Tenet Memoir Draws Heat From Key Players
Monday, April 30, 2007; 2:18 AM
NEW YORK -- The backlash has built up even before the official release of former CIA Director George Tenet's memoir, with criticism about his version of the run-up to the Iraq war, interrogation techniques and other events.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday disputed Tenet's claim that the Bush administration, before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, never had a serious debate about whether Iraq posed an imminent threat or whether to tighten existing sanctions.
"The president started a discussion practically on the day that he took power about how to enhance sanctions against Iraq," she said. "You may remember that in his first press conference, he said the sanctions had become Swiss cheese."
Rice, who was Bush's national security adviser in his first term, said the administration reviewed the sanctions, went to the United Nations to strengthen them and tried to tighten the no-fly zone in northern Iraq to better police Saddam Hussein's forces.
She also said the question about the imminence of the threat was not "if somebody is going to strike tomorrow."
"It's whether you believe you're in a stronger position today to deal with the threat, or whether you're going to be in a stronger position tomorrow," she said. "And it was the president's assessment that the situation in Iraq was getting worse."
A Tenet associate, who spoke on condition of anonymity before the book's release Monday, said Tenet was not talking about improving the sanctions, but rather the debate about the wisdom of going to war. The 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.
The memoir from the second-longest serving CIA chief covers many topics _ from his attempts to help negotiate peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians during the Clinton administration, to the days surrounding Sept. 11, 2001, and to the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath.
Looking ahead, he says, al-Qaida wants to change history and meet its top one goal of obtaining a nuclear device.
Tenet highlights the errors of others during his tenure from July 1997 to July 2004, such as the extraordinary efforts by Vice President Cheney and others to connect Iraq and al-Qaida.
Tenet also takes blame for other failures, such as the production of the botched National Intelligence Estimate in 2002 that was used to justify invading Iraq.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he does not accept assertions from Tenet that the U.S. government saved lives through some of the agency's most aggressive interrogation techniques.