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Scott Ritter: George Tenet's resignation

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    Scott Ritter: Tenet leaves CIA s reputation in tatter: In reflecting on his passing, one should never forget that his troubles were, for the most part, of his
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 7, 2004
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      Scott Ritter: Tenet leaves CIA's reputation in tatter:

      In reflecting on his passing, one should never forget that his
      troubles were, for the most part, of his own making.


      June 4, 2004 "Newsday" -- George Tenet's resignation as director of
      Central Intelligence has taken the political world of Washington by
      storm. And yet, it was an act that had been foreseen for some time.

      Consider what made Tenet's tenure at the CIA untenable: the combined
      weight of the 9/11 intelligence failures, the absence of Iraqi WMD
      and the post-occupation fiasco, as well as the unauthorized
      disclosure of sensitive information, whether it be the leaking of the
      identity and the affiliation of Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife (a
      CIA covert operative) to the press, of Ahmed Chalabi's allegedly
      informing the Iranians (courtesy of a leak from the Pentagon) that
      the United States had broken Iran's diplomatic code.

      But, in reflecting on his passing, one should never forget that his
      troubles were, for the most part, of his own making.

      I was an intelligence officer for many years, and I had always been
      instructed to abide by the adage that "an intelligence officer tells
      his boss not what they want to hear, but rather what the facts are."
      George Tenet repeatedly violated that principle during his time as
      director - most egregiously on Iraq.

      In Tenet's haste to please his bosses in both the Clinton and Bush
      White House (he served both presidents as the CIA director), he
      oversaw the politicization of the intelligence process to the extent
      that today the CIA lacks credibility as an institution not only in
      the United States, but around the world as well.

      Perhaps the most glaring example of this can be found in Tenet's
      February 2004 speech at his alma matter, Georgetown University. In a
      rambling defense of the CIA's pre-war estimate on Iraqi WMD
      capabilities, Tenet hedged on his agencies' earlier assertions. For
      the most part, he provided little or no substance to back up his
      remarks. But midway through his presentation, Tenet mentioned the
      1995 defection of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, who had
      controlled Iraq's biological weapons program.

      "Only then was the world able to confirm that Iraq indeed had an
      active and dangerous biological weapons program," Tenet
      said. "Indeed, history matters in dealing with these complicated

      The irony of this statement by Tenet is that he, of all people,
      should have known it to be false. During the course of Hussein
      Kamel's debriefings with the CIA, British MI-6 and with UNSCOM, he
      repeatedly talked about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs,
      and his role not only in their manufacture, but also in their
      destruction following the onset of UN weapons inspections in Iraq in
      the summer of 1991.

      "Nothing remained," Kamel told UN inspectors. "I ordered destruction
      of all chemical weapons. All weapons - biological, chemical, missile,
      nuclear - were destroyed."

      Tenet knew this was the case. As deputy director of the CIA in August
      1995, he was directly involved with the CIA's debriefing of Hussein

      As director of the CIA in February 2004, he had total access to the
      debriefing documents in order to refresh his memory. That he chose to
      misrepresent the defection of Hussein Kamel during his presentation
      at Georgetown University only underscores the personal culpability
      that Tenet bears when it comes to deceiving the president, Congress
      and the people of the United States about the threat posed by Iraq's

      Tenet's visually defining moment as director of the CIA came on Feb.
      5, 2003, when he was prominently seated behind Secretary of State
      Colin Powell during Powell's now discredited presentation to the UN
      Security Council on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Tenet's
      positioning was deliberate, designed to reinforce the credibility of
      Secretary Powell's assertions by reminding those viewing the
      proceedings that the weight of the CIA backed the secretary of
      state's words. At the time, Powell's presentation was considered a
      tour de force. Today, sobered by the harsh reality that not only was
      almost every assertion made by Powell that day wrong, but for the
      most part drawn from data that many in the U.S. intelligence
      community at that time knew to be suspect.

      Today Colin Powell has tried to disassociate himself from the
      intelligence provided by George Tenet for that fateful briefing.
      Powell may want to distance himself from his words and deeds of that
      day, but Tenet will never be able to erase the public vision of him
      seated behind Powell, on the world stage, an empty suit peddling
      false information in support of a war that has so far proved to be a
      lost cause.

      Scott Ritter, a former UN chief weapons inspector in Iraq, 1991-1998,
      is author of "Frontier Justice: Weapons of Mass Destruction and the
      Bushwhacking of America."

      Copyright © 2004, Newsday, Inc.


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