"We're the ones that stand up and tell you the truth when we're wrong."
April 29, 2007 8:44 PM   Subscribe

"It's a great thing about this government... the only people that ever stand up and tell the truth are who? Intelligence officers." George Tenet told his side on 60 Minutes tonight. In case you missed it. [via]
posted by scblackman (60 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Fuck George Tenet.

Just about every "revelation" he has in this book is already known.

And back when he could have done something about it, he actively cooperated in the deception.

Now he says that all he meant by "slam dunk" was that they could make a good case for it in public, not that it was actually, you know, true.

He says now that there was no discussion of the decision to invade, and that the decisionmakers didn't ask any tough questions about the intelligence. A patriot-- or hell, any competent grown-up-- would have shaken those decisionmakers by the lapels and said, "are you kidding me? We don't have anything to justify this invasion! And we don't think the aftermath would be any good either!" Instead, he just played along.

He sold out the analysts, particularly on the WMD issue, but also the al Qaeda-Iraq link issue, because he liked being the president's little buddy.
posted by ibmcginty at 8:51 PM on April 29, 2007 [4 favorites]


Talking about "enhanced interrogation techniques" he sounds like a bit of a thug.
posted by dazed_one at 9:03 PM on April 29, 2007


It's lucky he's come out with all this before the shit hits the fan and everyone knows the whole affair is a disaster. Otherwise, it'd look a little self-serving.
posted by pompomtom at 9:08 PM on April 29, 2007 [9 favorites]


Now he says that all he meant by "slam dunk" was that they could make a good case for it in public, not that it was actually, you know, true.

Did anyone ever take the "slam dunk" crack as anything other than confirmation that Tenet and the administration, were looking for an excuse for war? I thought that meaning was pretty clear from the first moment I heard it. Which doesn't make Tenet any less of scumbag, of course.

I bet nobody called Pearl Harbor "a slam dunk."
posted by Western Infidels at 9:09 PM on April 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


Several former intelligence officers are standing up to George Tenet.
posted by pruner at 9:11 PM on April 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm sure Tenet and Powell have their own little circle of hell waiting for them.

/too harsh? too soon?
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:13 PM on April 29, 2007


George Tenet thinks you're stupid.
posted by pruner at 9:15 PM on April 29, 2007


No, damn dirty ape, it's not too harsh or too soon.

Colin Powell is a Marshal Petain-- a former hero who disgraced himself. The comparison is imperfect, of course, but a good measure of the blame for a national disgrace and hundreds of thousands of deaths lie at their feet.
posted by ibmcginty at 9:18 PM on April 29, 2007


A little honesty could have gone a long way in 2003.

A day late a few trillion dollars short.
posted by delmoi at 9:22 PM on April 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


What delmoi said. Fuck Tenet and his tell-all memoir. And fuck Colin Powell's tell-all memoir to come.
posted by mediareport at 9:26 PM on April 29, 2007


this from his book is not surprising, but disgusting: In January 2002, George J. Tenet, the man who oversaw all American spy agencies, was asked by a visiting Italian intelligence official what he knew about United States officials making contact with exiled Iranian opposition figures.

“I shot a look at other members of my staff in the meeting,” Mr. Tenet writes in his newly published memoir. “It was clear that none of us knew what he was talking about. The Italian quickly changed the subject.”

The embarrassed Mr. Tenet, then director of central intelligence, had stumbled upon a quixotic effort by a few Pentagon officials working closely with a conservative Middle East specialist, Michael A. Ledeen, to meet with Iranian dissidents living abroad. It was neither the first nor the last time he would be surprised by intelligence efforts inside the Bush administration but outside official channels. ...


They were doing it with Iraq and Iran back then.
posted by amberglow at 9:30 PM on April 29, 2007


It's so funny--they sent Condi out to all the Sunday shows to pre-empt him, and this too: ... In an unusual reaction to Mr. Tenet’s book, the State Department sent reporters on Sunday a three-page document underscoring comments the former C.I.A. chief had made to the Sept. 11 commission. ...
posted by amberglow at 9:38 PM on April 29, 2007


His weaseling about torture shows all that need be shown about this man's regard for truth.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:01 PM on April 29, 2007


Colin Powell is a Marshal Petain-- a former hero who disgraced himself.

