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Poor George Tenet; He Still Doesn't Get it--Truthout 4/29/07

Poor George Tenet; He Still Doesn't Get It*

   By Ray McGovern

   t r u t h o u t | Guest
Contributor  http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/042907Y.shtml
<http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/042907Y.shtml>

*    Sunday 29 April 2007 *

*    "If you can't say something positive about someone, don't say
anything." This was drummed into me by my Irish grandmother and, as most
of her admonishments, it has stood me in good stead. On occasion,
though, it been a real bother - as when I felt called to comment on
George Tenet's apologia, "In the Center of the Storm," coming to a
bookstore near you tomorrow. *

*    On the verge of despair, I ran into an old schoolmate of Tenet's
from PS 94 in Little Neck, Queens, who told me that George was more
handsome than his twin brother Billy, and that his outgoing nature and
consummate political skill got him elected president of the student body. *

*    Positive enough, Grandma? Now let me add this. *

*    George Tenet's book shows that he remains, first and foremost, a
politician - with no clue as to the proper role of intelligence work. He
is unhappy about going down in history as "Slam Dunk Tenet." But, George
protests, his famous remark to President Bush on December 21, 2002 was
not meant to assure the president that available intelligence on weapons
of mass destruction in Iraq was a "slam dunk." Rather he meant that the
argument that Saddam Hussein had such weapons could be enhanced to
slam-dunk status in order to sell war on Iraq. Those of you tuning in to
CBS's "60 Minutes" tonight will hear Tenet explain what he meant when he
uttered the words he now says everyone misunderstood or distorted in
order to blame him for the Iraq war. What he says he meant was simply: *

     /*"We can put a better case together for a public case." (sic)*/

*    Tenet still doesn't get it. Those of us schooled in the craft and
ethos of intelligence remain in wide-mouthed disbelief, perhaps best
summed up by veteran operations officer Bob Baer's quip: *

   /*"So, it is better that the 'slam dunk' referred to the ease with
   which the war could be sold? I guess I missed that part of the
   National Security Act delineating the functions of the CIA - the
   part about CIA marketing a war. Guess that's why I never made it
   into senior management." */

*    George's concern over being scapegoated is touching. But could he
not have seen it coming? Not even when Rumsfeld asked him in the fall of
2002 (that is, before the war) whether he had put in a system to track
how good the intelligence was compared with what would be found in Iraq?
The guys I know from Queens usually can tell when they're being set up.
Maybe Tenet was naive enough to believe that the president, whom he
describes as a "kindred soul," would protect him from thugs like Vice
President Cheney and then-Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, even when - as was
inevitable - someone had to take the fall. Or did he perhaps actually
believe the Cheney dictum that US forces would be greeted as liberators? *

*    So now George is worried about his reputation. He tells "60
Minutes:" *

   /*"At the end of the day, the only thing you have ... is your
   reputation built on trust and your personal honor, and when you
   don't have that anymore, well, there you go."*/

*    I immediately thought back to former Secretary of State Colin
Powell's response when he was asked if he regretted the lies he told at
the UN on February 5, 2003. Powell said he regretted that speech because
it was "a blot on my record." *

*    So we've got ruined reputations and blots on records. Poor boys.
What about the 3,344 American soldiers already killed in a war that
could not have happened had not these poor fellows deliberately
distorted the evidence and led the cheering for war? What about the more
than 50,000 wounded, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis
whose deaths can be attributed directly to the invasion and its
aftermath? There are blots, and there are blots. Why is it that Tenet
and Powell seem to inhabit a different planet? *

*    Despite all this, they still have their defenders ... or at least
Tenet does. (Powell's closest associate, Col. Larry Wilkerson, decided
long ago to turn state's evidence and apologize for his and Powell's
role in the intelligence fiasco, but Powell has tried to remain above
the battle. He may, I suppose, be writing his own book to explain
everything.) *

*    Yesterday on National Public Radio, Tenet's deputy and partner in
crime, John McLaughlin, went to ludicrous lengths reciting a carefully
prepared list of "all the things that the CIA got right," while
conceding that it (not "we," mind you, but "it") performed
"inadequately" in assessing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Picky,
picky. *

*    Defending Torture ... Again *

*    Hewing to the George W. Bush dictum of "catapulting the propaganda"
by endlessly repeating the same claim (the formula used so successfully
by Joseph Goebbels), Tenet manages to tell "60 Minutes" five times in
five consecutive sentences: "We don't torture people." Like President
Bush, however, he then goes on to show why it has been absolutely
necessary to torture people. What do they take us for, fools? And
Tenet's claims of success in extracting information via torture are no
more worthy of credulity than the rest of what he says. *

*    His own credibility aside, Tenet has succeeded in destroying the
asset without which an intelligence community cannot be effective. And
that is serious. He seems blissfully oblivious to the damage he has done
- aware only of the damage others have done to his "personal honor." *

*    Lessons Learned *

*    If any good can come out of the intelligence/policy debacle
regarding Iraq, it would be the clear lesson that intelligence crafted
to dovetail with the predilections of policymakers can bring disaster.
The role that Tenet, McLaughlin and their small coterie of senior
managers played as willing accomplices in the corruption of intelligence
has made a mockery of the verse chiseled into the marble at the entrance
to CIA headquarters: "You will know the truth, and the truth will set
you free." *

*    Had Tenet been tenaciously honest, his analysts would have risen to
the occasion. And there is a good chance that they could have helped
prevent what the Nuremburg Tribunal called the "supreme international
crime" - a war of aggression, and a war that Tenet and his subordinates
knew had nothing to do with the "intelligence" adduced to "justify" it,
as Tenet now admits in his book. *

