A top veteran CIA officer who has spearheaded sensitive talks with Pakistan and Yemen is retiring after a sometimes tumultuous career with the agency.
CIA deputy director Stephen Kappes will step down in May, CIA Director Leon Panetta announced Wednesday. Panetta said he has asked Michael Morell, a 30-year veteran of the agency, to take the No. 2 post.
Morell has been chief of the intelligence directorate and earlier the associate deputy director, working largely as an administrator dealing with policy and personnel matters.
Kappes returned to the CIA in 2006 after resigning abruptly in 2004 after confrontations with the leadership team of then-Director Porter Goss.
Kappes had been serving at the time as the CIA's deputy director for operations. His 2004 departure came in the midst of intense friction within the agency, as it grappled with criticism over intelligence breakdowns in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and questions about the Bush White House's arguments linking Saddam Hussein with al-Qaida terrorists.
President Barack Obama asked Kappes to stay on after he took office.
Kappes was dispatched to Yemen a few months later for talks with Yemen's president on efforts there to battle al-Qaida and the ongoing debate over the fate of the close to 100 Yemeni detainees at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He also traveled to Pakistan in 2008 amid concerns that rogue elements in Pakistan's spy agency were providing sensitive information to militants to aid their attacks along the Afghan border.
Before his 2004 departure, Kappes had been with the agency for 23 years and already had extensive experience in the Middle East. He is credited with being principally responsible for a secret operation that resulted in Libya's decision to get rid of its weapons of mass destruction.
Panetta also said Wednesday that Fran Moore, the deputy director for intelligence, would move up to take Morell's post.
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