The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, George Tenet, has resigned "for personal reasons," President Bush announced today.
Calling Tenet a "strong and able leader," President Bush told reporters that he accepted his resignation.
Tenet, 51, will not leave his post until mid-July, when the deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John McLaughlin, will temporarily serve as the acting director until a successor is found.
Tenet had been under fire for months in connection with intelligence failures preceding the U.S.-led war with Iraq and threats from the al Qaeda terror network.
Senior sources familiar with a key Senate Intelligence Committee report on pre-war intelligence failures say the findings are "devastating" for Tenet. Democratic sources say Tenet was also losing support in the party because of these conclusions reached in the report, which is currently being declassified by the CIA and is expected to be made public on June 17.
Tenet has been director of the Central Intelligence Agency since July 1997, providing stability to an office that had had five different directors in the previous six years. He is the second longest serving director in U.S. history.
A holdover from the Clinton administration, Tenet says he believes bipartisanship is central to his job. He once told The New Republic magazine: "There is no room for either politics or partisanship in the way the intelligence community performs its duties."
He has developed strong personal relationships with Middle East leaders, most notably Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and is viewed within the Bush administration as a key player in Middle East peace negotiations, having tried to negotiate a cease-fire in June 2001.
From Deli Boy to Intelligence Apprentice
Tenet's road to the CIA started long before President Clinton came to office.
A native New Yorker, Tenet grew up in a middle-class Flushing, Queens, neighborhood. He and his twin brother Bill — now a cardiologist in New York — attended public school, attended religious classes and served as altar boys at a Greek Orthodox Church. His father and mother emigrated from Greece and operated a delicatessen, where Tenet worked growing up.
After graduating from Benjamin N. Cardozo High School, he enrolled at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, where he earned his bachelor's degree. He then returned to New York to attend Columbia University, where he earned a master's degree in international affairs.
After stints as research director for the American Hellenic Institute and the Solar Industries Association, Tenet in 1982 began his career in government, serving as a legislative assistant to Sen. John Heinz, R-Pa., dealing with defense, energy and foreign affairs issues. Three years later, he joined the Senate Select Committee under Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., helping direct the committee's oversight of arms control negotiations between the United States and Soviet Union. He ultimately assumed the role of staff director of the committee.
Bringing Stability Amid Turmoil