WASHINGTON — George Tenet has resigned as CIA director, President Bush announced Thursday, ending the increasingly stormy tenure of a man under fire for the department's intelligence before the Iraq war.
In a brief appearance this morning before leaving for Europe, Bush told reporters he had met Tenet on Wednesday night at the White House.
"He told he me was resigning for personal reasons. I told him I was sorry he was leaving," Bush said.
Tenet will serve until mid-July and will be temporarily replaced by Deputy Director John McLaughlin, Bush said.
The president gave no other reason for Tenet's departure. "George Tenet is the kind of public servant you like to work with," Bush said.
"I send my blessings to George and his family and look forward to working with him until he leaves the agency," Bush said.
Tenet had been under fire for months in connection with intelligence failures related to the U.S.-led war against Iraq, specifically assertions the United States made about Saddam Hussein's purported possession of weapons of mass destruction, and with respect to the threat from the al-Qaeda terrorist network.
He has survived rumors for months that he would be forced out of his position. Last summer, he was been blamed for President Bush's unsubstantiated charge in his State of the Union address that Iraq sought to buy uranium for nuclear weapons from Africa.
"The long knives are out, no doubt about it," said Richard Stolz, who headed the CIA's clandestine service under the elder President Bush, said last July. But Tenet survived that controversy.
During his seven years at the CIA, speculation at times has swirled around whether Tenet would retire or be forced out, peaking after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and surging again after the flawed intelligence estimates about Iraq's fighting capability.
Even when his political capital appeared to be tanking, Tenet managed to hang on with what some say was a fierce loyalty to Bush and the CIA personnel. A likable, chummy personality, also helped keep him above water.
Conventional wisdom had been that Tenet, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, did not plan to stay on next year, no matter who won the White House. Tenet has been on the job since July 1997, an unusually lengthy tenure in a particularly taxing era for the intelligence community that he heads.
Key Democrats have called for Tenet's resignation in the past. A week ago, former Vice President Al Gore called for Tenet and several other top administration officials to resign in wake of Iraq developments. The former presidential candidate was gentler on Tenet, describing him as a friend and "honorable man" who should still leave his position for intelligence failures.
On Capitol Hill, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., called Tenet "an honorable and decent man who has served his country well in difficult times, and no one should make him a fall guy for anything."