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National Security and Intelligence

Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 3, 2004; 12:00 PM

Washington Post intelligence reporter Dana Priest will be online Thursday, June 3 at Noon ET, to discuss the latest developments in intelligence and national security and the resignation of CIA Director George Tenet.

Read the story:CIA Director Tenet Resigns (Post, June 3)

Dana Priest (The Washington Post)

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Dana Priest covers intelligence and recently wrote "The Mission: Waging War and Keeping Peace With America's Military" (W.W. Norton). The book chronicles the increasing frequency with which the military is called upon to solve political and economic problems.

A transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

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Dana Priest: Hi everyone. With the breaking news of CIA Director Tenet's resignation, I'll have to cut this short -- can only stay with you a half an hour. Thanks. Dana

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Winchester, Va.: OK so he is resigning. What the real reason? If Bush honestly thinks that that general public is going to believe that he's leaving for "personal reasons" then he has sorely misjudged the public. What do you think the REAL reason for his departure?

Dana Priest: At the moment, I do think that's the real reason. It has been a very hard time for Tenet for all the reasons you know.

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Dalton, Ga.: Do you think it's possible that George Tenet resigned due to the spotlight being put on the CIA and the Ahmed Chalabi debacle?

Dana Priest: That's as good a guess as any. Tenet distrusted Chalabi and Chalabi, it is alleged, just cut off a major, important pipeline of information on Iran. So maybe it's a protest.

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Tokyo, Japan: What do you feel will be the impact of Tenet's resignation on Rumsfeld's and Powell's position and power base?

Dana Priest: Since the agency will be now headed, temporarily at least, by a mild-manner analysts, the power, at least in the bureaucratic Washington wars, could devolve quite a bit to Rumsfeld and Powell.

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Arlington, Va.: Ms. Priest, do think that it is fair to accuse the CIA in general or Tenet in particular of "cooking the books" to come up with intelligence that supported the Bush administration's desire to invade Iraq?

Dana Priest: Not cooking the books, because that implies a deliberate attempt to misled. I think it was a failure of tradescraft and, because of the CIA's history of bad calls on Iraq, a willingness to interpret half-baked intelligence one way -- towards indicating the presence of WMD.

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Pittsburgh, Pa.: Did anyone se this one coming? Is he falling on his sword, or what? Can we expect a few more of these resignations for "personal reasons" as the election draws nearer?

Dana Priest: It is not expected. The expectation was that everyone in the cabinet would stay through the election.

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Richmond, Va.: Hello Dana ... Thanks for making yourself available for these chats. It seems Tenet has been on the edge of many questionable situations from WMD to the Plame affair. Maybe you have a perspective on whether he has succumbed to one particular incident or whether it's a cumulative effect.

Dana Priest: Cumulative would be my guess.

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Leominster, Mass.: Greetings Dana; Thanx for taking my question.

Is it your belief that Director Tenet's fate was decided long before the most recent Ahmed Chalabi revelation(s). Is our intelligence services as broken as they appear ?

Dana Priest: no. I don't see a link. If anything, Chalabi's alleged antics prove that Tenet was right to distance himself from the Iraqi exile.

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Fresno, Calif.: Hi Dana - About 90 minutes before your online session will begin, we heard that George Tenet will resign for the ubiquitous "personal reasons." Is there any conceivable explanation other than for the failure of intelligence re Iraq? To what extent was the quality of intelligence that reached the White House due to "prompting" from the VP and the civilians at the Pentagon? Finally, what was the nature of the relationship between the CIA and Chalabi? Thanks

Dana Priest: Fatigue? The CIA, which spent tens of millions of dollars on Chalabi and his INC in the 1990s in the hopes he would overthrow Saddam Hussein, were greatly disappointed and saw a good deal of the money disappear, distrusted him greatly. only to bif de CI

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Reading, Mass.: Does Tenet have a book publisher?

Dana Priest: Ha! Good question.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Dana,
Yesterday the Washington Times ran an editorial stating that there were substantial links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, and the "liberal" media was just ignoring them. But my impression is that the links between the two were tenuous at best and even the White House had backed away from the charge. Who is right or is it just a gray area?

Dana Priest: I agree with your assessment, although I think there are more "terrorists" who have come into Iraq since the war to fight the Americans.

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Rochester, N.Y.: Who would be on the early short list as a possible replacement?

Dana Priest: I'm still trying to figure that out. There are no obvious candidates/

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Arlington, Va.: Is Mr. Tenet the book-writing type? If he's resigned because, say, he felt betrayed that one of the CIA's best assets (the Iranian codes) was carelessly leaked by the someone, I wonder whether he would feel any sense of loyalty or anger towards this administration.

Dana Priest: Good guess.

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Portland, Maine: Can you tell me what's happening in the Valerie Plame investigation? Bush Consults Lawyer About CIA Name Leak (Post, June 3) I'm having trouble getting any information on it. Today's news says that Bush is about to retain counsel. The seemingly glacial slowness of the investigation, makes me skeptical that it is being vigorously pursued. Is there any possibility of a truly independent counsel investigation outside the Justice Department, if the current investigators fail to uncover anything? Thanks.

Dana Priest: lots of people think it is coming to an end, so stay tuned.

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Lyme, Conn.: It has been reported that the CIA and State Department warned the White House in 2001 that Mr. Chalabi had ties to Iran. For whatever reasons, the White House likely weighed this information and decided, perhaps in error, to downplay these warnings and to accept information from Mr. Chalabi and his associates regarding the threat Saddam Hussein posed.
The question I have is not what and when the White House knew these suspicions, but when did the public finally learn of these ties between Iran and Mr. Chalabi? Personally, I am only recently reading about this. I ask because I think it may have been useful in forming public opinion over whether we should go to war in Iraq if we, the public, knew that the main source of information regarding the threat Saddam Hussein posed was from sources that were self-serving at best and connected with Iran at worse.

Dana Priest: You are right that Chalabi's ties to Iran were well known for years. In fact, U.S. taxpayer money helped fund his office in Tehran

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Manchester, UK: Was George Tenet's resignation expected and what is the likely effect?

Dana Priest: Not expected.

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Detroit, Mich.: All right, then, what impact does this have on Bush himself, namely is this just one more thing in a seemingly endless list of things that aren't going his way?

Dana Priest: you bet

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Harlingen, Tex.:
Not a question, just an observation:

It would appear as if whoever gave Mr. Chalabi the information concerning the compromise of Iranian codes is eligible for ten years' free room and board. 18 USC 798 says, "Whoever knowingly and willfully communicates, furnishes, transmits, or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person, or publishes, or uses in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States or for the benefit of any foreign government to the detriment of the United States any classified information ... concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States or any foreign government ... Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both."

Dana Priest: passing this on

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Any heads set to roll over the Chalabi fiasco? Any neocons ready to apologize for getting suckered by a sleazeball con man?

Dana Priest: I think there's a good chance the FBI will find out who told him about the Iran codes being broken. then yes, a head might roll.

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Alexandria, Va.: Dana,

The recent developments regarding Chalabi seem staggering when taken at face value, from a national security standpoint. This strikes me as an enormous failure. Yet I don't see great media or public outrage. What is your opinion as to the degree of this scandal, and whether heads will roll, and if not, if they should?

Dana Priest: If it's true, yes, this would be a huge compromise of a crucial US asset in gaining info from Iran.

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Dana Priest: I have to run. Sorry to cut this short. Dana

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