the Tenet 60 Minutes interview…

Posted on Sunday 29 April 2007

Well, we can’t fault the interviewer for being too soft. He asked hard questions. But I liked Tenet a bit more than I thought I would. He was like a Street Guy – cocky, tough, I bet he had a "walk" like Travolta in Stayin’ Alive when he was a kid. I think his error was getting involved with the politics of things.

A letter from former C.I.A. agents was less forgiving:
… Although CIA officers learned in late September 2002 from a high-level member of Saddam Hussein’s inner circle that Iraq had no past or present contact with Osama bin Laden and that the Iraqi leader considered bin Laden an enemy of the Baghdad regime, you still went before Congress in February 2003 and testified that Iraq did indeed have links to Al Qaeda.

You showed a lack of leadership and courage in January of 2003 as the Bush Administration pushed and cajoled analysts and managers to let them make the bogus claim that Iraq was on the verge of getting its hands on uranium. You signed off on Colin Powell’s presentation to the United Nations. And, at his insistence, you sat behind him and visibly squandered CIA’s most precious asset – credibility.

You may now feel you were bullied and victimized but you were also one of the bullies. In the end you allowed suspect sources, like Curveball, to be used based on very limited reporting and evidence. Yet you were informed in no uncertain terms that Curveball was not reliable. You broke with CIA standard practice and insisted on voluminous evidence to refute this reporting rather than treat the information as suspect. You helped set the bar very low for reporting that supported favored White House positions, while raising the bar astronomically high when it came to raw intelligence that did not support the case for war being hawked by the president and vice president.

It now turns out that you were the Alberto Gonzales of the intelligence community – a grotesque mixture of incompetence and sycophancy shielded by a genial personality. Decisions were made, you were in charge, but you have no idea how decisions were made even though you were in charge. Curiously, you focus your anger on the likes of Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, and Condi Rice, but you decline to criticize the President.

Mr. Tenet, as head of the intelligence community, you failed to use your position of power and influence to protect the intelligence process and, more importantly, the country. What should you have done? What could you have done?

For starters, during the critical summer and fall of 2002, you could have gone to key Republicans and Democrats in the Congress and warned them of the pressure. But you remained silent. Your candor during your one-on-one with Sir Richard Dearlove, then-head of British Intelligence, of July 20, 2002 provides documentary evidence that you knew exactly what you were doing; namely, "fixing" the intelligence to the policy.

By your silence you helped build the case for war. You betrayed the CIA officers who collected the intelligence that made it clear that Saddam did not pose an imminent threat. You betrayed the analysts who tried to withstand the pressure applied by Cheney and Rumsfeld.

Most importantly and tragically, you failed to meet your obligations to the people of the United States. Instead of resigning in protest, when it could have made a difference in the public debate, you remained silent and allowed the Bush Administration to cite your participation in these deliberations to justify their decision to go to war. Your silence contributed to the willingness of the public to support the disastrous war in Iraq, which has killed more than 3300 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

If you are committed to correcting the record about your past failings then you should start by returning the Medal of Freedom you willingly received from President Bush in December 2004. You claim it was given only because of the war on terror, but you were standing next to General Tommy Franks and L. Paul Bremer, who also contributed to the disaster in Iraq. President Bush said that you "played pivotal roles in great events, and [your] efforts have made our country more secure and advanced the cause of human liberty."

The reality of Iraq, however, has not made our nation more secure nor has the cause of human liberty been advanced. In fact, your tenure as head of the CIA has helped create a world that is more dangerous. The damage to the credibility of the CIA is serious but can eventually be repaired. Many of the U.S. soldiers maimed in the streets of Fallujah and Baghdad cannot be fixed. Many will live the rest of their lives missing limbs, blinded, mentally disabled, or physically disfigured. And the dead have passed into history.
What I found myself thinking during the interview was that he got caught up in the politics of things. He’s been criticized for not vetting the 2003 SOTUS or Powell’s U.N. speech well enough. It’s not the job of the Director of the C.I.A. to keep people from lying. That’s just not his job. His job is to report "intelligence," the best estimate of the truth when the truth cannot be known. The very idea that he’s at fault for "letting" the President say something that’s not true or keeping the Secretary of State from lying to the U.N. is absurd. And he’s still apologizing for doing it. He should be screaming, "It’s not my job!" Nobody’s responsible to keep the President from lying, except the President! And nobody’s responsible for keeping the Vice President from lying except the Vice President and the President.

Here’s the tragedy of George Tenet. He went along with a bunch of lunatics instead of standing up to them. What makes it supremely tragic is that if George Tenet had done what we all wish he had done, he would have been replaced in a blue second. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney had the power, and the public’s attention. They were in a perfect position to bully their way into the annals of infamy. George tried to veer them some, but they weren’t having any of it, and cast him aside as a fall guy, just like they threw his agent, Valerie Plame, to the wolves. There is really only one place to put the blame here – and we’re getting there, slowly but surely. George W. Bush, Karl Rove, and Dick Cheney are going to end up below Nixon on the history scale. And America is going to have decades of the kind of animosity the Germans lived with after World War II to contend with. Unfortunately, we’ve earned it…

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