"Weapons of Mass Deception"


Tenet: CIA lax in policing Iraq war claims

By John Diamond, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — CIA Director George Tenet acknowledged Tuesday that his agency was "wildly inconsistent" about policing White House statements on Iraq before the invasion last year. The result, Democrats say, is that Bush administration exaggerations about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction went unchallenged.

Senate Democrats pressed the nation's top spy on whether Tenet had a responsibility to ensure policymakers did not overstate the CIA's carefully qualified intelligence reports. With the presidential campaign under way, the senators made clear their real target was not Tenet but President Bush.

But the CIA chief said he had no major problems with the case the administration made for going to war. And when asked by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., whether he thought the White House had misrepresented facts to justify the war, Tenet said, "No sir, I don't."

Under heated questioning by Senate Democrats, Tenet said he was too busy to check every public utterance by Bush administration officials. Kennedy contrasted Tenet's insistence that the CIA never characterized the Iraqi threat as "imminent" with pre-war warnings by the Bush administration about the "grave" and "unique and urgent" threat posed by Iraq.

"You can't have it both ways, can you, Mr. Tenet?" Kennedy said. "If you're saying that there was no immediate threat and you hear either the president, the vice president, the secretary of Defense using that super-heated rhetoric, we have to ask, what is your responsibility?"

Tenet replied, "I have a responsibility. I lived up to my responsibility." Tenet said that when he was aware that a senior administration official exaggerated the Iraqi threat, he took action internally.

But Tenet said there were times when he was unaware of administration statements or failed to ensure that a concern he had raised previously was not later ignored.

• Tenet said the CIA did not "approve" a Jan. 20, 2003, Bush administration report to Congress referring to Iraqi "attempts to acquire uranium." The CIA had previously told the White House not to repeat that charge because there was no intelligence to support it. Even so, Bush cited the claim just days later in his State of the Union address.

• Tenet learned only last week that senior Pentagon official Douglas Feith had briefed White House officials and senators about alleged connections between Iraq and al-Qaeda. "We did not clear on that document," Tenet said. Tenet said that when CIA officials complained, the Pentagon issued a correction.

"I don't know that I did (correct the record) in this instance," Tenet said. "I don't know that I listened to it or was made aware of it."

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Milton Frihetsson, 08:28


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