David Ignatius's benign view of George Tenet's tenure as director of central intelligence ["New Guy at the CIA," op-ed, Aug. 22] is out of sync with Tenet's actual record. Although not officially sworn in until July 1997, Tenet served as acting DCI upon John Deutch's departure in late 1996. What has Tenet's record been during this time?
It began with the denial -- in January 1997, before Congress -- that the CIA had withheld any relevant information from the public regarding possible chemical exposures among American Gulf War veterans. Four months later, Tenet dispatched an underling, Robert Walpole, to Capitol Hill to recant. The agency had, since 1986, conclusive evidence that chemical weapons were routinely stored at the Khamisiyah weapons depot -- the same depot that was destroyed by American combat engineers in March 1991. A year later, Tenet's Inspector General office issued a report indicating that the agency had identified more than 1.5 million documents with potential relevance to the maladies affecting ailing Desert Storm veterans, but that the material would not be reviewed for release to the veterans or the public -- again demolishing Tenet's claims of the agency's "openness" on the Gulf War illness issue.
Tenet's commitment to greater public accountability on the CIA's current and previous actions is also questionable. An August 1997 report by the State Department's Advisory Committee on Historical and Diplomatic Documentation charged the agency with "stone walling" on the declassification of records dealing with nearly a dozen CIA covert actions during the Cold War. Tenet, breaking pledges made by his two immediate predecessors, cited "budgetary and resource constraints" as the reasons for the continued classification of the material a questionable assertion at best.
Tenet's tenure has brought increased employee-related litigation. Earlier this year, Washington-area litigator Roy Kneger filed a federal class action suit on behalf of agency employees who were impeded in their attempts to seek legal representation. Krieger told The Post in January that his request to examine materials relevant to a grievance made by one of his agency clients had been denied.
Many of the grievances deal with questionable polygraph tactics used by CIA Security, an overreaction stemming from the Aldrich Ames case. Considered by many to be little more reliable than a Ouija board and generally inadmissible in court cases, the polygraph is still viewed by the CIA as a talisman. Tenet's failure to seriously examine its drawbacks in the wake of the Ames case has clearly contributed to excesses by CIA Security, precipitating Krieger's class action suit.
The agency's analytical record under Tenet has been dismal, recalling the worst days of the highly politicized intelligence assessments of the Reagan and Bush years. Early in 1998, the CIA's Office of Transnational Issues, unhappy with a balanced and accurate report prepared by University of Hawaii professor Gary Fuller on the relative ethnic stability of China, pressured university officials to fire him. Fuller -- who refused to toe the agency line that China was heading the way of the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia -- fought back, regaining his job but not his position as chairman of the university's geography department. Politicization of intelligence estimates continues to flourish under Tenet's leadership.
The CIA -- shorn of its satellite imagery analysis capability by Tenet's predecessor, John Deutch -- failed to detect India's preparations for renewed nuclear testing in May 1998. The same lack of satellite photo analysis undoubtedly played a role in the mistaken targeting of the Al Shifa pharmaceutical plant in the Sudan a year ago. Subsequent imagery of the plant, released by the Pentagon, showed no evidence of the kinds of special security measures normally associated with chemical weapons production facilities.
Relying on the Pentagon's National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) alone for photographic analysis -- particular on key strategic questions -- has proved to be the disaster critics predicted three years ago when NIMA was established. Tenet has made no move to restore the CIA's organic satellite imagery analysis capabilities, choosing instead to rely on NIMA, whose maps and imagery support also proved wanting in the Chinese Embassy bombing incident earlier this year.
Tenet's record to date is, at best, mixed. If, as Ignatius suggests, Tenet has truly embraced the philosophy of former director Richard Helms -- fined $2,000 in 1978 for perjuring himself before Congress five years earlier regarding the agency's role in subverting the Chilean government -- we all have reason for grave concern.
The writer is a former CIA analyst.