CIA Director Tenet Resigns
Bush Says Tenet Will Leave in Mid-July for Personal Reasons
By William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 3, 2004; 2:54 PM
CIA Director George J. Tenet, dogged by controversies over a string of U.S. intelligence setbacks, has decided to resign for personal reasons and will leave the agency in July, President Bush announced today.
Bush, who accepted the resignation during an hour-long meeting at the White House last night, lauded Tenet, 51, as a dedicated public servant who has fought hard in the war on terrorism.
"This is the most difficult decision I have ever had to make," Tenet told employees today at the CIA's Langley, Va., headquarters. "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."
Greeted by prolonged applause in a CIA auditorium after an emotional introduction by his deputy, Tenet said he would step down effective July 11, the seventh anniversary of his swearing-in as director of central intelligence (DCI). The CIA released a transcript and videotape of Tenet's remarks.
"I did not make this decision quickly or easily," Tenet told employees. "But I know in my heart that the time is right to move on to the next phase of our lives. In an organization as vital as this one there is never a good time to leave. There will always be critical work to be done, threats to be dealt with, and challenges that demand every ounce of energy that a DCI can muster."
He said he was leaving "with sadness, but with my head held very, very high."
As he spoke of his desire to spend more time with his wife and teenaged son, who were in the audience, Tenet became emotional, choking back tears. He said his son, John Michael, is going to be a high school senior next year, "and I'm going to be a senior with him. . . ." Then he drew laughter when he said: "I'm going to learn how to instant-message all of his friends. That would be an achievement!"
CIA officials denied that Tenet quit or was pressured to leave because of criticism of U.S. intelligence over the failed search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or missed clues to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist plot.
"He told me he was resigning for personal reasons," Bush said. "I told him I'm sorry he's leaving. He's done a superb job on behalf of the American people."
Speaking to reporters briefly before leaving on a trip to Europe, Bush said Tenet would give way in July to the current CIA deputy director, John E. McLaughlin, who will take over as acting director. Bush did not indicate who would be Tenet's permanent successor.
"George Tenet is the kind of public servant you like to work with," Bush said. "He's strong, he's resolute, he's served his nation as the director for seven years. . . . He's been a strong leader in the war on terror, and I will miss him."
Bush said he looks forward to working with Tenet until he leaves the agency. McLaughlin, a 32-year veteran of the CIA, has served as deputy director under Tenet since 2000.
Tenet has come under fire in recent months for having assured Bush before last year's invasion of Iraq that Iraqi president Saddam Hussein harbored weapons of mass destruction, a key justification for the decision to go to war.
According to a new book by Bob Woodward, "Plan of Attack," Tenet told Bush before the war that it was a "slam-dunk" that Hussein possessed the banned weapons.
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