"Weapons of Mass Deception"


Why Oh Why Is CIA Chief Leaving?

(CBS) CBS News Reporter Charles Wolfson is a former Tel Aviv bureau chief for CBS News, who now covers the State Department.

In the end, it was the most-often stated reason that high officials give when leaving office: “personal reasons.” CIA Director George Tenet offered no reference to suffering the slings and arrows one receives after seven years at the helm of one of Washington’s most influential government agencies. Tenet engaged in bureaucratic infighting at the highest levels and gave as good as he got, most of the time. In a statement he made before employees at the agency’s Langley, Virginia headquarters, Tenet said, “I know in my heart that the time is right to move on ... In an organization as vital as this one there is never a good time to leave.” Departing before the election in November, however, invites more than the normal amount of speculation. Tenet himself recognized this, saying “And while Washington and the media will put many different faces on the decision it was a personal decision and had only one basis in fact - the well being of my wonderful family. Nothing more and nothing less.” Perhaps that is indeed the case. Other possible reasons for making the announcement now include the forthcoming 9/11 Commission Report, which is expected to fault the CIA’s role; the cumulative effect of too many intelligence failures - from India and Pakistan’s nuclear tests to the lack of credible information about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program in the run up to the war. Tenet sat behind Secretary of State Colin Powell at the United Nations on February 5th last year when Powell used CIA intelligence to indicate Saddam Hussein’s regime possessed weapons of mass destruction, making the Bush administration’s case for war. That information, Powell has recently said, “appears not to be the case, that it was that solid.” President Bush said Tenet had done a “superb job” and called him “the kind of public servant you like to work with. He’s strong. He’s resolute.” Perceptive observers noted Mr. Bush did not say he had asked Tenet to stay on. Tenet put much of his time and energy into rebuilding the CIA’s clandestine operations and its analytical capabilities but, according to former employees at the agency, there are still a lot of structural problems that have gone unaddressed. Flynt Leverett, a former senior analyst on the Middle East at the CIA said Tenet “spent a lot of time increasing analytic expertise but it was an uphill battle which he didn’t fight to conclusion or with total success.” “Tenet had a high-minded sense of what the DCI’s job is, to provide the best intelligence to the president without a political agenda,” says Leverett. But Leverett also says the resignation had a sense of inevitability about it: “Too much had gone wrong on intelligence issues.” And there were the political considerations. Tenet, a Democrat and one of the very few holdovers from the Clinton administration, developed a close relationship with Mr. Bush, whom he briefed almost daily, but he fought with both the Pentagon and the Vice-President’s office over the proper interpretation of intelligence, most especially on Iraq. “They were not just dissenting (from the CIA’s interpretation of the intelligence), but they were also generating their own lines of intelligence for themselves,” Leverett says, referring, as one example, to Ahmed Chalabi’s influence with those at the Pentagon and in the Vice-President’s office. Tenet’s resignation is somewhat ironic in this instance, since some of Chalabi’s more important intelligence has recently proven to be wrong. “It’s virtually impossible to serve as DCI in this administration,” Leverett says. The decision makers are “too polarized” and “too dysfunctional.” Tenet played important roles in areas that haven’t had a lot of success for reasons beyond his control. “He made several very important contributions to the Middle East peace process when it was moving forward,” says Martin Indyk, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Policy in the Clinton administration. These included his efforts on security arrangements agreed to by Israelis and Palestinians at the Wye Plantation peace talks and the so-called Tenet cease fire plan, which never was implemented. “He’s a very adept politician, very skillful at keeping politicians on board,” says Indyk. He was also able to gain the confidence of Arab leaders with whom he dealt. Tenet was described by a former official who worked with him in Washington and clearly considers himself to be a friend: “He’s a great guy, a guy’s guy. Back slapping, cigar chomping and he had guts. He brought emotion to the job, not like a lot of the empty suits in Washington. But here’s the question: Did he, in his attempt to bridge the gap, did he sell his soul to the Bush administration? That will be the question of his legacy. The attempt to remain in favor with the administration — did it cloud his judgment?” ©MMIV, CBS Broadcasting Inc.

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Milton Frihetsson, 15:27


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