George Tenet’s attempt to clean up his legacy Posted by: McQ
on Tuesday, May 01, 2007
It has almost become predictable and George Tenet is no exception. As quoted in Dale's post, even Arianna Huffington recognizes the ploy - which, btw, isn't limited to "Bush administration" flunkies. It is retire or get fired and then, before the administration in questions is out of power, write their own versions of events and get it out there first.
Legacies aren't just for presidents. And George Tenet wants his legacy spun clean. But try as he might, it's just not going to happen. And as the days and weeks pass, we're going to see more and more people looking closely at his book and his claims and, I predict, he's going to whsh he'd just kept his pen in his pocket instead of writing the book.
One of the more interesting dissections of Tenet's claims can be found over at American Thinker. There Rick Richman uses a NY Timesarticle which urges Rep. Henry Waxman to force Condoleezza Rice to appear before his committee and discuss "prewar claims about Saddam Hussein's long-gone weapons programs. . . . including a false report about the purchase of aluminum tubes for bomb building, talk of mushroom clouds and fairy tales about links between Iraq and Al Qaeda", to expose Tenet.
Of course the Times want Waxman to find out where all those claims came from. But as Richman points out, the answer is already on the CIA website in the form of Tenet's Feb 2003 Senate testimony:
Tenet informed Congress that Iraq had in place an "active effort to deceive UN inspectors and deny them access" — "directed by the highest levels of the Iraqi regime" — with "clear directions" to hide banned materials they possessed, including a biological weapons program with mobile research and production facilities that would be "difficult, if not impossible, for the inspectors to find." He then turned to Iraq's nuclear weapons program:
Iraq has established a pattern of clandestine procurements designed to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program. These procurements include-but also go well beyond-the aluminum tubes that you have heard so much about. . . .
Iraq has tested unmanned aerial vehicles to ranges that far exceed both what it declared to the United Nations and what it is permitted under UN resolutions. We are concerned that Iraq's UAVs can dispense chemical and biological weapons and that they can deliver such weapons to Iraq's neighbors or, if transported, to other countries, including the United States.
Iraq is harboring senior members of a terrorist network led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a close associate of Usama Bin Ladin. We know Zarqawi's network was behind the poison plots in Europe that I discussed earlier as well as the assassination of a US State Department employee in Jordan.
Iraq has in the past provided training in document forgery and bomb-making to al-Qa'ida. It also provided training in poisons and gasses to two al-Qa'ida associates; one of these associates characterized the relationship he forged with Iraqi officials as successful.
Mr. Chairman, this information is based on a solid foundation of intelligence. It comes to us from credible and reliable sources. Much of it is corroborated by multiple sources. And it is consistent with the pattern of denial and deception exhibited by Saddam Hussein over the past 12 years. [Emphases added].
So here you have the chief of the US intelligence apparatus assuring Congress that not only were the sources credible and reliable, but they were multiple. I have to ask, what can Condi Rice possibly add to that?
Additionally, in 2004, Tenet discussed Iraqi nuclear weapons at another event:
Let me tell you some of what was going on in the fall of 2002. Several sensitive reports crossed my desk from two sources characterized by our foreign partners as "established and reliable."
The first, from a source who had direct access to Saddam and his inner circle said . . . Iraq was aggressively and covertly developing such a [nuclear] weapon. Saddam had recently called together his Nuclear Weapons Committee irate that Iraq did not yet have a weapon because money was no object and they possessed the scientific know how. The Committee members assured Saddam that once the fissile material was in hand, a bomb could be ready in just 18-24 months. The return of UN inspectors would cause minimal disruption because, according to the source, Iraq was expert at denial and deception.
The same source said Iraq was stockpiling chemical weapons and that equipment to produce insecticides, under the oil-for-food program, had been diverted to covert chemical weapons production. . . .
A stream of reporting from a different sensitive source with access to senior Iraqi officials . . . stated that a senior Iraqi official in Saddam's inner circle believed, as a result of the UN inspections, Iraq knew the inspectors' weak points and how to take advantage of them. The source said there was an elaborate plan to deceive inspectors and ensure prohibited items would never be found.
Now, did this information make a difference in my thinking? You bet it did. As this and other information came across my desk, it solidified and reinforced the judgments we had reached and my own view of the danger posed by Saddam Hussein and I conveyed this view to our nation's leaders. [Emphasis added].
So, in both cases, there's your CIA chief, the go-to guy for intelligence, saying that he had multiple, reliable sources which confirmed all of these things and he was laying this before our nation's decision makers as fact. What in the world were they supposed to do? Wave it off as inconsequential and unimportant? Tell him they didn't believe him?
