Vickers' doctorate in military history from Johns Hopkins and owlish exterior mask the fact that he is a risk taker, albeit in a calibrated, cerebral way. He left the CIA when he was only 32, having already played a key role in the most successful covert operation in the agency's history -- expelling the Soviets from Afghanistan -- to get an MBA at Wharton. And he was a Special Forces officer in Central America.
Like both Morell and Brennan, Vickers also played a key role in the operation to find bin Laden. In his previous job at the Pentagon, he was the civilian overseer of Special Operations Forces and was intimately involved in the planning of the SEAL raid in Abbottabad. But unlike Morell and Brennan, Vickers wasn't at the CIA when waterboarding and other coercive interrogation techniques were being employed by the agency.
Given all the consternation on Capitol Hill about the circumstances surrounding the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in September in which the U.S. ambassador was killed along with two CIA employees, the Obama administration could decide to tap someone who has deep experience on the Hill.
An obvious candidate would be Harman, who as a member of the House of Representatives from California between 1993 and 2011 served on all the major committees focused on national security: Armed Services, Intelligence and Homeland Security. Now running the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, Harman is regarded as one of the Democratic Party's leading experts on national security.
If appointed and confirmed, Harman would be the first woman director of the CIA.
A further consideration: Another former nine-term Democratic congressman from California, Panetta, now the defense secretary, led the CIA for more than two years and is regarded as one of the most effective directors of the agency in recent decades.
(Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Michael Morell was executive assistant to CIA director George Tenet during the presidency of George W. Bush.)
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