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Give the Medal Back George

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Like the Titanic the Bush Administration is foundering. The latest rat heading overboard is former CIA chief George Tenet, who abandons for good the Bush Administration's Ship of Fools and enters the water as another former administration official prepared to come clean on how the Bushies tried and generally succeeded in cooking the intelligence. Oh yeah. He's selling a book.

You probably cannot tell but I am outraged by this Johnny-come-lately jerk off who will assuage his guilt by dishing the dirt on what the Bush Administration really knew as he rakes in book royalties. My friend, Brent Budowsky, also is not a happy camper.

Tenet will start spilling his guts Sunday night on Sixty Minutes, which kicks off his publicity tour to hawk his book. But we don't have to wait till Sunday because David Ignatius offered an early preview last Sunday during an interview with Chris Matthews. Ignatius said that the book is:

going be very tough. George Tenet has been doing a slow burn ever since he left the CIA. He's been angrier and angrier as he saw himself being essentially made the fall guy on WMD in Iraq. And he's gonna come back saying he and his agency, the CIA, were pushed, again and again, by Cheney and Cheney's people to give him the answers that they wanted. And he's got chapter and verse on that."

He added: "He will tell a story that I think will make people's hair curl. But he's been waiting a long time to tell this....And he'll also say---this is a very important part of this---that, on the question of what would happen in Iraq after the invasion, the CIA pretty consistently warned, 'You have trouble ahead. You will not be able to unite this country. Sunnis and Shiites are gonna be 'at daggers.

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Sorry George. Too little and way too damn late. You had ample opportunity to blow the whistle on the Bush bullshit but you played ball. I do not give a damn whether you did or did not say the case for war was a "slam dunk". You signed off on Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations. You, more than any other U.S. Government senior official, were in the unique position to know that the Secretary of State was selling a pack of lies. And you sat behind him nodding affirmatively like a bobblehead doll.

You were asleep at the switch in January of 2003 as the Bush Administration pushed and cajoled analysts and managers to let them make the bogus claim that Iraq was on the verge of getting its hands on uranium. You said nothing until your July 11, 2003 statement, which concluded with the following:

Portions of the State of the Union speech draft came to the CIA for comment shortly before the speech was given. Various parts were shared with cognizant elements of the Agency for review. Although the documents related to the alleged Niger-Iraqi uranium deal had not yet been determined to be forgeries, officials who were reviewing the draft remarks on uranium raised several concerns about the fragmentary nature of the intelligence with National Security Council colleagues. Some of the language was changed. From what we know now, Agency officials in the end concurred that the text in the speech was factually correct -- i.e. that the British government report said that Iraq sought uranium from Africa. This should not have been the test for clearing a Presidential address. This did not rise to the level of certainty which should be required for Presidential speeches, and CIA should have ensured that it was removed.

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You were the Alberto Gonzalez of the intelligence community--a grotesque mixture of stupidity, incompetence shielded by a genial personality. Decisions were made, you were in charge, but you have no idea how decisions were made even though you were in charge. Curiously, if Ignatius is correct, you focus your anger on the likes of Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, and Condi Rice but you leave George W. out of the line of fire. If that is true you are a genuine coward.

This is not a case of Monday morning quarterbacking. You demonstrated in October of 2002 that you understood the game when you called the White House and stopped the President from using a speech in Cincinnati to make the case that Iraq was buying uranium. Somewhere between October 2002 and January 2003 you rolled over and decided to play ball.

Peter Eisner and Knut Royce in their recently published book, The Italian Letter, report that the former Deputy Director for Intelligence under Tenet, John Gannon, said:

"How this stuff (Niger story) got through the system and how it got into the State of the Union could only have happened because leadership failed and failed badly. I think it failed at the Director of Central Intelligence level. You certainly didn't have a director there who was encouraging people to tell it like they saw it and bring all the information to the top so that it could fairly be evaluated."

Which is it George? Were you bullied or one of the bullies? You cannot claim that you were bullied into acting by the administration, when at the same time, you were helping carry the Bush Administration water and pushing back on concerns about the intel. In the end you allowed suspect sources, like Curveball, and other intel to be used based on very limited reporting and evidence. You broke with CIA standard practice and insisted on voluminous evidence to refute this reporting rather than treat the information as suspect. You helped set the bar very low for reporting that supported favored White House positions, while raising the bar astronomically high when it came to reporting that did not support the solution favored by Bush and Cheney.

George Tenet, you failed to use your position of power and influence to protect the intelligence process. What should you have done? Yyou could have gone to Senator Rockefeller or Senator Daschle or Congresswoman Harman or any number of legislators and briefed them on the truth. But you remained quiet. By your silence you helped build the case for war. You betrayed the CIA officers who collected the intelligence that made it clear that Saddam did not pose an imminent threat. You betrayed the analysts who tried to withstand the pressure applied by Cheney and Rumsfeld. You betrayed the CIA itself by allowing active duty employees like Michael Scheur to write books critical of Bush, which contributed to the perception that the CIA was a politicized gang eager to embarrass the Bush Administration.

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Most importantly and tragically, you betrayed your country. Instead of resigning in protest you provided the Bush Administration the pretext of respectability and became the scapegoat for their misdeeds. Your silence contributed to the willingness of the public to support the disastrous war in Iraq which has killed more than 3000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

So now you are going to correct the record with your book? Not so fast George. Why don't you start by returning the Medal of Freedom hung around your neck by George W. in December 2004? Bush claimed you received the award because you:

played pivotal roles in great events, and [your] efforts have made our country more secure and advanced the cause of human liberty.

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www.noquarter.typepad.com
Former CIA and State Department official.

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