Michael Morell

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Michael Morell
CIA Michael Morell.jpg
Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
In office
November 9, 2012 – March 8, 2013
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byDavid Petraeus
Succeeded byJohn Brennan
In office
July 1, 2011 – September 6, 2011
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byLeon Panetta
Succeeded byDavid Petraeus
3rd Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
In office
May 6, 2010 – August 9, 2013
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byStephen Kappes
Succeeded byAvril Haines
Personal details
Michael Joseph Morell

(1958-09-04) September 4, 1958 (age 60)
Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, U.S.
Political partyIndependent[1]
Spouse(s)Mary Beth Manion
EducationUniversity of Akron
Georgetown University

Michael Joseph Morell (/məˈrɛl/; born September 4, 1958) is a former American intelligence analyst. He served as the deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency as well as its acting director twice, first in 2011 and then from 2012 to 2013.[2] Since November 2013, he has been a senior counselor to Beacon Global Strategies LLC.

Early life and education[edit]

The son of an autoworker,[3] Morell is a native of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio,[4] and went to Saint Joseph's School and Cuyahoga Falls High School there. His formal education includes a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Akron and a Master of Arts from Georgetown University, both in economics.[5] He joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1980.[3]


Most of Morell's early work in the agency was devoted to Asian projects.[5] Later in his career, he managed the staff that produced the President's Daily Brief and he was the Executive Assistant to DCI George Tenet. Morell was also Bush's briefer during the September 11, 2001, attacks, and, when asked by Bush who was responsible, Morell said "I would bet my children's future that the trail would lead to the doorstep of Osama bin Ladin and al Qa'ida". Later, as deputy director, Morell would be a trusted advisor to President Barack Obama in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011.[5][6] Before his 2010 nomination as Deputy Director, he served as Director for Intelligence, a position he had held since 2008. He served as the CIA's Associate Deputy Director from 2006 to 2008.[3]

Morell, Leon Panetta, Hillary Clinton and other members of Obama's national security team in May 2011

In May 2010, Morell was sworn in as the deputy director of the CIA, succeeding Stephen Kappes.[7] From July 1, 2011, to September 6, 2011, he served his first stint as acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency, replacing Leon Panetta who was named as Secretary of Defense.[8] On November 9, 2012, Morell once again became acting director after the resignation of David Petraeus, following a sex scandal.[9] President Obama chose John Brennan as Director; he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate by 63 to 34 vote on March 5, 2013.[10]

Morell announced his retirement from the CIA on June 12, 2013.[11] In November 2013, he joined Beacon Global Strategies as a Senior Counselor.[12]

In the wake of Edward Snowden's 2013 unlawful leak of documents on international espionage conducted by the National Security Agency, Morell was appointed as a member of President Obama's Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies. By the end of 2013, the group presented a report to the White House. Nearly all the Review Group's recommendations were accepted. Morell has been a regular critic of Snowden, saying that ISIS benefitted from Snowden's disclosures, adding that "Americans may well die at the hands of terrorists because of Edward Snowden's action".[13]

Meanwhile, in January 2014, Morell joined CBS News as an on-air contributor in intelligence and national security.[14]

In May 2015, Morell's book entitled The Great War of Our Time: The CIA's Fight Against Terrorism—From al Qa'ida to ISIS was released. It traces his three-decades-long career at the CIA, with a focus on the agency's counterterrorism missions after the September 11th attacks, and the related public controversies.[15] In the book, Morell defends targeted killings by drones.[16][17] He also criticizes the Senate Intelligence Committee’s analysis of CIA torture.[15][18]

On 19 May 2015, Morell, a former intelligence briefer to President George W. Bush before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, stated on Meet the Press that Vice President Dick Cheney lied about Iraq's nuclear weapons program before the war in 2003.[19][20] MSNBC host Chris Matthews said: " ... here on Hardball last night, the top CIA official, the man who briefed President Bush on a daily basis, said that what Cheney said was not true. ... I've been doing this business for a long time, rarely do you get that Perry Mason moment. When the guy comes and just says, You know what? I'm the top briefer from the CIA for the president. I'm deputy DCI. I'm right there telling them all we knew, and we never knew and never said he had a nuclear weapon. And yet we went into war with that argument."[21]

Also in his book, Morell apologized to former Secretary of State Colin Powell for the CIA's erroneous assessments of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs.[22]

In an August 2016 op-ed for The New York Times, Morell endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. Stating that he was registered with neither the Democratic nor Republican parties, and had always been silent about his political preferences, Morell stated that Donald Trump was "not only unqualified for the job, but he may well pose a threat to our national security."[23][1][24] Morell left his job as a CBS News analyst before making the endorsement.[25] In a subsequent Q&A article with the NY Times, he responded to allegations that his current employer, Beacon Global Strategies, "was co-founded by former associates of Mrs. Clinton", by saying it was a non-partisan firm and that he had spoken out "entirely on [my] own, with no other consideration given any thought."[26]