Hero? for what... I can't think of anything heroic he's been involved in. and then there's that whole My Lai business:


Six months later, a 21 year old soldier of the 11th Light Infantry named Tom Glen wrote a letter accusing the Americal Division (and other entire units of the US military, not just individuals) of routine brutality against Vietnamese civilians; the letter was detailed, its allegations horrifying, and its contents echoed complaints received from other soldiers. Colin Powell, then a young US Army Major, was charged with investigating the letter, which did not specifically reference My Lai (Glen had no knowledge of the events there). Powell wrote: "In direct refutation of this portrayal is the fact that relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent." Later, Powell's refutation would be called an act of "white-washing" the news of My Lai, and questions would continue to remain undisclosed to the public. On 4 May 2004, Powell, then United States Secretary of State, said to Larry King, "I mean, I was in a unit that was responsible for My Lai. I got there after My Lai happened. So, in war, these sorts of horrible things happen every now and again, but they are still to be deplored."[8]


seems like a basically mediocre man who has worked his way up the ladder by doing what he was supposed to do, the only difference was that this time the boss was involved in a colossal fuck-up and he didn't get his finger in the wind fast enough.

As to Tenet, he was the director of the CIA for christs sake, why would anyone think he was anything other than scum, from a long line of scum.
posted by geos at 10:04 PM on April 29, 2007


My biggest fuck you still goes to the democrats who voted for the war, cowardly weasley fucks the lot of them.
posted by Artw at 10:13 PM on April 29, 2007


As to Tenet, he was the director of the CIA for christs sake, why would anyone think he was anything other than scum, from a long line of scum.

Daddy Bush too.
posted by amberglow at 10:15 PM on April 29, 2007


too little, too late.
posted by j-urb at 10:42 PM on April 29, 2007


His weaseling about torture shows all that need be shown about this man's regard for truth.

What is interesting about the "revelations" in the book (or at least Tenet's admitting on paper what everyone already knows) is that I always thought Tenet made some deal to take the fall. You know, just like Gonzales is doing - accept the role of an incompetent to give cover to the President, but keep your job and the President's vocal support.

But now he comes out and says, essentially, that the opposite was true. Something tells me that this wasn't the quite the quo Bush expected from the Tenet's quid.

The good news is that Republican Rats are jumping ship my friends. Pity for us left floating in the water that the Democrats don't have a ship, don't know how to sail, and are afraid of water.
posted by three blind mice at 10:46 PM on April 29, 2007


ending up in a dock at The Hague should be a slam-dunk, too
posted by matteo at 1:19 AM on April 30, 2007


three blind mice writes The good news is that Republican Rats are jumping ship my friends. Pity for us left floating in the water that the Democrats don't have a ship, don't know how to sail, and are afraid of water.

I thought Kerry had a swift boat...
posted by chuckdarwin at 1:39 AM on April 30, 2007


Otis!

Sittin' in the mornin' sun
I'll be sittin' when indictments come
Watching the truth roll in
And then I watch it roll away again, yeah

I'm sittin' in a dock at the Hague
Watching the lies roll away
Ooo, I'm just sittin' in a dock at the Hague
Lookin' at time

I left my home in Georgetown
Headed for the Whitehouse that day
'Cause I've had no truth to try for
Now look like nothin's gonna come my way

So I'm just gonna sit in a dock at the Hague
Watching the lies roll away
Ooo, I'm sittin' in a dock at the Hague
Lookin' at time

Look like nothing's gonna change
Everything still remains the same
I can't do what ten people tell me to do
So I guess I'll remain the same, yes

Sittin' here resting my bones
And this lawyer won't leave me alone
It's two thousand lies I told
Just to make this dock my home

Now, I'm just gonna sit in a dock at the Hague
Watching the lies roll away
Oooo-wee, sittin' in a dock at the Hague
Lookin' at time
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:56 AM on April 30, 2007 [3 favorites]


He is a man of principal and honor. I am sure he is going to return that Presidential Medal of Freedom any day now, just you wait.
posted by archaic at 3:43 AM on April 30, 2007


If I had Otis's way with words, that would have been facin' time, not lookin' at it. Please make that substitution as you sing along.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:51 AM on April 30, 2007


In case you haven't read the book, here is the Reader's Digest condensed version - "It wasn't my fault, it was GW's." I am glad he is pointing out to the public how intelligence was manipulated etc., but he spends so much time defending himself that the whole thing has to be viewed somewhat suspiciously.
posted by caddis at 4:17 AM on April 30, 2007