"As this and other information came across my desk, it solidified and reinforced the judgements we had reached and my own view of the danger posed by Saddam Hussein and I conveyed this view to our nation's leaders."
What more succinct a statement, in the man's own words, do you need to understand what Tenet is attempting with his book and why such an attempt should be ignored for the disingenuous and self-serving propaganda it appears to be?
And as Dale pointed out, even if what Tenet said was true, he then failed the moral courage test. Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA's "bin Laden unit" agrees:
But Tenet's attempts to shift the blame won't wash. At day's end, his exercise in finger-pointing is designed to disguise the central, tragic fact of his book. Tenet in effect is saying that he knew all too well why the United States should not invade Iraq, that he told his political masters and that he was ignored. But above all, he's saying that he lacked the moral courage to resign and speak out publicly to try to stop our country from striding into what he knew would be an abyss.
Either way, Tenet comes off poorly, and that, in my opinion, is exactly the legacy he deserves.
When Daniel Patrick Moynihan suggested doing away with the CIA, I thought he was wrong.
Upon further reflection, in the light of hindsight, he was right. Not because we don’t need accurate intelligence about our enemies, rather because we do. The leaks were the last straw. If the CIA cannot abolish the leakers, abolish the CIA.
My guess is your last sentence is correct. As McQ points out everybody writes these things. They all to one extent or another do just what we see Tenet doing. Either they are all liars, or like most of us remember the past in ways that make us look as good as possible. They actually believe what they are saying, and after watching 60 Minutes, I think he really has convinced himself that the way he sees things now is the real story in its most important respects.
I see it in my profession constantly. Everybody says they knew that by 2000 we were in for a terrible bear market(actually, I think we got off easy) and all of them can point to evidence that it was true that they believed it and actually warned people of it. Yet, obviously most didn’t know it, or really warn of it or so much money wouldn’t have been lost (of course if they all had seen it coming it wouldn’t have happened. You can’t have a bubble without people buying and/or refusing to sell except at higher prices.) These people believe what they are saying. Human nature.
Oh, and read Jeremy Grantham’s latest since it is everywhere and not just read by geeks and high powered institutional investors. He did see it coming, and for the right reasons. Modesty will avoid me mentioning who else saw it coming, and you shouldn’t believe me anyway given what I just wrote;^)
At his blog Billy Beck cites Chris Hitchens writing that the only question now is why Bush kept Tenet on. I must say that I often asked myself that same question right from the decision to leave him at the CIA when Bush became president. Now there’s a book by Tenet that confirms some degree of his own shallowness.
He’s a deeply flawed individual who ran a deeply flawed agency that in its own right has become political — not politicized by the administration, far from it — but political in its own right, for its own purposes. I confess to having no certain idea of what the thrust of that political nature is, but I do have a suspicion that it is influenced by a prejudice against the United States.
Yes, that’s what I wrote. The CIA’s own politics are influenced by a prejudice against the United States itself. Why do I suspect that? Because the CIA is staffed with intellectuals trained at top American universities, where sympathies toward the European point of view (which was abjectly anti-American long before Bush) are strong and where political science and history departments are heavily influenced by Left revisionists.
These prejudices must seep. They must work their way into the intellectual framework of the university product (i.e., the graduates), even where they can only find expression in seemingly mundane political views or even in the lack thereof, where "objectivity" itself is shaped by a postmodern outlook that features a glandular attraction for Euro-sophistication.
So, back to the question, "why did Bush keep Tenet on?"
Maybe Bush knows more about the CIA than is readily apparent and believed that Tenet’s experience there was more valuable than trying to "send a message" with a new DCI. Perhaps his "let it ride" bet on Tenet was a prudential judgment to not poke a stick into the hornet’s nest. Tenet would be immensely grateful to be kept on (and he was) and would help mute the level of second-guessing that the CIA’s intellectual class had come to believe was their entitlement.
I’m guessing here. I don’t really know. But I have many more doubts about the CIA now than I did six years ago, before 9/11, and yet I still understand that it is a very powerful intelligence gathering and analysis agency and remains a key player in U.S. national security. But some of the people over there clearly need to have the s**t kicked out of them with a reminder about which country the work for. As usual, I fear the worst and hope for the best.
I notice he doesn’t seem to mention Pakistan and their nukes very much. That was one of the biggest intelligence failure on our part in the previous 50 years and it happened on his watch. Whitewash, it’s not just for fences anymore.