George Tenet's Shameful Legacy

Avi Klar - Hamodia - May 16, 2007

There is an old story about the time a man asked his farmer neighbor whether he could borrow his donkey for a day.

"I'm sorry, but my donkey is out on a long journey and won't be back for another three days," the neighbor replied.

At that very moment, loud braying was heard from the barn located only a few feet from where they were standing.

"Your donkey is right here!" the would-be borrower said.

The neighbor was indignant. "Whom are you going to believe, your longtime neighbor or a dumb donkey?"

George Tenet's recently published memoirs prove that while his abilities as CIA director are highly questionable, he is eminently qualified at the art of distorting and manipulating facts.

He starts his book with a powerful anecdote that supposedly occurred early on the morning of September 12, 2001. Tenet claims he was walking beneath the awning that leads to the West Wing when he saw Richard Perle, described as one of the leaders of the neoconservative movement, exiting the building. Tenet writes, "Perle turned to me and said, 'Iraq has to pay a price for what happened yesterday. They bear responsibility.'"

Great story. But it never happened. Perle revealed this week that he was in Europe on Sept. 12, 2001, unable to get a return flight to Washington, and that he "did not tell Tenet that Iraq was responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, not then, not ever."

Tenet uses much of his book - which runs more than five hundred pages - to try to disassociate himself from the faulty intelligence that led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He tries his hardest to put the blame on virtually everyone but himself, with one of his favorite targets being Vice President Cheney. In fact, he is clearly determined to dissociate himself from any possible failures, while making it clear to all that modesty is not among his attributes.

After years of speculation, Tenet openly and defiantly acknowledges that he threatened Bill Clinton that he would resign if Clinton pardoned Pollard as part of the Wye River peace accord. He claims that if Pollard would have been pardoned he would have been "through as CIA director," for he would have "no moral capital left with my troops."

Somehow the irony of his statement eludes him. While he felt that for the president to pardon Pollard was enough reason for him to resign, for the United States to go to war over non-existent weapons of mass destructions wasn't.

No single event has so humiliated the United States' intelligence-gathering forces as the Iraqi WMD flap. While the CIA's abject failure - on Tenet's watch - to infiltrate Osama bin Ladin's inner circle prior to September 11 can possibly be defended, sending young men and women to war based on lies and misinformation is inexcusable and unforgivable.

So is Tenet's conduct towards Pollard. In one way, however, it is perhaps not surprising; for, elsewhere in his book, Tenet declares that he couldn't help but like Yassir Arafat.

What I did find surprising is Tenet's claim that then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich phoned Clinton to oppose Pollard's release. Tenet further says that it was Gingrich's call that "cemented the president's determination not to release Pollard."

With Tenet's record of skewing the truth, this may in fact be another figment of his over-active imagination. However, the onus is now on Gingrich to deny this accusation. In recent days Gingrich has indicated a "great possibility" of running for president.

He ought to be asked whether he made that call, and his answer should influence how much support he will get from our community.

In any case, the donkey has brayed, and those who had any doubts about the character and legacy of Mr. Tenet now know that their suspicions were correct all along.

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