I noted that he was very very sincere in denying the American use of torture. Alas, the interviewer never asked about the fact that prisoners were usually shipped out to countries where torture allowed and used.
posted by Postroad at 4:20 AM on April 30, 2007


Sen. Durbin claims that the Senate Intelligence Committee was given information which conflicted with the public statements made by the Bushies. Because he was sworn to secrecy he couldn't do anything more than vote against the war.
posted by caddis at 4:27 AM on April 30, 2007


Actually caddis I think "It wasn't my fault, it was Cheney's." would be more accurate.
posted by Tenuki at 5:01 AM on April 30, 2007


Senator Durbin is right, and he's pointed that out before. There were differences between the classified and declassified versions of the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq; all caveats and qualifiers were removed from the declassified version.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:42 AM on April 30, 2007


I'll give the guy credit, he's GOOD. He should consider a career in Hollywood. I watched the whole thing and damn that dude could sell ice to eskimos. Fortunately it's clear that he's a piece of scum from his record. I don't believe a word he said.
posted by spicynuts at 6:47 AM on April 30, 2007


It's a great thing about this government ... the only people that ever stand up and tell the truth ...

After they get a four million dollar book deal four years later.



So, could someone clarify - Am I no longer a traitor, or worse, French, for having been vehemently against this war from Day One?

Also, can I stop paying taxes to support it?
posted by NorthernLite at 7:17 AM on April 30, 2007


The book came as something of a surprise to me- not its contents, but its publication. My take on the Medal of Freedom was that it was confered, in part, to buy T's silence.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 7:26 AM on April 30, 2007


in part, to buy T's silence.

The 60 minutes interview covered this perspective briefly at the end. I can't recall 100% but I think Tenet's response was something to the effect of "That medal was for the sum total of my entire career".
posted by spicynuts at 7:34 AM on April 30, 2007


Can we consider the substance of what Tenet said? Intelligence officers (himself included) show up every day and try as hard as they can to protect the American people. They are decent, honest, hard-working men and women who have been subjected to an unfair amount of criticism - their integrity has been impugned.

George, George, George - that's all fine and well. I believe you and thank you, immensely, for your efforts. That does not negate the fact that, on your watch, America suffered the TWO GREATEST FUCKING INTELLIGENCE FAILURES IN HER HISTORY.

Now, perhaps there was a case to be made that it wasn't your fault. If so, make that case. If not, please shut the fuck up.

(Is it overly conspiratorial to me to think that none of this comes as any surprise to anyone in the White House - that in fact they very well may have signed off on it?)
posted by fingers_of_fire at 7:49 AM on April 30, 2007


Actually caddis I think "It wasn't my fault, it was Cheney's." would be more accurate.
posted by Tenuki at 8:01 AM on April 30


Of course it is. Tenet's been brought into the Bush family. This is part of the larger strategy to blame the neocons in order to deflect the blame from Bush. What's going on in the republican grassroots is an attempt to frame 2001-2006 as Bush vs. the pro-Israeli neocons. See, Bush is a "good Christian", not like Perle, Wolfowitz, Kristol, Cheney, Rumsfeld, numerous GOP drones involved in gay sex scandals, etc. This is how Bush and his extended family are going to survive this politically - by blaming a secret cabal.

This started when Rumsfeld go the boot and bush turned back to old pals Baker, Scocroft, et al to produce the Iraq study group report. And you'll note the neocons dishing it out, blaming Bush's weak decision-making for the war they wanted since the mid 90's.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:52 AM on April 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


George, George, George - that's all fine and well. I believe you and thank you, immensely, for your efforts. That does not negate the fact that, on your watch, America suffered the TWO GREATEST FUCKING INTELLIGENCE FAILURES IN HER HISTORY.

Now, perhaps there was a case to be made that it wasn't your fault. If so, make that case. If not, please shut the fuck up.


Tenet sealed his fate on 9-12, when he basically decided not to resign for the CIA's failures (he was the only member of the team present in the previous administration), and instead did whatever he could not to take the blame for 9-11.

Even if he shoulders the blame for Iraq, that wouldn't be as publicly humiliating as being the guy who let the 9-11 attacks happen. And if that's how the administration wanted to paint him, they could have done it.

The more important question is, so what if Tenet's right or wrong? Supposing the intelligence did in fact agree that Iraq had al qaeda ties? Are "ties" a reason to go to war and screw up the occupation so badly? Remember, we won the regime change part of the war pretty handily. It's the aftermath that got botched.

