Monday, April 30, 2007

The Tenet Critique

In reviewing former CIA Director George Tenet's book and 60 Minutes interview, it's tough to beat the gang at National Review. For depth and breadth of coverage, they deserve some sort of medal. By any standard, they've earned it--unlike that Presidential Medal of Freedom that George W. Bush bestowed upon Tenet after his disastrous run as Director of Central Intelligence (DCI).

For starters, Rich Lowry has managed to slog his way through the book. I gather he's not overly impressed.

Andrew McCarthy sat through Mr. Tenet's big moment on CBS last night, and provides an excellent deconstruction. Mr. McCarthy is correct is describing some of the former DCI's comments as jaw-dropping. On one hand, he's worried about a growing Al Qaida threat, but he won't broach the subject with the President during his daily national security briefing, preferring instead to voice his concerns to then-National Security Advisor Condolezza Rice. According to Tenet, that "process" allows the security advisor to "set the table" for policy options the president will weigh and eventually implement.

Sorry, George, but that's not how it works. Unlike Bill Clinton, President Bush gave Tenent and his briefers time every morning to present threat information and the intelligence community's assessments. If Tenet was unwilling to discuss the Al Qaida threat during the daily brief--time allocated specifically for such purposes--he should have been fired immediately. McCarthy also has much more on Tenet's claims--including that September 12, 2001 meeting with Richard Perle that must have occurred through a Vulcan Mind Meld, or some similar technique. Turns out that Mr. Perle was out of the country when Perle supposedly told him--in person--that "Iraq had to pay" for what happened on 9-11.

Additionally, there's much more from Michael Ledeen, Victor Davis Hanson, and the NRO Editors. In such esteemed company, I can only add that Mr. Tenet will be remembered as the worst DCI in history (surpassing even Jimmy Carter's spy chief, Admiral Stan "We Can Do It All With Satellites" Turner). Tenet has the dubious distinction of presiding over four major intelligence failures during his tenure (the 1998 Africa embassy bombings; the attack on the USS Cole in 2000; the 9-11 attacks, and Iraq WMD controversy), yet remain on the job. Tenet will also be remembered for allowing a poisonous, anti-administration culture to persist and thrive during his tenure at Langley. Imperial Hubris and the Valerie Plame affair is part of Mr. Tenet's legacy, too. Given that legacy, it's no wonder the intelligence got screwed up, and we're still paying for his mistakes.


Toby Scammell said...

spook - first time I've seen you mention Imperial Hubris...what's your take on Scheuer?

Unknown said...

While I disagree with Scheuer's thesis, the biggest problem I have with his book is that he was allowed to publish it while serving as an active CIA officer. That event was symbolic of Tenet's reign at Langley; the lunatics were running the asylum, and the DCI did nothing to address the poisonous subculture that had emerged.

I have no problem with former CIA officers criticizing the Bush Administration, their old employer, or U.S. policies at home or abroad. But they should do it on their own time, after they've retired from the agency. If they simply "can't wait," they should resign, write their book, and find another line of work.