An intellectual freedom blog with an emphasis on libraries and technology

Sunday, April 29, 2007

George Tenet on 60 Minutes

I usually do not watch 60 Minutes as the creative editing of any given interviewee tends to show what the producers and the talking heads want the audience to see. Despite this, I could not resist watching George Tenet's interview. I had already read a juicy passage from his new book, courtesy of Glenn Greenwald's Unclaimed Territory, that woke me up this morning.

A New York Times piece recounts the passage that describes Tenet's discovery of an "off the books" operation to de-stabilize the Iranian government. During a meeting with Italian intelligence officials the Italians ask him about the recent contacts between Pentagon officials and Iranian dissidents living abroad. When they realize that none of the Americans at the table knew what they were talking about they quickly changed the subject.

Tenet on 60 Minutes scared the crap out of me. He refused to acknowledge that the U.S. intelligence agencies use torture. He yelled at the interviewer and insisted that "he wouldn't debate semantics" with him and repeatedly stated that they do not torture. But the use of the words "enhanced interrogation techniques" he left undefined. I also caught how he limited his comments to "just the program we're discussing" in order to confine his comments to only one operation by the CIA while under his leadership. Thus he very deftly avoided incurring any accusation of lying on TV when details of other "programs" come to light (some already have). He can always say he wasn't talking about that program. The talking head interviewing him let this pass.

His account of how the Niger uranium bogus allegation found its way into the State of the Union address sounded very fishy. He claimed that he had shot it down and insisted on its removal from two previous speeches. The State of the Union one he delegated to an underling. Oops. What does that say about the staff in the White House that they kept trying to put this bogus statement into speeches after repeated rebuffs from the CIA director? And what does it say about Tenet that after the speech he did not resign in protest? (Keep in mind that Tenet and other high ranking government officials are millionaires. He wouldn't starve or have to work as a town dog-catcher).

And one additional interesting revelation came during the part about the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. On September 12th Tenet comes to the White House with airline manifests showing the Al-Queda members on the airplane and Richard Perle tells him that Iraq is going to have to pay for this attack. In the interview Tenet stated emphatically that he told the White House that there existed no connection whatsoever between Iraq, and Saddam Hussein with Al-Queda and Bin Laden. How did it happen then, that opinion polls of soldiers on active duty in Iraq showed that over 60% of them believe that Iraq had some involvement in the September 11th attacks? How did they get that idea? Will this 60 Minutes interview find its way to the airwaves in the U.S. Military bases in Iraq (maybe they can squeeze it in between the continuous feeds of Rush Limbaugh shows?)

As a friend of mine commented recently, the rats are leaving the sinking ship, and they're really obvious about it. In his attempt to jump clear of the Bush Administration's coming train wreck Tenet did not come off very well. He and others proved willing and enthusiastic enablers to keep their positions of power and status by going along with the Bush Administration's plans and machinations. I find it very indicative of his character that by his own admission Tenet resigned not when White House staff sidelined his Agency when they opened up a Oliver North-like rouge operation and did not tell him about it. But he resigned when someone (as yet unknown) leaked an embarrassing statement to make him into the scapegoat for the intelligence failure that justified the war. The interview tonight makes clear to me that he had plenty of opportunities to see where allegiance to the Bush Administration would lead him and plenty of opportunities to resign in a way that would have allowed him to "take the high road" and preserve his integrity. If he didn't want to go down with the cult then he shouldn't have drunk the Kook Aid.

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