In an interview with Charlie Rose in August 2016, Morell blamed Syrian President Assad, Russia, and Iran for the death toll in Syria.[27] He called on the moderate opposition in Syria to make Russia and Iran "pay a price" for their involvement in Syria, in part by targeting their military personnel in the country.[28] He also called on the US to begin bombing Syrian government targets in order to bring Assad to the negotiating table.[29] Regarding President Bashar al-Assad, Morell argued "I want to go after those things that Assad sees as his personal power base. I want to scare Assad."[28]

In October 2016, Morell wanted to confront the Iranians and voiced support for the Saudi Arabian–led intervention in Yemen against Yemen's Houthis, saying "Ships leave Iran on a regular basis carrying arms to the Houthis in Yemen."[30] Morell also said that Iran wants "to be the hegemonic power in the region" and Arab states of the Persian Gulf are "pushing back against that".[31]

In December 2016, Morell suggested the interference of Russia in the 2016 United States presidential election was "the political equivalent of 9/11."[32] He added that President Obama should retaliate imminently, in spite of president-elect Donald Trump's doubts about the allegations of Russian influence.[33] In March 2017, Morell said: "On the question of the Trump campaign conspiring with the Russians here, there is smoke, but there is no fire at all. There's no little campfire, there's no little candle, there's no spark. And there's a lot of people looking for it."[34]

In September 2017, Morell resigned from his senior fellowship at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government as a result of Chelsea Manning's appointment.[35]

Committee to Investigate Russia[edit]

Morell serves on the Advisory Board of the Committee to Investigate Russia,[36] a group organized by Hollywood director Rob Reiner and The Atlantic senior editor David Frum.[37][38]

Personal life[edit]

Morell is married to Mary Beth Morell (née Manion), and they have three children.[39][40][41][42] Morell hosts a weekly podcast called Intelligence Matters in partnership with CBS News in which he speaks with fellow members of the intelligence community about their lives and careers as well as national security and policy matters.[43]


