WASHINGTON — The FBI shook up the management team of its intelligence arm late Friday, promoting a career veteran and hiring a top counter-terrorism specialist from the CIA to take charge of the fledgling operation.
The bureau announced that Gary Bald, a 28-year FBI veteran who is currently the top official overseeing counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence, would become head of an expanded unit, known as the National Security Branch, which would also include the FBI's existing intelligence directorate. Philip Mudd, the deputy director of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center, was named Bald's deputy.
The moves are a response to recommendations adopted by the White House this summer from a presidential commission report that identified gaps in the nation's intelligence apparatus. The commission -- headed by federal Judge Laurence H. Silberman and former Virginia Gov. Charles S. Robb -- was particularly critical of the FBI, saying the bureau needed to better integrate intelligence-gathering and field operations.
In a written statement, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said the National Security Branch was "the next step in the evolution of the FBI's intelligence capabilities" and said Bald and Mudd were "uniquely qualified" to head it.
The bureau also announced the retirement of Maureen A. Baginski, whom Mueller hired two years ago to head the FBI's intelligence program. The bureau said Baginski, a linguist and former National Security analyst, would become a "senior advisor to the FBI," assuming unspecified duties. She was unavailable for comment, an FBI spokeswoman said.
Mudd is currently the No. 2 official in the CIA-headed Counterterrorist Center, which oversees the U.S. government's "all-source analysis" and clandestine operations on a wide range of subjects, including the threats posed by Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and other global jihadist organizations and their potential use of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
A veteran counter-terrorism analyst, Mudd is highly regarded for his knowledge of terrorist groups and of their support among radical religious organizations. He has held leadership posts within the CIA, its affiliated National Intelligence Council and the White House-directed National Security Council for the last 20 years. He is considered one of the government's top experts on South Asian militant groups.
Since 1992, he has helped lead CIA counter-terrorism analysis in the Middle East, especially Iran-sponsored terrorism. Mudd also spent two years as chief of the CIA's analysis group directed against Iraq, according to the FBI statement Friday.
"This guy is one of the best in the business," a senior U.S. intelligence official said Friday. "Not only does he know the material -- the threat and who poses it -- but he has worked to counter it and has the ability to explain it to all manner of audiences."
Bald is among the FBI's most senior officials. He oversaw the Washington-area sniper investigation in fall 2002. Since last October, he has had overall responsibility for counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence, the FBI's two highest-priority investigative programs.
The prospect of his appointment -- which had been rumored for several days -- had drawn concern from some members of Congress, including Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa).
On Wednesday, Grassley cited Bald's deposition in a discrimination suit against the bureau filed by an Arab-American FBI agent, in which Bald acknowledged that he'd had little experience in international counter-terrorism before being named a manager overseeing those operations. On Friday, Grassley said he was still concerned that the bureau was not placing enough importance on counter-terrorism experience in selecting senior managers, but he said he welcomed the addition of Mudd.
"My hope is that this team approach will address my original concern," Grassley said.
Bald's appointment was approved by Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales and National Intelligence Director John D. Negroponte. Under intelligence legislation Congress passed last year, the newly empowered national intelligence chief must concur in the selection.