View Full Version : Washington Awaits A CIA Chief's Revenge

04-23-2007, 11:03 AM
Washington awaits a CIA chief’s revenge


Sarah Baxter, Washington

WASHINGTON is braced for a showdown between the Central Intelligence Agency, the White House and the Pentagon when George Tenet, the former CIA chief, publishes his memoirs next week.

Anxious to restore his reputation after failing to prevent the September 11 attacks and overreacting to flimsy evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Tenet is said to spread the blame freely among other senior members of President George W Bush’s administration.

The intelligence chief, who ran the CIA from 1997 to 2004 under Bill Clinton as well as Bush, is under considerable pressure to spill secrets. Tenet received $4m (£2m) for the book, which has a print run of 300,000. But repeated delays to the publication date, now set at April 30, suggest there have been arguments with the vetters about what could be included.

The reputation of Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, who was national security adviser at the time of the 9/11 attacks, is certain to take a battering. The two have already clashed over Tenet’s s claim that in July 2001 he gave Rice a full briefing about the threat of a spectacular Al-Qaeda attack on America. She said she could not remember such an explicit warning.

Tenet is also out to settle a few scores with Vice-President Dick Cheney and his office and neoconservative former Pentagon officials such as Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith. They fought long and hard to discredit the CIA’s belief that there was little evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Al-Qaeda, and ran their own separate intelligence-gathering operation at the defence department.

But Tenet is vulnerable to the charge that he exaggerated the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Bob Woodward, the veteran Washington reporter, wrote in his book Plan of Attack that the CIA chief told Bush their existence was a “slam dunk case”. Tenet is finally going to have to reveal whether he really used such definitive words, when there was no conclusive evidence.

Michael Scheuer, an Al-Qaeda expert at the CIA under Tenet, said his old boss “was a very attractive individual with the same people skills as Bill Clinton, but at the end of the day he never understood the difference between leading and cheerleading”.

The gregarious Tenet, a Democrat supporter appointed by Clinton, managed to hold on to his job after the presidency went to Bush in 2000 because he was “very attuned” to what his political masters wanted to hear, according to Scheuer. “This book is going to be his effort to rehabilitate himself with the Democratic party.” One of the few people to come out well from the book is Colin Powell, the former secretary of state, but then Tenet owes him. Powell’s famous 2003 speech to the United Nations about Saddam’s weapons programmes, which did so much to make the case for the war in Iraq but was rapidly demolished, was scripted by Tenet and his deputy.

Tyler Drumheller, the former head of the CIA’s European division, told Tenet on the eve of Powell’s speech not to rely on the evidence of Curveball, an Iraqi informant handled by German intelligence who was deemed to be a mentally unstable alcoholic.

Tenet has denied receiving such a warning and kept Curveball’s claims about the presence of mobile biological weapons laboratories in Iraq in Powell’s presentation. He also gave Bush the go-ahead to assert in a state of the union speech that Saddam was trying to acquire uranium yellowcake from Africa for his nuclear programme - a decision the CIA chief later said he regretted.

Drumheller writes in his own memoir that his former boss “was driven by the urge to prevent another attack happening on his watch [after 9/11] . . . and had really bought the idea that Iraq was a legitimate target”.

“He was a very good guy and we were friends. He wasn’t perfect but he did a good job,” said Drumheller.

“But at the most critical juncture in his career he made some very bad decisions.”

Tenet is expected to argue in his defence that the CIA warned the White House that Iraq could fall apart once the invasion was over, but that the president and his allies did not want to listen. By the time Bush awarded Tenet the presidential Medal of Freedom in December 2004, Iraq was unravelling and so was the relationship between the two men.

“He feels badly used and it sounds like he is going to say that there are many reasons why we shouldn’t have gone to war in Iraq,” said Scheuer. “But that raises the question: why didn’t he resign and say something about it?”