|Acting Director of the Central Intelligence Agency|
November 9, 2012 – March 8, 2013
|Preceded by||David Petraeus|
|Succeeded by||John O. Brennan|
July 1, 2011 – September 6, 2011
|Preceded by||Leon Panetta|
|Succeeded by||David Petraeus|
|3rd Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency|
May 6, 2010 – August 9, 2013
|Preceded by||Stephen Kappes|
|Succeeded by||Avril Haines|
Michael Joseph Morell
September 4, 1958
Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Mary Beth Manion|
|Education||University of Akron |
Michael Joseph Morell (//; born September 4, 1958) is an American former career intelligence analyst. He served as the deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2010 to 2013 and twice as its acting director, first in 2011 and then from 2012 to 2013. He is now Senior Counselor and the Global Chairman of the Geo-Political Risk Practice at Beacon Global Strategies LLC, a consulting firm in Washington, D.C.
Early life and education
The son of an autoworker and homemaker, Morell is a native of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, and he went to Saint Joseph's School and Cuyahoga Falls High School there. He is a first generation college student. He has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Akron and a Master of Arts from Georgetown University, both in economics. He joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1980 and served there for 33 years.
Most of Morell's early work in the Agency was devoted to energy and to East Asian projects. During his mid-career, Morell managed the staff that produced the President's Daily Brief, and he served as the Executive Assistant to DCI George Tenet. Morell was President George W. Bush's daily intelligence briefer during 2001, including on September 11 when Morell had accompanied Bush on a trip to Florida and then spent the entire day with him. When asked by Bush who was responsible for the attacks that day, Morell said "… that I had no doubt that the trail would lead to the doorstep of Bin Laden and al-Qa’ida."
Morell also served as Director for Intelligence, the Agency's top analyst, from 2008 to 2010. He served as the CIA's Associate Deputy Director, the Agency's top administrator, from 2006 to 2008.
In May 2010, Morell was sworn in as the deputy director of the CIA, succeeding Stephen Kappes. Morell was awarded the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the Agency's top honor, for his role in the bin Laden operation. Obama, knowing that Morell was with Bush on 9/11, sent Morell to Dallas to brief Bush on the raid two weeks after bin Laden was killed.
From July 1, 2011 to September 6, 2011, Morell served his first stint as acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency, replacing Leon Panetta when he was confirmed as Secretary of Defense. On November 9, 2012, Morell once again became acting director after the resignation of David Petraeus, following a sex scandal. President Obama considered Morell as the permanent replacement to Petraeus but chose John Brennan instead; Brennan was confirmed by the U.S. Senate by 63 to 34 vote on March 5, 2013. Morell announced his retirement from the CIA on June 12, 2013 and left the Agency in early September 2013.
In November 2013, Morell joined Beacon Global Strategies as a Senior Counselor. In 2018, Beacon named Morell as the head of its geo-political risk practice. In this role, Morell advises firms on global developments and what they mean for the companies.
In the wake of Edward Snowden's 2013 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".
In January 2014, Morell joined CBS News as an on-air contributor on intelligence and national security. In 2018, CBS began producing Morell's weekly podcast on national security, titled Intelligence Matters. In each episode, Morell speaks with fellow members of the intelligence community about their lives and careers as well as national security policy makers. Morell also contributes to the media in other ways, as a contributing columnist to the Washington Post, and as an expert voice on Axios.
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. A New York Times bestseller, the book traces his three-decade-long career at the CIA, with a focus on the Agency's counterterrorism missions both before and after the September 11 attacks. The book deals with the public controversies related to the country's post-9/11 counterterrorism activities. In the book, Morell defends targeted killings by drones. He also criticizes the Senate Intelligence Committee’s analysis of CIA torture. In a separate book written by a group of former CIA senior officials, Morell critiques the media's coverage of the Senate report.
On May 19, 2015, during his book tour, Morell stated on MSNBC that what Vice President Dick Cheney said publicly about Iraq's nuclear weapons program before the war in 2003 was inconsistent with the views of the intelligence community. 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."
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. Morell noted that Powell had said repeatedly that no one from the Agency had ever apologized for sending him to speak to the United Nations with incorrect intelligence and that Morell thought it time that someone did so.
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 that he 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." Morell left his job as a CBS News analyst before making the endorsement (Morell rejoined CBS News after the election). In a subsequent Q&A article with the NY Times, Morell 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."
In March of 2019, Morell served as the moderator for a panel on Congressional intelligence, titled, The Hill Has Eyes: Congressional Oversight of Intelligence. The panel, made up of former members of Congress, spoke on topics relating to national security, including the 2016 foreign interference into the US presidential election.
