George TenetGrants Interview
withCBS's 60 Minutes: Slam Dunk?

In a first-ever interview with Scott Pelley, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency gave his version of many actions surrounding the 9-11 attack in New York and subsequent intelligence briefings of the executive branch. The television interview coincides with the release of his book about his directorship and the maelstrom surrounding his departure. Major book sellers and distributors paln to offer At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA tomorrow. The memoir appears to cover a range of topics, from his involvement in peace negotiations in the Middle East, to the September 11th attack and the Iraq war.

Tenet expressed frustration and regret over the "slam-dunk" comment in the days leading up to the Iraq war. For three years, he asserted, his use of this phrase has been misrepresented. The term instead refered to the ability of the intelligence community to make a better case of presenting intelligence data to the public. "Slam-dunk" made him a scapegoat and ended his governmental career.

Tenet places blame for the "slum-dunk" phrase squarely upon Bob Woodward, a reporter for theWashington Post, to whom an account of the White House briefings was purportedly leaked. The former CIA chief defended his position by saying that the remark was taken out of context, having been used long after the decision was made to go to war.

"The war in Iraq is a national tragedy," said Tenet. In the interview, he countered that the White House ignored clear warnings given by theCIA of imminent attacks in the U.S. prior to 9-11, and recommendations that preemptive action be taken immediately in Afghanistan.. Moreover, the administration never held a serious debate over Iraq.

He emphatically denied giving the green-light to attaching Iraq. He asserted that on the day after the New York attack, Richard Perle told him "Iraq has to pay a price for what happened yesterday. . . " as he prepared to brief the president. The comments byPerle never made any sense in connection with 911, according to Tenet. The CIA "never believed that Hussein would do al-Quaeda's dirty work." In presidential intelligence briefings, he gave a high probability based on much firm data that Hussein had biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction, but that culpability for 9-11 rested with al-Quaeda in Afghanistan, not with Hussein in Iraq. What appears clear from Tenet's remarks, is the conclusion that the White House was disregarding intelligence briefings from the CIA, according to Geraldo Rivera of Fox News, in a follow-up analysis.

Richard Perle has categorically denied to The Weekly Standard ever making the remark ascribed to him by Tenet. On the Think Progress website today( ) BillKrystal writes that Perle was in France on September 12, unable to return to the U.S. following the plane attacks in New York, and so could not have spoken with Tenet at the White House on the day following the 9-11 attack.

White House spin meisters have been out in full force refuting charges made by Tenet.Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice denied, according to leading news agencies, ever having been warned about imminent terrorist attacks. In an interview with CBS's "Face the Nation" she called his version "very interesting." Imedinews ( "Tenet Says He Regrets 'Slam Dunk' Phrase" 29 Aoril 2007
) further reports on her remarks, "When George said 'slam dunk,' everybody understood that he believed that the intelligence was strong," Rice said. "We all believed the intelligence was strong." She added that the U.N. and other nations also thought that the Iraqi dictator had possessed weapons of mass destruction. CBS reported that Rice said she recalled "Tenet using the 'slam dunk' line once," but added "the intelligence failures leading up to the invasion of Iraq were a worldwide problem." ("Rice Dismisses Tenet's Accusations," WBBM 780 online, 29 April 2007

Rice claimed that theWhite House was concerned about Iraq from the very start, seeking to tighten sanctions, engaging the public and legislators with the president's very first press conference. But according to an online article byAssociated Press writer Kathryn Schrader ( "Former CIADirector George Tenet Faces Backlash Over Memoir,", 29April 2007,
), an associate of Tenet speaking anonymously countered that the focus of Tenet's remarks was not about sanctions against Iraq, but about whether or not to go to war with Iraq. According to Shrader, this unnamed associate said "those debates did not happen in the presence of Tenet or other senior CIA officials, despite their participation in numerous discussions in the White House's situation room."

Some interesting revelations came out in the interview. Tenet claimed that, in his opinion, al-Quaeda had been poised more than once to launch massive attacks after 2001, notably in 2003 on the New York subway systsem, when terrorist cells in the U.S. had been recalled by leaders after the capture of high-level operatives in their organizaition. No data, however, exists, he quickly added, to verify his opinion.

Tenet disclosed, too, that he sometmes warned the White House that it's public statements were false.

When questioned by Palley about the claims made in the president's State of The Union address, Tenet said that he had not actually read the speech beforehand, taking responsiblity for this error.

Under close questioning by Palley about interrogation techniques of suspected terrorists in covert detention facilities, Tenet firmly denied that the CIA used torture.
Yet, he did say that the U.S. obtained far more valuable intelligence from "enhanced" techniques "all the other terrorism-related intelligence gathered by the FBI, the National Security Agency and his own agency," in the television interview.

Additional details appear in Tenet's book due out tomorrow. See the release issued by the book's publishers, HarperCollins, on HCS at the URL


(Posting date 17 March 2007

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