Outgoing Director Defends CIA

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Countering severe criticism of the CIA (search), the agency's departing deputy director called for an end to the "tirades and hyperbole" that he said are hampering constructive debate about needed intelligence reform.

"The time has come to turn down the temperature of the debate, to take a deep breath, and to get some balance and thoughtfulness into the discussion," John McLaughlin (search) said in an op-ed piece in The Washington Post.

"Let's start by dispelling the myth that the CIA has become a 'dysfunctional' and 'rogue' agency," McLaughlin said, calling such statements "way out of line."

McLaughlin, a 32-year agency veteran, is leaving the CIA, announcing his resignation earlier this mor: "This is a dysfunctional agency and in some ways a rogue agency."

But McLaughlin wrote in Wednesday's piece that despite "waves of harsh criticism, the agency has never once lost its focus or its drive to protect the U.S. homeland and American interests abroad."

Through six months of intense debate on reforms, the CIA has worked with its U.S. and foreign partners to take down about a dozen important terrorists who were plotting against the United States and its allies, he said, adding its other successes include penetrating the nuclear supply network of Pakistan's A.Q. Khan (search) and capturing people who conspired to commit terrorism against the United States.

McLaughlin also took issue with those who call the CIA "risk-averse," saying: "Tell it to the CIA officers who flew into hostile Afghanistan (search)ahead of U.S. troops just 16 days after Sept. 11 and linked up with Afghan contacts ... analysts located with American troops throughout Iraq ... CIA officers living side by side with foreign partners in remote and dangerous areas elsewhere."

McLaughlin called for thoughtful and well-informed debate on the way forward.

"Like the U.S. military, our nation's intelligence officers face daunting challenges now and for years to come," he said. "Constructive criticism can help. Tirades and hyperbole will not."