  1. ^ a b Morell, Michael J. (August 5, 2016). "I Ran the C.I.A. Now I'm Endorsing Hillary Clinton". The New York Times. Retrieved August 5, 2016. I am neither a registered Democrat nor a registered Republican. In my 40 years of voting, I have pulled the lever for candidates of both parties.
  2. ^ Glasser, Susan B. (December 11, 2017). "Ex-Spy Chief: Russia's Election Hacking Was An 'Intelligence Failure'". Politico.com. Retrieved December 26, 2017. A veteran of nearly three decades in the CIA, Morell rose from within the ranks to become the agency's longtime deputy director, twice serving as its acting leader before retiring during President Barack Obama's second term.
  3. ^ a b c Miller, Greg (April 15, 2010). "Key counterterrorism leader leaving No. 2 job at CIA; New deputy described as 30-year veteran with broad experience". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-04-26. From 2006 to 2008, [Morell] served as associate deputy director, the No. 3 position at the CIA, making him responsible for day-to-day operations.
  4. ^ Muravchik, Joshua (July/August 2015). "Inside the Battle". Review of Michael Morell, The Great War of Our Time: The CIA's Fight Against Terrorism—From al Qa'ida to ISIS. Commentary. p. 56 f. Retrieved via Book Review Index Plus database/InfoTrac, January 11, 2017. Preview online.
  5. ^ a b c Dyer, Bob (August 17, 2006). "Here's the dossier on new No. 3 guy at the CIA: Cuyahoga Falls native, UA grad says spy agency wasn't part of original career plan". Akron Beacon Journal. Ohio.
  6. ^ "Biography for Michael Morell". Silobreaker. 2006-07-24. Retrieved 2007-07-21.[dead link]
  7. ^ "CIA deputy director steps down". CNN. April 14, 2010. Retrieved 2012-11-09.
  8. ^ "Leadership". Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 2012-11-09.[not in citation given]
  9. ^ "CIA director David Petraeus resigns over extramarital affair". CNN. November 9, 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-09.
  10. ^ Finn, Peter; Blake, Aaron (March 7, 2013). "John Brennan confirmed as CIA director, but filibuster brings scrutiny of drone program". Washington Post.
  11. ^ Peralta, Eyder (June 12, 2013). "Reports: CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell Retires". NPR. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
  12. ^ "MICHAEL MORELL". Beacon Global Strategies. Retrieved August 12, 2016.
  13. ^ Morell, Michael (2015). The Great War of Our Time: The CIA's fight against terrorism—From al Qa'ida to ISIS. New York: Twelve (Hatchette Group). ISBN 9781455585663. Publisher's page.
  14. ^ Gold, Hadas (January 14, 2014). "Reports: Michael Morell Joins CBS News". Politico. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
  15. ^ a b Miller, Greg (May 3, 2015). "Former CIA official cites agency’s failure to see al-Qaeda’s rebound". Washington Post. Retrieved January 11, 2017.
  16. ^ Dilanian, Ken (May 4, 2015). "Former CIA leader defends drone strikes, torture". PBS. Retrieved August 11, 2016.
  17. ^ Capaccio, Tony; Walcott, John (May 4, 2015). "CIA Official Refused Role in Powell’s Iraq Speech, Morell Writes". Bloomberg. Retrieved January 7, 2017.
  18. ^ Tapper, Jake (May 12, 2015). "Former CIA official takes aim at politicians". CNN. Retrieved January 11, 2017.
  19. ^ "Fmr. CIA Deputy Director grilled on Iraq War". MSNBC. May 19, 2016.
  20. ^ "'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Tuesday, May 19th, 2015". NBC News. May 19, 2015.
  21. ^ "'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Wednesday, May 20th, 2015". NBC News. May 20, 2016.
  22. ^ "Morell "wanted to apologize" to Powell about WMD evidence". CBS News. May 11, 2015.
  23. ^ Alvarez, Priscilla (August 5, 2016). "Why a Former CIA Chief Says Trump Is a 'Threat' to National Security; Michael Morell the latest in a string of ex-national-security officials to back Hillary Clinton as she embraces an image centered on defense". The Atlantic. Retrieved August 7, 2016.
  24. ^ Phillip, Abby (August 5, 2016). "In endorsing Clinton, ex-CIA chief says Putin made Trump his 'unwitting agent'". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 5, 2016.
  25. ^ Gold, Hadas (August 5, 2016). "Michael Morell dropped CBS News analyst job to support Hillary Clinton". Politico. Retrieved August 5, 2016.
  26. ^ Morell, Michael J. (August 12, 2016). "Q. & A. With Michael Morell: Why I'm Endorsing Hillary Clinton". The New York Times. Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  27. ^ "The former deputy director of the CIA on politics and national security". Charlie Rose. August 17, 2016.
  28. ^ a b "Former CIA deputy director: I want to scare Bashar al-Assad". CBS News. August 8, 2016. Retrieved August 11, 2016. He went on to explain making them "pay the price" would mean killing Russians and Iranians, and said he wants to make Syrian president Bashar al-Assad uncomfortable.
  29. ^ Levitz, Eric (August 10, 2016). "Maybe Hillary Clinton Shouldn't Tout Endorsements From Neocons Who Support Torture and War With Iran". New York Magazine. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  30. ^ "Clinton Adviser Proposes Attacking Iran to Aid the Saudis in Yemen". New York Magazine. October 26, 2016.
  31. ^ "At Hillary Clinton's Favorite Think Tank, a Doubling Down on Anti-Iran, Pro-Saudi Policy". The Intercept. October 26, 2016.
  32. ^ Bertrand, Natasha (December 12, 2016). "Former acting CIA Director Michael Morell: Russian meddling in US election 'is the political equivalent of 9/11'". Business Insider. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
  33. ^ Fox-Brewster, Thomas (December 13, 2016). "Ex-CIA Director: Obama Should Retaliate To Russian Election Hacks Now". Forbes. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
  34. ^ "Key Democratic Officials Now Warning Base Not to Expect Evidence of Trump/Russia Collusion". The Intercept. March 16, 2017.
  35. ^ Becket, Stefan (September 14, 2017). "Ex-CIA chief Michael Morell resigns Harvard post over Chelsea Manning". CBS. Retrieved September 14, 2017.
  36. ^ "Committee to Investigate Russia: Advisory Board". Committee to Investigate Russia. Retrieved February 10, 2018.
  37. ^ Johnson, Ted (19 September 2017). "Rob Reiner Helps Launch Committee to Investigate Russia". Variety. Retrieved 8 October 2017.
  38. ^ Cohen, Stephen F. (27 September 2017). "Do Liberal Democrats Want War With Russia?". The Nation.
  39. ^ "Acting Director of the Central Intelligence Agency: Who Is Michael Morell?". allgov.com. Retrieved 25 August 2018.
  40. ^ "Michael J. Morell - Akron Roundtable". www.akronroundtable.org. Retrieved 25 August 2018.
  41. ^ "Off-the-Record with Michael Morell, Acting CIA Director (ret.) - PSA". psaonline.org. 9 February 2015. Retrieved 25 August 2018.
  42. ^ "TRIBUTE TO MICHAEL J. MORELL". Congressional Record. 159 (100): S5684–S5686. July 15, 2013 – via Federation of American Scientists. We also thank Michael's wife Mary Beth and his children, Sarah, Luke, and Peter, for their support and understanding, as well as their sacrifices in allowing Michael to selflessly commit himself to protecting our Nation against those who would do us harm.
  43. ^ Intelligence Matters: A CBS News original national security podcast

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Stephen Kappes
Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
Succeeded by
Avril Haines
Preceded by
Leon Panetta
Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

Succeeded by
David Petraeus
Preceded by
David Petraeus
Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

Succeeded by
John Brennan