In other words, even if the intelligence directly linked Saddam to the 9-11 attacks, that may justify the war, but that would still not justify botching the occupation this badly.

Or is the implication here that if the government of Iraq were involved in 9-11, it would then be okay to pitch the entire country and the lives of its people into the abyss?

The real question we should be asking is, if the administration was so determined to invade Iraq that they lied and manufactured a story to justify it, why didn't they plan for it better? Doesn't that make them even more incompetent?
posted by Pastabagel at 8:02 AM on April 30, 2007


Remember, we won the regime change part of the war pretty handily. It's the aftermath that got botched.

Well, in their zeal for shock and awe, and to make it easy for the boys on the ground (an admirably goal), they totally wiped the infrastructure. This is almost certainly a direct, significant contributing factor to the current aftermath. The two are not so easily separated. And there is a valid debate as to whether there could be any other outcome; Although I think there have been horrible mistakes made, I am not so sure that it is a tractable problem.
posted by Bovine Love at 8:29 AM on April 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


This started when Rumsfeld go the boot and bush turned back to old pals Baker, Scocroft, et al to produce the Iraq study group report.

Baker and Scowcroft are his dad's pals, not his, which is why Bush has mostly blown off the Iraq Study Group report. "The surge" is a direct "fuck you" to the report's recommendations, "including the withdrawal of most U.S. combat troops by early 2008." (Scowcroft opposed invading Iraq.,)
posted by kirkaracha at 8:45 AM on April 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


I bet nobody called Pearl Harbor "a slam dunk."

It was a tactical success and a strategic failure. Even Fuchida knew they hadn't hit the repair shops and the tank farms (full of avgas and bunker oil); he argued for a third strike but was overruled, since Nagumo knew that the Enterprise group was out there somewhere and would be looking for them. The battlewagons were neutralized and the base was a mess, but the carriers hadn't been touched -- the Japanese understood that shortfall immediately -- and the submarines hadn't either -- which arguably was even worse, but in Dec 1941 nobody realized that the US Navy Submarine Service, about 2% of PacFleet, would kill a third of the IJN and most of its merchant tonnage.

There was plenty of controversy at the time and afterward that it had been at least an intelligence screwup and possibly deliberately allowed happen, which we've discussed to death in the blue.

/derail
posted by pax digita at 8:53 AM on April 30, 2007


About the only high level admin staff who hasn't flipped on Bush is...Bush. Oh, and Cheney.
posted by xjudson at 8:55 AM on April 30, 2007


Oh, and if T thinks "enhanced interrogation" isn't torture, can we sit him down in a chair to watch while we try it on his wife? I bet she'd be able to tell him if he still couldn't figure it out.
posted by pax digita at 9:46 AM on April 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Pastabagel, The One-Percent Doctrine claims that in the Summer of 2001, the CIA was climbing the walls about a likely imminent Al Qaeda attack, and Bush utterly ignored them, dismissing their warnings as ass covering. CIA officials were the primary sources for that book so it's not completely trustworthy, but it's not at all clear to me that it's reasonable at this stage to rest much of the blame for missing 9/11 at the CIA's feet.
posted by Coventry at 10:50 AM on April 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


And still the red states and their famous voters have yet to wake up to the national shame this country will carry for the next few generations thanks to the Iraqi invasion even as the premptive finger pointapolooza is only begining.
posted by Fupped Duck at 10:57 AM on April 30, 2007


but it's not at all clear to me that it's reasonable at this stage to rest much of the blame for missing 9/11 at the CIA's feet.
posted by Coventry at 1:50 PM on April 30


I would agree, but in the post-9/11 media environment, it would have been a simple matter to "blame CIA" in the court of public opinion.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:11 AM on April 30, 2007


The One-Percent Doctrine claims that in the Summer of 2001, the CIA was climbing the walls about a likely imminent Al Qaeda attack

So does Section 8 ("The System Was Blinking Red") [PDF] of the 9/11 Commission Report. "There were more than 40 intelligence articles in the PDBs from January 20 to September 10, 2001, that related to Bin Ladin...Other reports' titles warned, 'Bin Ladin Attacks May be Imminent' and 'Bin Ladin and Associates Making Near-Term Threats.'"
posted by kirkaracha at 11:36 AM on April 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


"We don't torture."

