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Posted at 1:35 PM ET, 04/14/2010

CIA’s shadow leader Kappes is out

By Jeff Stein

The spy agency denied it for months, but today the longtime rumor that its powerful deputy director was planning to resign this spring came true.

CIA Director Leon E. Panetta announced Wednesday that Stephen R. Kappes, who spent three decades in clandestine operations, was hanging up his cloak and dagger.

It was too soon to tell whether Kappes, who turns 60 in August, was pushed out. The CIA’s mandatory retirement age is 65.

Panetta called Kappes dedicated professional and friend:

"When I came to the CIA in February of 2009, I was extremely pleased that Steve Kappes agreed to stay on as my Deputy. He was a great partner and I, like so many others, valued his advice and experience. Steve is a one-of-a-kind professional who has dedicated himself to the CIA. He has helped me tremendously in guiding this great organization. Having worked side-by-side on some of the toughest issues around, I’m proud to call him a friend."

Kappes resigned once before as deputy director, in 2004, after clashing with CIA Director Porter Goss, a former Republican congressman. Goss's successor, Gen. Michael V. Hayden brought Hayden back in 2006 as deputy director.

"Throughout his life, Steve has put the needs of others first, as he did in returning to the CIA in the summer of 2006," Panetta's statement said.

"He hadn’t planned on so lengthy a stay this time around. So when he told me a few months ago that it was time for him to move on, I understood. Steve has, to put it simply, more than met the highest standards of duty to the nation. He excels at what he does, because he embodies the very best of this outfit—skill and loyalty, dedication and discipline, integrity and candor. He also has, if you know him, one hell of a sense of humor."

A former marine officer, Kappes, Panetta said, "deserves the gratitude of his colleagues and his country."

The naming of Michel Morell, a career analyst, as Kappes’s successor may signal that the agency is going in a new direction after a tumultuous decade in controversial counterterrorism operations: figuring out what the intelligence it has means over more covert action.

House intelligence committee chairman Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, welcomed Morell's appointment but had little to say about Kappes.

“I want to extend my congratulations to Mike Morell for his selection to serve as the next Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. I have had the pleasure of knowing Mike and, for the past nine years I have worked with him on a broad range of subjects. He is an exemplary CIA officer," Reyes said in a statement.

As for Kappes, Reyes said, “I know the agency appreciates the job Steve Kappes has done for the nation during his tenure. I will miss Steve's insight and candor, and I wish him all the best as he moves on to his post-agency career."

Reyes added, “As Mike takes over for Steve, I look forward to working with him to provide the necessary tools for the agency to perform the critical mission of protecting our great country.”

Panetta named Fran Moore, Morell's deputy, to replace him as the CIA's head of intelligence analysis.

UPDATE: Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate Selct Committee on Intelligence, said of Kappes:

“I deeply appreciate the service that Stephen Kappes has given to the CIA and to the United States over the course of his long career. I was very supportive of his decision to remain as Deputy Director in the transition between the Bush and Obama Administrations, and he has maintained stability at the Agency and been a great help and resource for Director Panetta over the past year. I wish Mr. Kappes the best in the next stage of his career."

By Jeff Stein  | April 14, 2010; 1:35 PM ET
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Next: CIA veterans assess Kappes's departure


Was he persuaded to leave? Really? Rather he was pushed out by BHO administration. Another casualty of the left.

Posted by: tony_gil | April 14, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

As a retired analyst of the CIA I encourage any shift to more attention being paid to what information means over paramilitary actions, which have violated American principles more often than not. This is a good shift in emphasis. We need to weed out the right wing nuts, though Mr. Kappes was not one, his acts encouraged them.

Posted by: ianmac37 | April 14, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

He was forced under the bus...

Posted by: bricko | April 14, 2010 10:40 PM | Report abuse

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