The head of the CIA's analysis branch has become the latest victim of a purge of the intelligence agency following the appointment of its new director, Porter Goss, it was reported Wednesday.
Jami Miscik has told her department she will leave in February, calling her exit part of the CIA's "natural evolution" under new management. But former intelligence officials who know her say she would have preferred to stay and was being forced out by Goss, a close ally of President George W. Bush. One former official told The New York Times: "The decision to depart was not hers."
Half a dozen other senior CIA officials have left in the three months since Goss took office accompanied by a team of Republican aides he brought with him from his days in Congress.
The turmoil comes as the agency is about to lose its primary role in the espionage world in a revamp which will place all 15 US intelligence bodies under a new national intelligence director, due to be named early in the new year.
Miscik's department, the directorate of intelligence, is responsible for assessing foreign intelligence from all sources and presenting its conclusions to policy makers.
She is responsible, in particular, for the "president's daily brief" delivered to the White House every morning.
Miscik took the job in 2002, as the CIA was trying to fix lapses that allowed al-Qaeda to mount the Sept. 11 attacks the previous year.
Under her leadership, however, CIA analysts consistently misinterpreted intelligence on Iraq and wrongly concluded that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction.
An internal agency study last year found that directorate of intelligence staff had "never been more junior or more inexperienced," and pointed to "systemic problems."
Miscik's supporters argue that she was among the first to acknowledge those problems, and attempted to put them right with more rigorous analysis and a more careful review of intelligence sources.
Critics of the administration have also argued that Miscik's analysts had expressed considerable caution over some of the claims about Iraqi WMD and had played down allegations of links with al-Qaeda, but those warnings had been ignored by the White House and the Pentagon in their determination to oust Saddam.
A commission is investigating intelligence failures over Iraq and is due to deliver its report in the spring.