Ever since Colin Powell's disgraceful sham in the UN, whenever one of these guys claims something is true, I'll assume the opposite is actually the case.

If waterboarding and "stress positions" aren't torture, let's see George demonstrate by having it done on him on live primetime network TV. I'll make popcorn.

If we don't torture people, is it OK that we "extraordinarily render" people over to foreign countries where broom handles, alligator clips and savage beatings are state of the art?

Tenet's a tool, he makes me ashamed of my country, and I'd love to read that he was abducted and made to stand trial in the Hague -- him, and several others. Never happen, though. They'll all die in bed, having made several million each off the advances for their memoirs.
posted by pax digita at 12:09 PM on April 30, 2007


“Can we consider the substance of what Tenet said? Intelligence officers (himself included) show up every day and try as hard as they can to protect the American people. They are decent, honest, hard-working men and women who have been subjected to an unfair amount of criticism - their integrity has been impugned.”
Y’know, here’s the thing about that. That is well and good. And indeed, intel officers are for the most part as honest as certain kinds of financial analysts say - you can’t fudge when it comes to the critical numbers you need to know. The Wall St. Journal for example - pretty much solid information. It has to be otherwise people wouldn’t read it. (The op-ed page is another story.)
The problem is - and Tenet’s comments illustrates this fundimental difference in thinking - it doesn’t matter how much integrity intel officers have. Our nation does not depend on the integrity of men but on the rule of law and the ethics inherent in our system of checks and balances.
An intel officer does not fudge data to support a certain position just because he’s dishonest or he’s a jerk, nor does he give a clear accurate report because he’s such a swell guy. He does it - in much the way any financial analyst does it - because not only if he fails to do so the imediate effects are obvious - but that he is supported and held accountable by a nonpartisan (albeit occasionally political) process.

Where that process breaks down, it does not matter the integrity of the man who does the job. My personal integrity is above reproach, there are people willing to stake their lives on my word. But my way of doing things and what I personally believe may be different that someone else’s way and what they think is the best way to proceed. And we can both be perfectly honest, moral and well-meaning individuals. And we can find ourselves at cross purposes.

Therefore it is that we both adhere to an objective system that protects the American people.
It is that anyone else in such a position - whatever that individuals’ personal politics, their moral compass - would act in the same way as the best of us would because they are constrained to do so by the process, and that is what protects them from any sort of malfeasance.

Where that support breaks down - and where it has manifestly broken down in the past - is what is at issue.
Tenet’s point neatly skirts that issue by saying “don’t blame the folks in the intelligence community, they’re just acting in their country’s best interests.”
And that’s certainly true in almost all cases (albeit with some glaringly false cases), but the American people have not delegated the right to those individuals to look out for their best interests. Only elected representatives have the right to do that.

And in this case some of those elected representatives have perverted and politicised the process by which the people are protected from their unelected servants.
And so the morality and integrity of the people within the intelligence community doesn’t matter either way.

So, yeah, Tenet is full of shit.

/Well informed derail btw pax digita
posted by Smedleyman at 2:01 PM on April 30, 2007


I do enjoy the way everyone just assumes that he's telling the truth now. That couldn't be because it supports your preconceptions, could it?
posted by Dolukhanova at 3:41 PM on April 30, 2007


That's an interesting conclusion, Dolukhanova, considering the comment just above yours ends with the line "So, yeah, Tenet is full of shit." Smedlyman's not the only one here saying that, either. Are you sure your comment goes in this thread?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:51 PM on April 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


George Tenet "Explains" The Downing Street Memo:
In the spring of 2005 some documents dating back to July 2002 were leaked to the British press. The documents, which came to be known as "the Downing Street Memo," reported on a "perceptible shift" in the attitude in Washington, saying that military action was now seen as "inevitable." One memo records "C," the designation the Brits use for the head of the British Secret Secret Intelligence Service, as saying that "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Sir Richard later told me that he had been misquoted. He reviewed the draft document, objecting to the word "fixed" in particular, and corrected it to reflect the truth of the matter. He said that upon returning to London in July of 2002, he expressed the view, based on his conversations, that the war in Iraq was going to happen. He believed that the momentum driving it was not really about WMD but rather about bigger issues, such as changing the politics of the Middle East.

