Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Ex-CIA director faces criticism over memoir

Ex-CIA director faces criticism over memoir
By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Ex-CIA Director George Tenet faced accusations of hypocrisy from former espionage officials on Monday for not speaking out earlier against the White House's push to invade Iraq, which he criticizes in his new memoir.

Six former CIA officials, including former top terrorism experts, called on Tenet to return his presidential Medal of Freedom award for failing to speak out in 2002 and 2003 as the administration pressed the case for war based on flawed intelligence.

"We also call for you to dedicate a significant percentage of the royalties from your book to the U.S. soldiers and their families who have been killed and wounded in Iraq," the officials said in a letter issued over the weekend.

"By your silence you helped build the case for war," the letter said.

Tenet also came under fire from former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer, who headed the agency's hunt for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

"The former director of central intelligence is out to absolve himself of the failings of 9/11 and Iraq," Scheuer said in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post. "We shouldn't buy his attempts to let himself off the hook."

But the CIA itself came to Tenet's defense, saying he captained the spy agency through challenging times.

"Through it all, he never wavered in his concern for the mission of the agency or in his dedication to its people," said CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield.

Tenet, whose book "At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA," went on sale on Monday, led the CIA during the September 11 attacks and played a prominent public role during the months preceding the Iraq invasion.


He resigned in 2004 as the second-longest-serving director of central intelligence. Bush later awarded him the presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest U.S. civilian award, for his service to the United States.

But only now has Tenet criticized the Bush administration's preparations for war and accused the White House of ruining his reputation by falsely asserting that he told President George W. Bush finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq would be a "slam dunk." The reference was published in journalist Bob Woodward's 2004 book "Plan of Attack."

"It was obvious to me that this whole Oval Office arm-waving, jumping-off-the-sofa, slam-dunk scene had been fed deliberately to Woodward to shift the blame from the White House to CIA for what had proved to be a failed rationale for the war in Iraq," Tenet wrote in the book.

Tenet said he used the phrase "slam dunk," sports slang for a virtual certainty, to describe how easily a stronger case for war could be made to the U.S. public.

"We do not believe he was scapegoated, but it certainly is his First Amendment right to lay out his view," White House spokesman Tony Snow said on Monday.

Tenet responded to critics by saying he sought to work from inside the political system in the months leading up to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

"I had a job to do. We had a war on terrorism, we had conflict in Iraq. I thought I could best serve my country by continuing to do my job every day," he told NBC.

"People think, well, why are you talking now? Why were you silent for so long? I certainly wasn't silent within the purview of my job and in the counsels of the administration in terms of what we said and how we said it."