Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Tenet comes out

I ordered a review copy of former CIA director George Tenets's new book from HarperCollins, so I can't comment on it until I've read it. But I caught most of his interview on "60 Minutes" last night. While I still find him a personally unattractive character and believe he was a terrible CIA director, I think a great deal of what he had to say about the Bush administration, especially during the run-up to the Iraq war, when I was paying very close attention, is pretty right-on. The administration decided to invade Iraq almost immediately after 9/11, and worked hard to get not necessarily credible but sellable information to justify it. When Tenet says George W. didn't need him saying "slam dunk" to decide to go to war, it rings true.

Tenet's experience was as a congressional staffer, so he was more political than independent as CIA director. My strong impression is that he figured out what Bush wanted to hear and fed it to him -- maybe with some qualifications in the footnotes, which Bush would never even notice. The National Intelligence Assessment of October 2002 on Iraq was a radical departure from previous NIEs in that it expressed a certainty about Saddam and WMDs that wasn't there in previous reports. Whether that was a response to pressure from Cheney -- remember his personal visits to CIA HQ to goose the analysts to find more on Saddam -- and other administration figures or Tenet's effort to please Bush I don't know, but it was a deeply flawed report and known by many to be so at the time.

Nonetheless, I suspect there's information worth knowing in Tenet's book. I'll let you know.

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