Obama expected to name counter-terrorism expert new head of CIA

Posted at 8:20 AM, Jan 07, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-07 08:20:10-05

By CNN Wires

WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Barack Obama will nominate John Brennan, his chief counterterrorism adviser, to be the next director of the CIA, a senior administration official said Monday.

Brennan, 57, has served as assistant to the president for counterterrorism and homeland security since 2009.

The announcement of Brennan’s nomination to the CIA post is expected Monday afternoon at the same time the president nominates former Sen. Chuck Hagel to be the next secretary of defense.

If the Senate confirms the nomination, Brennan will replace retired Gen. David Petraeus, who stepped down from his job as CIA director in November amid revelations that he had engaged in an extramarital affair with his biographer.

Michael Morell, a career intelligence officer who was serving as the spy agency’s deputy director, has been acting CIA director since Petraeus’ resignation.

Petraeus resigned on November 9 amid an FBI investigation into whether his biographer, Paula Broadwell, had inappropriate access to classified information.

Returning to the Central Intelligence Agency would be a homecoming of sorts for Brennan, who spent 25 years there distinguishing himself as a Mideast and terrorism expert.

Brennan joined the CIA after responding to a newspaper want ad, and he spent 25 years there, developing a deep knowledge of the Mideast and fluency in Arabic.

In 2008, he signed on to be Obama’s intelligence adviser during the presidential campaign.

After the election, he was touted as a shoo-in to become CIA director, but it was not to be. Harsh attacks from critics who said he supported the Bush administration’s policy of harsh interrogations prompted an embittered Brennan to drop out of consideration for the job he coveted.

Soon afterward, at Obama’s request, Brennan agreed to be the president’s assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism.

In that role, Brennan has shaped the White House’s strategy to aggressively pursue suspected terrorists — dramatically escalating the use of armed unmanned aircraft, often referred to as drones — and to kill them in the ungoverned territories of Pakistan and in Yemen.

He was also intimately involved in the run-up to the raid on the Osama bin Laden compound in May 2011.