Dearlove recalled that he had a polite but significant, disagreement with Scooter Libby, who was trying to convince him that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qa'ida. Dearlove's strongly held view, based on his own service's reporting, was that any contacts between the two had come to nothing and that there was no formal relationship. He believed that the crowd around the vice president was playing fast and loose with the evidence. In his view, it was never about "fixing" the intelligence itself but rather about the undisciplined manner in which the intelligence was being used.
"Playing fast and loose with the evidence" is totally different than "fixing the intelligence."
posted by kirkaracha at 4:45 PM on April 30, 2007


Actually Tenet on the torture thing kind of reminds me of the old John Wayne comment about the blacklist in Hollywood: There was never any black list or nothing like that, just a bunch of people who we run out of the business.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:09 PM on April 30, 2007


Has everyone forgotten the White House's own intelligence gathering network run out of the White House by folks like Doug Feith? Seriously. It was obvious they were looking for an excuse before the war, and now this? This is just a whole lot of "NO DUH". Fucker's just cashing in on a book deal.
posted by Eekacat at 5:20 PM on April 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Related piece by Pillar
posted by Smedleyman at 5:36 PM on April 30, 2007


coventry and, to a lesser extent, smedleyman, here's my thing - as one of the people paying George Tenet's salary when he was CIA director, I expect one thing from him - that he keep the fucking country safe. That he prevent 9.11. NOT ONLY, Ms. Rice, when you know WHEN and WHERE the attack is coming - you delusional, self-aggrandizing liar - that's right, I expect George Tenet, and Condoleeza Rice, and Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney, and George Bush, and any other public servant of any party whose portfolio pertains to National Security, to protect America EVEN and ESPECIALLY when the information is incomplete. That, my friends, is a shitty fucking job, but it's the one that y'all worked your asses off trying to get - and, I might add, it's the one that you are failing SPECTACULARLY at.

Yeah, I believe that George Tenet and the intelligence community had ample warnings and opportunity to prevent 9.11. It's his fucking job to get the President to pay attention. He didn't do his job very well. We could get all analytical about where the breakdown happened, but I'm comfortable chalking it up to gross incompetence.

Once again with the Bush Administration, in my opinion, the most likely explanation is the simplest - that they truly are a bunch of incompetent assholes. Crooked? Probably. But you don't really need to go there. Total incompetence. I suspect that that's enough for impeachment, all other things being equal (which, of course, they aren't).

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to eat 16 or 17 chocolate chip cookies.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 7:13 PM on April 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well, I think that's a bit simplistic. I like the "gross incompetence" theory, too, but where did the incompetence lie? If the folks at the top of an organization don't give priority to an issue, that negligence tends to spread pretty quickly. It's not just that there's no incentive coming from the top, it's that there's no organizational support. In the case of 9/11, what was the CIA supposed to do? By the Summer of 2001, the hijackers were at least mostly already all in the US, so even if the CIA could identify them, it was prohibited from surveilling them. This is the kind of situation where leadership is crucial: the only way to act effectively on the CIA information was to tell the FBI, and that ought to be a decision which has to be made outside the CIA.
posted by Coventry at 8:57 PM on April 30, 2007


Agreed that I was being overly simplistic in some ways, coventry - I've just been wanting to make those points for a while. But, that said - as we've all learned - let's say that the CIA is able to identify the 2 al-qaeda operatives who ended up being among the 19 on the planes that were already in their system - can't they petition a FISA court to surveille them? In fact, can't they petition the court retroactively, within 72 hours? I'm not saying the system was in prime operating condition - in fact, I don't profess to be knowledgeable about this at all - I'm just saying that we've disrupted terrorist plots before, so there were SOME tools in place - the CIA did not have it's hands completely tied.

I agree with you - the higher levels set the tone. There apparently was a message coming out of the White House in th esummer of 2001 that terrorism was NOT a priority, despite the CIA director's persistent warnings. I think there's a lot of incompetence there - certainly on the part of senior administration officials to not respond to the sercurity environment they were facing, and also on the part of Tenet in not getting his point across.

