George Tenet, the Clinton administration appointee who became a lightning rod for criticism of the U.S. war on terrorism, resigned as CIA director Thursday.
Tenet cited "personal reasons," according to a statement President Bush made to reporters in Washington. No permanent successor has been chosen. The agency will be run by a deputy director on an interim basis after Tenet leaves the post in mid-July.
"He's done a superb job on behalf of the American people," Bush said. "George Tenet the kind of public servant you like to work with. He's strong, he's resolute. He's been a strong and able leader at the agency. He's been a strong leader in the war on terror."
While a favorite among CIA agents, Tenet has been faulted over the last two years for various failures of U.S. intelligence, including the inability to prevent the Sept. 11 attacks and apparently inflated claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
A career Washington operative, Tenet's early career was accented by a Cold War expertise that some said left him ill-prepared for the changing nature of national security after Sept. 11. An investigative panel appointed by Bush last month criticized the CIA for failing properly to reckon the threat of al Qaeda in the months and years leading up to the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
In written testimony to the committee, Tenet defended the agency's record.
"There have been thousands of actions taken in this war over the past decade by CIA managers, operatives and analysts," Tenet said. "Not every action we took was executed flawlessly, but I believe the record will show a keen awareness of the threat, a disciplined focus, and persistent efforts to track, disrupt, apprehend and ultimately bring to justice Bin Ladin and his terrorist henchmen."
Tenet, who held the CIA post longer than any director except Allen Dulles, has also been at the center of a dispute over the administration's prewar claims about Iraq's weapons capabilities. The Justice Department is also looking into allegations that the public leak of a CIA operative's name last year originated in the Bush administration.