Meet the leading contender to replace David Petraeus at the CIA

Michael Morell, center, is currently acting head of the CIA Michael Morell, center, is currently acting head of the CIA Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Even as the drama over David Petraeus continues, the CIA still has agents and operations to run all over the world. Somebody has to keep the lights on. That person is Michael Morell, the CIA's deputy director reportedly at the top of President Obama's shortlist to replace Petraeus permanently. In a statement Friday, Obama expressed "utmost confidence" in Morell in his capacity as acting director -- a signal many interpreted as an endorsement of Morell for Senate confirmation.

Obama's apparent pick is as natural as it is reassuring. This isn't Morell's first time running the agency; in 2011, he had a stint as acting director before Leon Panetta came on board and againahead of Petraeus' own tenure. Morell is a career agency analyst -- not a member of the operations branch that runs clandestine agents -- who cut his teeth on East Asia, which promises to be a major priority for the White House as it completes its pivot away from the Middle East in Obama's second term.

Morell's academic training is in economics; together with his background in intelligence analysis, installing him at the top of the CIA puts the United States in a good position for a future that some say should focus less on counter-terrorism and its attendant kinetic operations (read: the agency's drone program).

Read more at The Atlantic

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