I guess the main thing I'm responding to is how he (subtley?) did NOT take responsibility. His JOB is to protect the country - and lo and behold, we suffered horrendous intelligence failures on his watch. Owe up to it, pal. Don't start getting pissy with the press, 'cuz us citizens - we were counting on YOU to do a job - yes, a very nearly impossible job, but still - you accepted it. Comes with consequences.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 11:00 PM on April 30, 2007


It's only incompetence if they fail at something they are actually trying to do. With so many of their projects, it looks more like indifference. They don't actually care whether Iraq becomes a peaceful democracy; their kids aren't dying there, and Halliburton's making billions. They don't actually care whether NOLA gets rebuilt; none of their friends have to live there, and Halliburton's making more millions. They don't actually care whether the health-care system works; they can afford all the best treatment, and the insurance and drug companies are making billions. They don't actually care whether the U.S. is dependent on foreign oil; they can always move to Dubai when the U.S. economy tanks; meanwhile, their friends in the oil industry are making record profits. They don't actually care whether global warming can be stopped; their wealth insulates them, and big business is doing well by ruining the planet. They don't actually care whether the constitutional foundation of the U.S. goes down the toilet; they don't need its protections, and the voting process is just an impediment to their goals.

Tenet was a willing tool. If he manages to make himself usable again, they'll take him out of the drawer. If not - tough luck, George.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:12 AM on May 1, 2007


“I expect one thing from him - that he keep the fucking country safe.”

Your points are pretty tangential to mine. I’ll agree the country wasn’t kept safe from external attack. But I don’t think that corruption and incompetance are mutually exclusive.
Indeed, they very often appear to dovetail because the goal - whether it is keeping the country in the strictest physical sense ‘safe’ from terrorist attack or keeping the country safe in the more abstract sense - say, safe from partisan meddling (read the Pillar piece?) - is not met.
And quite possibly the avowed intent is very different from the actual goals.
I’m not comfortable chalking it up to incompetance because there are too many failsafes which should ostensibly prevent such occurances. THOUSANDS of things went wrong on 9/11. There need not have been a conspiracy to create the event or even false flag the operation for there to have been meddling with the processes there to have allowed such a thing to happen.

When - for example - a airplane crashes midflight for no reason out in the middle of nowhere - the FAA doesn’t just say “Well the pilot was an idiot” and move on. They examine all the variables that went into causing the crash - because there is a multitude of parts on an aircraft and thousands of systems all of which contribute to the safety of the flight. So they go and do a lessons learned sort of thing.

Intelligence work is subject to similar redundancies, oversight and investigation after the process has failed somewhere - except for here.

The old canard about the intelligence agencies not working together - domestic and foreign, etc. - is silly. The FBI and CIA and the NIS and everyone else did share intel on related matters - where that brakes down is when they get different direction from policy makers on the same subject.
The old ‘three blind men describing an elephant’ thing.
As Joe CIA, you might know that a couple The Base guys are in Vegas whooping it up - you kick that information up and you’re told the FBI is on it.
Joe FBI running a different op stumbled on the same info and is told the CIA is on it.
If you’re either of those guys - how do you know? Your only point of contact is the policy maker. You don’t want to queer another agencys investigation, particularly if they have a bigger net.
The place where their hands are tied is at the policy level - they can’t DO anything without direction by policy.
The last thing you want is Joe Spook running his own op because he knows better than Joe Elected Representative.

Now I grant, any given white protestant oil money millionaire might have an agenda beyond or apart from protecting the country, and Joe Spook has in fact used the tools to do some funky stuff on his own. But that’s where you get into trouble and for the most part the rank and file won’t do something they think might be the right thing to do because without civilian control you are either a rogue organization or a coup in waiting.

So the ‘intelligence failure’ stuff is a misnomer. You can tell someone “hey they’re going to attack us!” or say “hey, there’s no WMDs there at all!” doesn’t mean anyone is going to listen.
Of course, that’s not Tenet. He’s the guy who is supposed to bring all the accurate data forward.

I can’t speculate on Tenet’s involvement. Men at that level typically play for different stakes and hell, Bush the elder ran the CIA and went into politics. So he could be playing cover his ass to slide into a career or something.
I don’t think there’s any question that’s what he’s doing. Bit curious as to why.
And it goes without saying he should be held accountable. But as I’ve said, accountability comes from the system. At Tenet’s level if the policy makers don’t care - and I’d count the Dems off here - then nothing much is going to happen.
It’d be really nifty if there was a straightforward investigation into the errors made on 9/11 without people crying ‘conspiracy’ of one kind or another (political agenda or mad villian plan or whatnot). And some heads on the block as a result.
I haven’t seen anything like that.

Manifestly then, the system failed. Tenet is just a big cog (or indeed a big tool).
posted by Smedleyman at 10:28 AM on May 1, 2007


fingers_of_fire: --as one of the people paying George Tenet's salary when he was CIA director, I expect one thing from him - that he keep the fucking country safe.

