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Friday, September 02, 2005

Tenet won't be a fall guy

Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball reported on August 31 that a recent finding by the CIA's inspector general could be politically explosive. After all, it apparently tries to blame former CIA Director George Tenet for intelligence errors that helped lead to 9/11.
The still-top-secret CIA report goes beyond one released last year by the 9/11 Commission in sharply criticizing the agency’s performance. It recommends that a number of current and former senior officials be held accountable for purported intelligence lapses that preceded the attacks.

One of the report’s most controversial recommendations, NEWSWEEK has learned, is that an agency “accountability board” be specifically convened to determine if former CIA director George Tenet should be rebuked
John B. Roberts II, in the September 1 Washington Times, reports that Tenet has prepared a 20 page response to this document and is prepared to lash out at the Bush administration if it proceeds with this investigation. Specifically, Tenet might reveal just how much the Bush administration fudged the Iraq intelligence to promote war. He might also reveal more information about CIA briefings of President Bush about the al Qaeda threat in summer 2001:
Mr. Tenet's response to the report is a 20-page, tightly knitted rebuttal of responsibility prepared with the aid of a lawyer, according to the friendly source.
Mr. Tenet's decision to defend himself against the charges in the report poses a potential crisis for the White House. According to a former clandestine services officer, theformerCIAdirector turned down a publisher's $4.5 million book offer because he didn't want to embarrass the White House by rehashing the failure to prevent September 11 and the flawed intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Tenet, according to a knowledgeable source, had a "wink and a nod" understanding with the White House that he wouldn't be scapegoated for intelligence failings.
As Roberts tells it, "that deal may be off." Moreover, he states the obvious: "The only way he [Tenet] can push off responsibility is to push it higher up the ladder."

Right now, both the Inspector General's report and Tenet's response are classified information, but Kansas Senator Pat Roberts, who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has reportedly looked into declassifying at least parts of the former report. Other members of Congress also want the data to be disclosed.

CIA Director Porter Goss faces unfortunate choices: ignore the internal CIA investigative/disciplinary process (as well as the politically powerful 9/11 families, who are among those requesting access to this report as the 4-year anniversary approaches), or launch a probe into Tenet that might go nuclear on the White House.

Apparently, Tenet turned down a $4.5 million book advance to tell his story, so I'm guessing he may have some explosive information to reveal.

For that reason, I look for Goss to ignore the IGC recommendation and sit on both reports. Maybe Tenet will end up with a plush position at a think tank or university, funded by George Bush's wealthy political allies.

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