*    No director of the CIA should come from the ranks of congressional
staff, since those staffers work in a politicized ambience antithetical
to substantive intelligence work. Tenet is Exhibit A. Outside of
intelligence circles, it was considered a good sign that, as a
Congressional staffer, Tenet had been equally popular on either side of
the aisle. But this raised a red flag for seasoned intelligence
professionals. *

*    As we had learned early in our careers, if you consistently tell it
like it is, you are certain to make enemies. Those enjoying universal
popularity are /ipso facto/ suspect of perfecting the political art of
compromise - shading this and shaving that. However useful this may be
on the Hill, it sounds the death knell for intelligence analysis. Tenet
also lacked experience in managing a large, complicated organization.
Such experience is a /sine qua non./ *

*    Finally, it is a mischievous myth that the CIA director must
cultivate a close personal relationship with the president. Nor should
he/she try to do so, for it is a net minus. The White House is not a
fraternity house; mutual respect is far more important than camaraderie.
A mature, self-confident president will respect an independent
intelligence director. The latter must resist the temptation to be "part
of the team" in the way the president's political advisers are part of
the team. Overly close identification with "the team" can erode
objectivity and cloud intelligence judgments. Former House Speaker Newt
Gingrich, like Cheney a frequent visitor to CIA headquarters in 2002 to
"help" with the analysis on Iraq, told the press that Tenet was "so
grateful to the president [presumably for not firing him after September
11, 2001] that he would do anything for him." That attitude is the
antithesis of what is needed in senior intelligence officers. *

*    Much is at stake, and it will be an uphill battle to bring back
honesty and professionalism to the analysis process and impede efforts
to politicize the intelligence product. In an institution such as the
CIA, significant, enduring improvement requires vision, courage and
integrity at the top. It has been three decades since the CIA has been
led by such a person. *

**

*
------------------------------
------------------------------------------
   /Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the
ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. His responsibilities
during his 27-year service as a CIA analyst included chairing National
Intelligence Estimates and preparing the President's Daily Brief. He is
co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). /*

* ** *

*
------------------------------------------------------------------------
*

*     *

*    Letter to George Tenet
   By Phil Giraldi, Ray McGovern, Larry Johnson, Jim Marcinkowski,
Vince Cannistraro and David MacMichael
   t r u t h o u t | Report *

   /*The following was sent to George Tenet today in care of his
   publisher. The letter, written by a group of former intelligence
   officers, reflects disgust with George Tenet's effort to burnish his
   image with his new "tell all" book. */

*    28 April 2007
   Mr. George Tenet
   c/o Harper Collins Publishers
   10 East 53rd Street 8th Floor
   New York City, New York 10022 *

*    ATTN: Ms. Tina Andredis *

*    Dear Mr. Tenet: *

*    We write to you on the occasion of the release of your book, At the
Center of the Storm. You are on the record complaining about the "damage
to your reputation". In our view the damage to your reputation is
inconsequential compared to the harm your actions have caused for the
U.S. soldiers engaged in combat in Iraq and the national security of the
United States. We believe you have a moral obligation to return the
Medal of Freedom you received from President George Bush. We also call
for you to dedicate a significant percentage of the royalties from your
book to the U.S. soldiers and their families who have been killed and
wounded in Iraq. *

*    We agree with you that Vice President Dick Cheney and other Bush
administration officials took the United States to war for flimsy
reasons. We agree that the war of choice in Iraq was ill-advised and
wrong headed. But your lament that you are a victim in a process you
helped direct is self-serving, misleading and, as head of the
intelligence community, an admission of failed leadership. You were not
a victim. You were a willing participant in a poorly considered policy
to start an unnecessary war and you share culpability with Dick Cheney
and George Bush for the debacle in Iraq. *

*    You are not alone in failing to speak up and protest the twisting
and shading of intelligence. Those who remained silent when they could
have made a difference also share the blame for not protesting the abuse
and misuse of intelligence that occurred under your watch. But
ultimately you were in charge and you signed off on the CIA products and
you briefed the President. *

*    This is not a case of Monday morning quarterbacking. You helped
send very mixed signals to the American people and their legislators in
the fall of 2002. CIA field operatives produced solid intelligence in
September 2002 that stated clearly there was no stockpile of any kind of
WMD in Iraq. This intelligence was ignored and later misused. On October
1 you signed and gave to President Bush and senior policy makers a
fraudulent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) - which dovetailed with
unsupported threats presented by Vice President Dick Cheney in an
alarmist speech on August 26, 2002. *

*    You were well aware that the White House tried to present as fact
intelligence you knew was unreliable. And yet you tried to have it both
ways. On October 7, just hours before the president gave a major speech
in Cincinnati, you were successful in preventing him from using the
fable about Iraq purchasing uranium in Africa, although that same claim
appeared in the NIE you signed only six days before. *

*    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. *

*    Mr. Tenet, you cannot undo what has been done. It is doubly sad
that you seem still to lack an adequate appreciation of the enormous
amount of death and carnage you have facilitated. If reflection on these
matters serves to prick your conscience we encourage you to donate at
least half of the royalties from your book sales to the veterans and
their families, who have paid and are paying the price for your failure
to speak up when you could have made a difference. That would be the
decent and honorable thing to do. *

*    Sincerely yours, *

*    Phil Giraldi *
*    Ray McGovern *
*    Larry Johnson *
*   Jim Marcinkowski *
*   Vince Cannistraro *
*   David MacMichael *
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