Views on key issues
In an interview with Charlie Rose in August 2016, Morell blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Russia, and Iran for the extremely high civilian death toll in Syria. He called on the opposition in Syria to deter Russia and Iran by making them "pay a price" for their involvement in Syria, in part by targeting their military personnel in the country. He also called on the United States to conduct limited, precision bombings of Syrian government targets in order to bring Assad to the negotiating table. Regarding President Assad, Morell argued "I want to go after those things, such as his personal helicopter and aircraft, that Assad sees as his personal power base. I want to scare Assad."
In October 2016, Morell told Rose that the United States should confront Iran's behavior in the Middle East, and he voiced support for the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen against Yemen's Houthis, pointing out that the Iranians were supporting the Houthis as a proxy force against the Saudis. Morell said "Ships leave Iran on a regular basis carrying arms to the Houthis in Yemen." 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".
In December 2016, Morell suggested that the interference of Russia in the 2016 United States presidential election was "the political equivalent of 9/11". He added that President Obama should retaliate imminently with harsh sanctions, in spite of president-elect Donald Trump's doubts about the allegations of Russian influence. 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."
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 as a senior fellow there. Morell noted that he was fine with Harvard inviting Manning to speak on campus but that he was not okay with her being given the honor of a senior fellowship at one of America's most prestigious institutions. After Morell and others complained, Harvard rescinded its offer to Manning.
In 2017, Morell was appointed to serve on National Defense Strategy Commission, a congressionally created body designed to give Congress an independent view of America's defense needs. The group's final report was sobering, painting a picture of US defense capabilities eroding relative to those of China and Russia.
In April 2019, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius reported that Morell, who had been consulting for a U.S. firm that did work with Saudi Arabia, stepped down from that role following the killing of Saudi national, U.S. resident, and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Ignatius wrote that Morell withdrew "over concern about the direction that Saudi Arabia was heading."
In April 2019, Morell, along with Stanford professor Amy Zegart, wrote a piece in Foreign Affairs titled "Spies, Lies, and Algorithms: Why the Intelligence Community Must Adapt or Fail". In the article, Morell and Zegart argue that the intelligence community is falling further behind in the technology race, a development that poses a significant risk to the country. The authors say that this lag has already caused a significant intelligence breakdown, the failure of the community to see in a timely manner Russia's weaponization of social media during the 2016 presidential election.
Since retiring from CIA in 2013, Morell has served on a number of boards or advisory groups related to national security. He currently serves on the board of the Atlantic Council, a Washington, D.C. think tank on international affairs. He serves on the advisory boards of the Alliance to Secure Democracy at the German-Marshall Fund, the American Media Abroad group, and the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics. Morell served on the Advisory Board of the Committee to Investigate Russia, a group organized by Hollywood director Rob Reiner and The Atlantic senior editor David Frum.
Also, since retiring from the Agency, Morell has spent time teaching at a variety of colleges and universities. He is currently a distinguished visiting fellow at the Michael V. Hayden Center at the Schar School of Public Policy at George Mason University. He spent the fall quarter of 2016 teaching a seminar as a resident fellow at the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago. Morell has also spent time at Stanford, Dartmouth, Harvard, West Point, and his alma mater, the University of Akron.
- 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.
- 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.
- Morell, Michael J.; Harlow, Bill. The great war of our time : the CIA's fight against terrorism--from al Qa'ida to ISIS (First ed.). New York. ISBN 9781455585663. OCLC 891126052.
- "Beacon Global Strategies › Geopolitical Risk". bgsdc.com. Retrieved 2019-04-30.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- "Profile: Michael J. Morell". Retrieved June 18, 2019.
- "11 September 2001: With the President (C)" (PDF). Retrieved June 18, 2019.
- "CIA deputy director steps down". CNN. April 14, 2010. Retrieved 2012-11-09.
- "Leadership". Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 2012-11-09.[not in citation given]
- "CIA director David Petraeus resigns over extramarital affair". CNN. November 9, 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-09.
- Finn, Peter; Blake, Aaron (March 7, 2013). "John Brennan confirmed as CIA director, but filibuster brings scrutiny of drone program". Washington Post.
- Peralta, Eyder (June 12, 2013). "Reports: CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell Retires". NPR. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
- "MICHAEL MORELL". Beacon Global Strategies. Retrieved August 12, 2016.
- 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.
- Gold, Hadas (January 14, 2014). "Reports: Michael Morell Joins CBS News". Politico. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
- "The Retired Spy Who Took On Trump's "Deep State" | Washingtonian (DC)". Washingtonian. 2019-02-04. Retrieved 2019-04-30.
- "Michael Morell on Axios". Axios. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
- Miller, Greg (May 3, 2015). "Former CIA official cites agency’s failure to see al-Qaeda’s rebound". Washington Post. Retrieved January 11, 2017.
