The veteran intelligence analyst who served as acting CIA director during a wave of criticism of the agency this past summer announced his retirement. The move comes amid internal controversy in some quarters of the agency.
In a statement Friday, the CIA's 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.
But former intelligence officials in touch with current agency personnel have said there has been turmoil in recent weeks as CIA Director Porter Goss has tried to make changes and get settled.
The former House Intelligence Committee chairman, Goss -- a Republican from Florida -- brought four of his congressional aides with him to the agency's 7th floor executive offices shortly after he took over in September.
But tension began before he arrived.
Officials as senior as former CIA director George Tenet blistered at legislation approved by Goss' committee and the full House of Representatives that said the CIA's Directorate of Operations "needs fixing." The bill warned that without changes, the clandestine outfit -- the agency's most famous division -- could become a "stilted bureaucracy incapable of even the slightest bit of success."
Now, moves made by Goss and his aides are believed to be riling current personnel. The Washington Post reported in yesterday's editions that the deputy director of operations, Stephen Kappes, turned in his resignation Friday following a tense meeting at the agency's headquarters.
Goss and other White House officials asked Kappes to reconsider his decision over the weekend, the paper said. Other officials are also considering leaving.
An intelligence official reached late Friday declined to comment.
McLaughlin temporarily took over the CIA in July when Tenet retired, also citing personal reasons. McLaughlin's ascension put him in line to field criticism from two reports highly critical of US intelligence operations, the Sept. 11 Commission report and the Senate's investigation into the flawed prewar intelligence on Iraq.
President George W. Bush decided in August to nominate a permanent replacement for Tenet and tapped Goss, who was a CIA operative during the 1960s.
Officials painted McLaughlin's decision to retire from government as a natural one: A CIA official said McLaughlin thought the period of government transition after the election was a "logical time to move on."
McLaughlin plans to take time off while considering opportunities in the private sector, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Since 1972, 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 Tenet's right hand, as deputy director of central intelligence.
When Tenet announced resigned in July, McLaughlin temporarily headed the agency for nearly three months.