Michael J. Morell
Michael Morell, the former Acting Director and Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and current Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Schar School of Policy and Goverment, is one of the leading national security professionals in the United States, with extensive experience in intelligence and foreign policy. He has been at the center of our nation’s fight against terrorism, its work to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and its efforts to respond to trends that are altering the international landscape—including the rise of China, a revanchist Russia, and the cyber threat. Politico has called Michael the “Bob Gates of his generation.”
During his 33-year career at CIA, Michael served as Deputy Director for over three years, a job in which he managed the Agency’s day-to-day operations and analysis, represented the Agency at the White House and Congress, and maintained the Agency’s relationships with intelligence services and foreign leaders around the world. Michael also served twice as Acting Director, leading CIA when Leon Panetta was named Secretary of Defense and again after David Petraeus left government.
Michael’s senior assignments at CIA also included serving for two years as the Director of Intelligence, the Agency’s top analyst, and for two years as Executive Director, the CIA’s top administrator—managing human resources, the budget, security, and information technology for an agency the size of a Fortune 200 firm.
Michael has been a witness to history on multiple occasions. He is the only person who was both with President Bush on September 11th, when al-Qaida burst into the American consciousness, and with President Obama on May 1st, when Bin Laden was brought to justice. Michael played a major role in the Bin Laden operation.
Michael was known inside CIA for his leadership. He inspired individuals and work units to perform beyond expectations. He mentored many Agency officers into the senior leadership ranks, including a significant number of women and minorities. When he departed CIA, thousands of officers wrote Michael notes of thanks.
Michael is the recipient of many awards. He received the Presidential Rank Award for exceptional performance – the nation’s highest honor for civilian service. He also received the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, CIA’s highest award, for his role in the Bin Ladin operation. Michael is also the recipient of the Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal, the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, and the Department of Defense Service Medal.
Today, Michael is involved in a wide range of activities. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Fortress Investment Group; a member of the Board of Directors of Orbis Operations; Senior Counselor and Global Chairman of the Geopolitical Risk Practice at Washington’s fastest growing consulting firm, Beacon Global Strategies; and a consultant to private equity firms making investments in firms that advance our country’s national security.
Much of what Michael does today is tied to educating the country on national security. He is a Senior National Security Contributor for CBS News and the host of a CBS News award-winning podcast and national radio program on national security called Intelligence Matters. He has lectured on national security at the University of Chicago, Stanford, Dartmouth, Harvard, Brown, Princeton, Yale, West Point, the Army War College, and George Mason University. He is currently a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Michael V. Hayden Center at George Mason.
Michael is a Senior Fellow at the Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point, a member of the Board of Directors of the Atlantic Council, a member of the Advisory Board to the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, and a member of the Advisory Board to the Alliance for Securing Democracy program at the German-Marshall Fund.
Michael served as a member of President Obama’s 2013 Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology and as a member on the 2018 Commission on the National Defense Strategy, a commission appointed by Congress to help it understand the nation’s defense needs. He served as an advisor to DCIA Bill Burns on Burn’s strategic review of the CIA in 2021.
Michael is the author of the New York Times bestseller on CIA’s nearly 20-year fight against al Qa`ida. The title of the book is “The Great War of Our Time: An Insider’s Account of the CIA’s Fight Against Terrorism – From al Qaida to ISIS.” It was published in May 2015.
Michael is a native of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, and he maintains close ties to northeast Ohio. His father and mother—who taught him hard work, the pursuit of excellence, and humility—were an autoworker and a homemaker. Michael is a first-generation college student, earning a B.A. summa cum laude in economics from the University of Akron. He also earned an M.A. in economics from Georgetown University.
Michael is involved with a number of charities. He serves on the Honorary Board of Directors at the International Spy Museum. Michael served on the Board of the CIA Officers Memorial Fund and on the Board of the National Intelligence University Foundation. He and his wife Mary Beth are fully committed to the class they sponsor at a DC Charter School.
Dr. David Priess is a visiting professor at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government and a senior fellow at the Schar School’s Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security. A prominent writer and speaker on the presidency, national security, and intelligence, he is also the Publisher of Lawfare, Chief Operating Officer of the Lawfare Institute, and co-host of the Chatter podcast.
Priess, who has a PhD in political science from Duke University, served at the CIA as an intelligence officer, a manager, and a daily intelligence briefer during the presidencies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. During the Bush administration, he personally delivered the President’s Daily Brief for more than a year to Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller and occasionally into the White House.
He has written two books about the US presidency. The first, The President’s Book of Secrets, relates how US intelligence officials brief the commander in chief on the most sensitive information in the world. For this, he became the first author to interview, for one book, every living former President, Vice President, and CIA director from previous administrations. His second book is How To Get Rid of a President: History’s Guide To Removing Unpopular, Unable, or Unfit Chief Executives. Covering American political history from the Constitutional Convention through the election of Donald Trump, it stands as the definitive survey of how presidents have left office.
Priess has appeared often in national media like CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and NPR to discuss the presidency, national security, and intelligence issues. He has written for the Washington Post, Lawfare, The Bulwark, Foreign Affairs, the Daily Beast, Politico, the Cipher Brief, Foreign Policy, War on the Rocks, and the Houston Chronicle.