- Dilanian, Ken (May 4, 2015). "Former CIA leader defends drone strikes, torture". PBS. Retrieved August 11, 2016.
- Capaccio, Tony; Walcott, John (May 4, 2015). "CIA Official Refused Role in Powell’s Iraq Speech, Morell Writes". Bloomberg. Retrieved January 7, 2017.
- Tapper, Jake (May 12, 2015). "Former CIA official takes aim at politicians". CNN. Retrieved January 11, 2017.
- "Fmr. CIA Deputy Director grilled on Iraq War". MSNBC. May 19, 2016.
- "'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Tuesday, May 19th, 2015". NBC News. May 19, 2015.
- "'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Wednesday, May 20th, 2015". NBC News. May 20, 2016.
- "Morell "wanted to apologize" to Powell about WMD evidence". CBS News. May 11, 2015.
- 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.
- 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.
- Gold, Hadas (August 5, 2016). "Michael Morell dropped CBS News analyst job to support Hillary Clinton". Politico. Retrieved August 5, 2016.
- 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.
- "Former Intelligence Committee Members Discuss Oversight in 'The Hill Has Eyes' | Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security". haydencenter.gmu.edu. Retrieved 2019-05-16.
- "The former deputy director of the CIA on politics and national security". Charlie Rose. August 17, 2016.
- "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.
- 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.
- "Clinton Adviser Proposes Attacking Iran to Aid the Saudis in Yemen". New York Magazine. October 26, 2016.
- "At Hillary Clinton's Favorite Think Tank, a Doubling Down on Anti-Iran, Pro-Saudi Policy". The Intercept. October 26, 2016.
- 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.
- Fox-Brewster, Thomas (December 13, 2016). "Ex-CIA Director: Obama Should Retaliate To Russian Election Hacks Now". Forbes. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
- "Key Democratic Officials Now Warning Base Not to Expect Evidence of Trump/Russia Collusion". The Intercept. March 16, 2017.
- Becket, Stefan (September 14, 2017). "Ex-CIA chief Michael Morell resigns Harvard post over Chelsea Manning". CBS. Retrieved September 14, 2017.
- Providing for the common defense : the assessment and recommendations of the National Defense Strategy Commission. National Defense Strategy Commission. OCLC 1066062102.
- Group, Washington Post Writers. "David Ignatius: MBS needs to answer on Khashoggi". Omaha.com. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
- Zegart, Amy; Morell, Michael (2019-04-19). "Spies, Lies, and Algorithms" (May/June 2019). ISSN 0015-7120. Retrieved 2019-05-01.
- Council, Atlantic. "Board of Directors". Atlantic Council. Retrieved 2019-05-01.
- Nigro, Nick. "Advisory Council". Alliance For Securing Democracy. Retrieved 2019-05-01.
- "Board of Advisors | America Abroad Media". www.americaabroadmedia.org. Retrieved 2019-05-01.
- "Board of Advisors". politics.uchicago.edu. Retrieved 2019-05-01.
- "Committee to Investigate Russia: Advisory Board". Committee to Investigate Russia. Retrieved February 10, 2018.
- Johnson, Ted (19 September 2017). "Rob Reiner Helps Launch Committee to Investigate Russia". Variety. Retrieved 8 October 2017.
- Cohen, Stephen F. (27 September 2017). "Do Liberal Democrats Want War With Russia?". The Nation.
- "Former CIA Acting Director Michael Morell Joins Schar School, Hayden Center for Intelligence | Schar School of Policy and Government". schar.gmu.edu. Retrieved 2019-05-01.
- "Michael Morell". politics.uchicago.edu. Retrieved 2019-05-01.
- "FSI - Inside the CIA: A Conversation with Michael Morell". fsi.stanford.edu. Retrieved 2019-05-01.
- "U.S. Foreign Policy and International Security Post-doctoral Fellowship | The John Sloan Dickey Center". dickey.dartmouth.edu. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
- "Retiring CIA Official Michael Morell Joins Belfer Center as Senior Fellow". Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
- "Respected national security leaders will speak March 7 : UA News". www.UAkron.edu. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
- "Acting Director of the Central Intelligence Agency: Who Is Michael Morell?". allgov.com. Retrieved 25 August 2018.
- "Michael J. Morell - Akron Roundtable". www.akronroundtable.org. Retrieved 25 August 2018.
- "Off-the-Record with Michael Morell, Acting CIA Director (ret.) - PSA". psaonline.org. 9 February 2015. Retrieved 25 August 2018.
- "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.
- "Intelligence Matters: A CBS News original national security podcast". www.CBSNews.com. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
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