updated 11/12/2004 7:59:19 PM ET 2004-11-13T00:59:19

The veteran intelligence analyst who served as acting CIA director during a wave of criticism of the agency this past summer announced his retirement Friday.

In a statement, the CIA’s deputy director, John McLaughlin, called his resignation a “purely personal decision” and said it was time to move on to other endeavors. He has worked with the agency 32 years.

McLaughlin temporarily took over the CIA in July when former Director George Tenet retired, also citing personal reasons.

McLaughlin’s ascension put him in line to field criticism from two reports highly critical of U.S. intelligence operations, the Sept. 11 Commission report and the Senate’s investigation into the flawed prewar intelligence on Iraq.

President Bush decided in August to nominate a permanent replacement for Tenet and tapped the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Porter Goss, R-Fla. A former CIA operative, Goss assumed the job in September.

A CIA official said McLaughlin thought the period of government transition after the election was a “logical time to move on.” McLaughlin plans to take time off while considering opportunities in the private sector, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Since 1972, McLaughlin has climbed gradually within the agency to become finally a part of its senior leadership. He was an analyst for European and Russian issues before rising to deputy director for intelligence in 1997. By 2000, he had become Tenet’s right hand, as deputy director of central intelligence.

When Tenet announced his resignation in July, McLaughlin temporarily headed the agency for nearly three months.

McLaughlin, a 62-year-old known as “Merlin” among his colleagues, was known for pulling off impromptu magic tricks. Among them, he can turn a $1 bill into other denominations.

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