WASHINGTON – The chief of the nearly three-year-old National Counterterrorism Center announced his resignation Wednesday, vacating an important post in the Bush administration's efforts against Al Qaeda and other extremist groups.
Retired Vice Adm. John Scott Redd said he is stepping down next month to have a long-delayed surgery and spend more time with his five grandchildren and the rest of his family. His spokesman, Carl Kropf, said Redd needs to have both knees replaced. The surgery will require follow-up rehabilitation and would have meant a prolonged absence from the center.
In a note to employees, Redd provided an upbeat assessment of the administration's fight against terrorism. "I believe that as a country we are better prepared today than at any time in our history to wage this war," he said Wednesday.
During three dozens years of active duty with the Navy, Redd commanded eight defense organizations and held senior leadership jobs at the Pentagon. He retired from the military in 1998 and worked in the private sector before taking a post with the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq in early 2004. He later became executive director of President Bush's commission on weapons of mass destruction.
Redd took over the counterterrorism center in August 2005 and oversaw the organization through a number of threats, including the August 2006 plot to use liquid explosives against U.S.-bound jetliners.
He got caught in the political fray this summer when Rep. Jane Harman, who heads a House Homeland Security subcommittee, said the center should have corrected what she characterized as alarmist statements from Republicans about a looming terrorist threat. In a letter to Redd, Harman, D-Calif., complained that Republicans were misrepresenting intelligence reports to justify quick action on legislation to provide the government with easier methods of eavesdropping on adversaries.
The center's deputy director, Michael Leiter, will take over as acting head when Redd leaves.
Leiter, a Navy EA-6B Prowler pilot and lawyer by training, was a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and an assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. He and Redd worked together on Bush's weapons commission, and Leiter helped the Office of Director of National Intelligence get established.
Building on existing government operations, Congress established the National Counterterrorism Center as part of an intelligence overhaul passed in late 2004.
Located in Washington's Virginia suburbs, the center draws counterterrorism experts from the CIA, FBI, Pentagon and other agencies who try to ensure that clues about potential attacks, such as ones before the Sept. 11 strikes, are not missed.