As Thomas Powers pointed out in The Failure, the CIA works for the President.
--no one can understand, much less predict, the behavior of the CIA who does not understand that the agency works for the president. I know of no exceptions to this general rule. In practice it means that in the end the CIA will always bend to the wishes of the president, and as long as the director of central intelligence serves at the pleasure of the president this will continue to be the case. The general rule applies to both intelligence and operations: what the CIA says, as well as what it does, will shape itself over time to what the president wants. When presidents don't like what they are being told they ignore it. When they want something done they press until it happens. As a disciplined organization the agency does not complain about the one [most of the time, it appears], or long resist the other. In a word, it is responsive....

Once put into words the general rule seems obvious. Why would the CIA ignore what the president wants or believes? Why would a president tolerate a CIA with an agenda of its own? ... There have been plenty of occasions for denial over the years, but claims that the White House was out of the loop, while routinely accepted, are rarely plausible.
There's a long-established pattern of blaming the CIA for doing what the President tells them to do. The responsibility for failing to prevent 9/11 and the decision to go to war with Iraq both belong to George W. Bush. Bush's blaming the CIA is just another example of his refusing to take responsibility for his failures.

L. A. Times:
"The administration is not going to be happy," said Mark Lowenthal, a former senior aide to Tenet at the CIA who said he reviewed portions of the book. "But the administration is not happy with George anyway. This administration and the intelligence community became estranged in 2004 to the point where the administration was convinced the CIA was actively working to elect John Kerry."
posted by russilwvong at 11:42 AM on May 1, 2007


I think PastaBagel nailed it. At no point after 9/11 did the Bush administration waver from its commitment to go to war with Iraq, and in so doing, created an altogether new system of accountability that revolved around the approval of the President, whose agenda has mysteriously failed to serve the public good at every step of the way for the past five years, and has done so to such a blatant degree that one can only be left wondering what dark alliances have come together to turn our government on its head, and make the people of this world its sacrificial lambs. In the name of what masquerading private interests, I wish I knew.

The fact that Tenet wasn't fired immediately after 9/11 - but rather was given the space to cook up a story for the administration, only to have the CIA's chain yanked with the Valerie Plame leak at the first sign of dissent, and now to be blamed for an "unjust" war that Bush nonetheless is going to "veto" us back into - is proof positive that, for better or for worse, our government will go to great lengths to generate false information to keep the american public in the dark, for some untold benefit. Now with Powell gone, Tenet gone, Ashcroft gone, Rumsfeld - is that guy still alive? - and yet we are still on the same track. And the question remains - why?


We talk about 9/11, we talk about weapons of mass destruction, we talk about torture, we talk about alberto gonzales... but none of this talk has anything to do with the colossal operational fuck-up that stands on its own two legs right in the middle of the stage, every day, to this day. what the hell are we doing in iraq?
posted by phaedon at 3:15 PM on May 1, 2007


what the hell are we doing in iraq?

We're ensuring Osama's Mission is Accomplished: Al Qaeda Strikes Back-- ... But thanks largely to Washington's eagerness to go into Iraq rather than concentrate on hunting down al Qaeda's leaders, the organization now has a solid base of operations in the badlands of Pakistan and an effective franchise in western Iraq. Its reach has spread throughout the Muslim world, where it has developed a large cadre of operatives, and in Europe, where it can claim the support of some disenfranchised Muslim locals and members of the Arab and Asian diasporas. Osama bin Laden has mounted a successful propaganda campaign to make himself and his movement the primary symbols of Islamic resistance worldwide. His ideas now attract more followers than ever.

Bin Laden's goals remain the same, as does his basic strategy. He seeks to, as he puts it, "provoke and bait" the United States into "bleeding wars" throughout the Islamic world; he wants to bankrupt the country much as he helped bankrupt, he claims, the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s. The demoralized "far enemy" would then go home, allowing al Qaeda to focus on destroying its "near enemies," Israel and the "corrupt" regimes of Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. occupation of Iraq helped move his plan along, and bin Laden has worked hard to turn it into a trap for Washington. Now he may be scheming to extend his strategy by exploiting or even triggering a war between the United States and Iran.
...


We're only helping him and Al Qaeda, and hurting ourselves. Bush is his very best "number two" ever.
posted by amberglow at 3:45 PM on May 1, 2007


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