President Barack Obama's pick for intelligence chief at the Homeland Security Department withdrew from consideration Friday amid questions about his role in the CIA's interrogations of suspected terrorists.
Philip Mudd was scheduled to appear next week before senators considering his nomination as undersecretary of intelligence and analysis. He notified the White House on Friday that he was withdrawing his name because he did not want to be a distraction.
At issue was the extent of Mudd's involvement in the interrogation program while he was a senior CIA official in the Bush administration. The interrogation methods have been criticized by Democratic lawmakers and Obama.
'Distraction to the president'
"I know that this position will require the full cooperation with Congress and I believe that if I continue to move forward I will become a distraction to the president and his vital agenda," Mudd said in a statement.
On Thursday, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Mudd's ties to the program would be investigated.
As deputy director of the Office of Terrorism Analysis at the CIA, Mudd had direct knowledge of the agency's harsh interrogation program, according to a congressional aide, who was not authorized to disclose the information and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Democratic-run Senate would have had to decide whether indirect involvement or knowledge of the interrogation program was enough to disqualify someone praised by current and former intelligence officials.
Another selection derailed
In November, Obama's selection of John Brennan to become CIA director was derailed after criticism from liberal bloggers that associated him with the Bush administration's interrogation, detention and rendition programs.
Brennan now is the White House-based homeland security adviser, which did not require Senate confirmation.
A White House spokesman said Mudd had Obama's full support, but that the president understood Mudd's decision.
"It is with sadness and regret that the president accepted Phil's withdrawal from consideration as Phil once again demonstrated his duty to country above all things," White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said.
Charlie Allen, the former top intelligence official at the Homeland Security Department and longtime senior official at the CIA, said he regretted Mudd's decision.
"The men and women of the CIA work tirelessly and courageously to keep the country safe," Allen said. "Phil epitomizes the very best of these officers and his withdrawal is the country's loss."