matters.

Michael has been part of the senior team for almost four years now. He knows the CIA from top to bottom. He understands intelligence as few others do—from collection and analysis to interaction with our customers. Michael has not only seen how the pieces fit together, he’s actually brought them together. He comes to his newest task with a powerful intellect, proven leadership skills, and a deep familiarity with the ways of Washington and the world at large. Michael is someone who builds and improves, someone who takes great pride in the men and women who make this Agency the finest it can be.

Once Michael assumes his new duties, Fran Moore, Deputy Director for Intelligence, will move up to become Director for Intelligence. Fran has been in the Directorate of Intelligence front office since August 2008. She joined the Agency in 1983, and has held leadership positions in several Directorates, shaping our efforts in counterterrorism and counterintelligence, among other disciplines. She doesn’t just tell you what she knows—she tells you how she knows it, how confident she is about it, and what we still need to learn. Fran is the consummate analyst and leader of analysts, insisting on absolute rigor while looking out for the people who do the work.

Three months ago, I named Stephanie O’Sullivan as our new Associate Deputy Director. After leading the Directorate of Science and Technology for more than four years, she has settled into her role as supervisor of the day-to-day operations of our vital and complex Agency. She is an exceptionally creative manager and problem solver. Stephanie blends clear, common-sense thinking with a profound respect for those around her. I rely on her counsel and trust in her judgment.

You’ve heard me say it before, but it’s a message worth repeating: It is a real privilege for me to be your Director. As someone who’s been around this town for 40 years, and has had some great jobs, I’ll tell you that there is no more important mission than the one we share. More than anything else, it’s the people here who make it that way—people like you, and people like those I’ve talked about in this note. I am extremely proud of all of you, and particularly proud of those we honor today. There is no better team to do the job of protecting the nation.

Please join me in congratulating our colleagues on these new chapters in their lives.

Leon E. Panetta

Update: Here’s Feinstein’s statement:

“I deeply appreciate the service that Stephen Kappes has given to the CIA and to the United States over the course of his long career. I was very supportive of his decision to remain as Deputy Director in the transition between the Bush and Obama Administrations, and he has maintained stability at the Agency and been a great help and resource for Director Panetta over the past year. I wish Mr. Kappes the best in the next stage of his career.

“I also look forward to working more closely with Michael Morell, the new CIA Deputy Director. Mr. Morell is a 30-year veteran of the CIA and has served in the past decade in a senior position overseas, in the Agency’s top internal management position, as the President’s intelligence briefer, and as the Deputy Director for Intelligence.”

And here’s Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.), Feinstein’s counterpart on the House intelligence committee:

“I want to extend my congratulations to Mike Morell for his selection to serve as the next Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. I have had the pleasure of knowing Mike and, for the past nine years I have worked with him on a broad range of subjects. He is an exemplary CIA officer.

“Throughout his 30-year career with the agency, Mike has served with distinction. Whether serving at the Director’s right hand, leading the agency’s team of analysts, or serving as the principal briefer to the President, Mike’s diligence and commitment to duty, and to his country, will serve him well as he assumes his new role.

“I know the agency appreciates the job Steve Kappes has done for the nation during his tenure. I will miss Steve’s insight and candor, and I wish him all the best as he moves on to his post-agency career.

“As Mike takes over for Steve, I look forward to working with him to provide the necessary tools for the agency to perform the critical mission of protecting our great country.”

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