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Obama names Avril Haines as deputy CIA director after Morell retires

Michael Morell leaves the closed Senate Intelligence Committee meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington November 15, 2012. REUTERS/Jose Luis Ma
Michael Morell leaves the closed Senate Intelligence Committee meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington November 15, 2012. REUTERS/Jose Luis Ma

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will name Avril Haines, a White House legal adviser, as deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency after the current director, Michael Morell, said he would retire in August, the White House said on Wednesday.

Morell stood in as head of the CIA following the sudden resignation as director last year of David Petraeus over an affair with his biographer.

Morell had been floated as a possible successor before Obama chose his top White House counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, himself a long-time CIA veteran, to be the agency's new director.

Obama had nominated Haines in April as the State Department's legal adviser. But when Morell decided to retire, Haines became the top candidate to replace him, a White House official said, noting that her nomination for the State Department job would be withdrawn.

Haines, current deputy assistant to the president and legal adviser to the National Security Council, has participated in most key meetings of top administration officials and has also chaired a legal committee which reviews the CIA's most sensitive activities, the CIA said in a statement.

"Director Brennan considered a number of candidates and concluded that the Agency would be best served with Avril serving as its Deputy Director," the White House official said.

Morell served twice as the CIA's acting director - between November of last year and early March of this year after Petraeus' departure and, earlier, for just over two months in 2011 between the departure of Leon Panetta and the arrival of Petraeus.

Morell, widely admired both within the intelligence community and Capitol Hill, is a veteran of the CIA's analytical division, rather than undercover espionage, and had worked at the agency for 33 years.

He will join the President's Intelligence Advisory Board, the White House said.

Although he usually avoided controversy, Morell's name surfaced recently in the political controversy over how Administration officials edited "talking points" that played down the role of Islamic militants in the days immediately after the September 11, 2012 attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball, Roberta Rampton and Jeff Mason; Editing by Sandra Maler and David Brunnstrom)

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