President Clinton nominated intelligence veteran George Tenet as director of the CIA on Wednesday after first choice Anthony Lake withdrew from a messy confirmation process.
Tenet, 44, is acting director of the CIA and is a former staff director of the Senate Intelligence Committee that will vote on his confirmation.
Clinton said key factors in his choice of Tenet were his "strong relationship" with Congress and his skillful handling of the agency since its former director left in December.
"George Tenet is the best-qualified person to move quickly into the leadership (of the CIA)," Clinton said.
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the Senate intelligence panel who helped orchestrate the opposition to Lake, called Tenet "a man of integrity and professionalism."
Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., who had questioned Lake's selection, said: "I welcome the president's decision to nominate George Tenet to this key position. Based on four years experience of working with Mr. Tenet, I have the highest confidence in his integrity and his ability to do this tough job."
Tenet called his selection a bittersweet moment because he looked forward to serving as deputy director with Lake as director. Lake, Clinton's former national security adviser, withdrew his name Monday after somewhat contentious confirmation hearings, saying Washington had gone "haywire" with partisanship.
Lake was faulted for failing to know that a Democratic official tried to convince the National Security Council, which Lake headed at the time, to allow a controversial Democratic donor, Roger Tamraz, into White House events.
The CIA also has admitted that an unidentified Democratic official improperly called a CIA official about Tamraz before a memo favoring the Democratic donor was sent to the NSC.
The CIA's intelligence must be complete and objective, Tenet said. "There is no room for partisanship in the conduct of our intelligence community."
Tenet was joined by his wife, Stephanie, and his son, John Michael, at a White House news conference. In a slightly choking voice, Tenet said he was especially honored by his selection because his father emigrated to the United States from Greece just 50 years ago.
Some former CIA insiders were cautiously optimistic about the choice of Tenet.
Vince Cannistraro, former director of intelligence programs at the NSC and a former CIA official, said that Tenet has many of the skills to lead the CIA but that his ultimate success would depend on his relationship with the White House.
CIA critics worried that Tenet was too much an insider.
Robert White, a former U.S. ambassador to El Salvador who now heads the liberal Center for International Policy, said, "I'm sure Mr. Tenet is a competent administrator, but the task of reforming an agency that needs it is not the job for a lifelong insider."