Friday, November 12, 2004

From combined dispatches

The veteran intelligence analyst who served as acting CIA director during a wave of criticism of the agency this past summer announced his retirement yesterday.

CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin called his resignation a “purely personal decision” and said it was time to move on to other endeavors. He has worked with the agency 32 years.

Mr. McLaughlin temporarily took over the CIA in July when former Director George J. Tenet retired, also citing personal reasons.

Mr. McLaughlin’s ascension put him in line to field criticism from two reports highly critical of U.S. intelligence operations, the September 11 commission report and the Senate’s investigation into the flawed prewar intelligence on Iraq.

President Bush decided in August to nominate a permanent replacement for Mr. Tenet and tapped the former chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, Porter J. Goss, Florida Republican. A former CIA operative, Mr. Goss assumed the job in September.

A CIA official said Mr. McLaughlin thought the period of government transition after the election was a “logical time to move on.” The director plans to take time off while considering opportunities in the private sector, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“John is steeped in the American intelligence community, which in its care, rigor and collegiality will forever bear his stamp,” Mr. Goss said.

“On a personal note, I want to thank John for the kindness he has shown me in my opening weeks as director of central intelligence,” he said. “I am certain that John has a lot of good magic left in him, which he will use for the benefit of all. He closes this chapter of his service with the admiration of American intelligence officers everywhere.”

Since 1972, Mr. McLaughlin has climbed gradually within the agency to become finally a part of its senior leadership. He was an analyst for European and Russian issues before rising to deputy director for intelligence in 1997. By 2000, he had become Mr. Tenet’s right hand, as deputy director of central intelligence.

When Mr. Tenet resigned in July, Mr. McLaughlin temporarily headed the agency for nearly three months.

Mr. McLaughlin, a 62-year-old known as “Merlin” among his colleagues, was known for pulling off impromptu magic tricks. Among them, he can turn a $1 bill into other denominations.

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