Larry C Johnson

How many lies is George Tenet allowed to tell on TV before he immolates the last shred of credibility? Judging by his latest sad performance on Meet the Press I would say his time is up. Tenet insisted to Tim Russert today that he was crystal clear in debunking the assumption that Al
Qaeda and Iraq were in cahoots: 

Well, Tim, Tim, I will tell you that I had many conversations, particularly on Iraq and al-Qaeda, particularly on the terrorism question, where we drew the line as sharply as we knew how. We were very, very clear about our judgments. We worked very, very hard to make sure that people comported and stayed within the bounds of what the intelligence showed.

But George Tenet can’t keep his stories straight.  For example, as has been widely reported, he starts his book off with an inaccurate account of a conversation with neocon and Iraq war advocate Richard Perle. It is the day after 9-11, Perle is stuck in France, yet Tenet writes that he saw Perle exiting the White House and talking about attacking Iraq. Leave it to George Tenet to make Richard Perle sound sane.

George Tenet wants gullible book buyers to believe that he always disputed the notion that Saddam and the 9-11 attackers were working in concert. But the words and actions of George Tenet tell a radically different story. A damning one at that.   

In March of 2002 George Tenet said:

"There is no doubt that there have been contacts and linkages of al-Qaeda organization. As to where we are in September 11, the jury is out. . . . . Their ties may be limited by divergent ideologies, but the two sides’ mutual antipathy toward the United States and the Saudi royal family suggest that tactical cooperation between them is possible."

Why did George Tenet leave open the window of doubt on this critical issue when he now insists that there was no there there? But wait, there is more.

CIA Deputy Director, John McLaughlin, sent a letter responding to a query from Senator Evan Bayh on October 7, 2002 that said:

Regarding Senator Bayh’s questions of Iraqi links to al-Qaeda, senators could draw from the following points for unclassified discussions.
One, We have solid reporting of senior level contact between Iraq and al-Qaeda going back a decade.”;
Two, Credible information indicates that Iraq and al-Qaeda have discussed safe haven and reciprocal aggression.
Three, Since Operation Enduring Freedom, we have solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of al-Qaeda members, including some that have been in Baghdad.
And lastly, We have credible reporting that al-Qaeda leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire WMD capabilities. The reporting also stated that Iraq has provided training to al-Qaeda members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs.

p>Did anyone hear George Tenet at the time remind anybody that there was no “operational tie” between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda? No. He chose to say nothing. Did he challenge those–like Dick Cheney–who suggested there was a substantive ongoing relationship? Nope. George Tenet said nothing to dispel that false conclusion.

That same day (October 7, 2002) President Bush gave a speech in Cincinnati, Ohio (this is the famous speech in which Tenet excised the reference to Niger, Iraq, and uranium) and said the following:

And that is the source of our urgent concern about Saddam Hussein’s links to international terrorist groups. Over the years, Iraq has provided safe haven to terrorists such as Abu Nidal, whose terror organization carried out more than 90 terrorist attacks in 20 countries that killed or injured nearly 900 people, including
12 Americans. . . .

We know that Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network share a common enemy — the United States of America. We know that Iraq and al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade. Some al Qaeda leaders who fled Afghanistan went to Iraq. These include one very senior al Qaeda leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year, and who has been associated with planning for chemical and biological attacks. We’ve learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases. And we know that after September the 11th, Saddam Hussein’s regime gleefully celebrated the terrorist attacks on America.

George Tenet’s CIA approved this language and Tenet was familiar with the speech because he had called the White House to protest another portion of the speech.  This provides circumstantial evidence for Richard Dearlove’s (George Tenet’s British counterpart) now famous memo (the Downing Street Memo) that the facts and the intelligence were being fixed around the policy of going to war with Iraq.  In my day we called it cooking the books and George Tenet was one of the chefs.

Tenet’s participation in the hoodwinking of the American public continued when, on February 4, 2003, he sat stoically behind Colin Powell at the UN Security Council and, by virtue of his presence, provided the CIA’s imprimatur for the following claim:

Al Qaeda continues to have a deep interest in acquiring weapons of mass destruction. As with the story of Zarqawi and his network, I can trace the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these weapons to al Qaeda. Fortunately, this operative is now detained, and he has told his story.
I will relate it to you now as he, himself, described it. This senior al Qaeda terrorist was responsible for one of al Qaeda’s training camps in Afghanistan.

His information comes firsthand from his personal involvement at senior levels of al Qaeda. He says bin Laden and his top deputy in Afghanistan, deceased al Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef, did not believe that al Qaeda labs in Afghanistan were capable enough to manufacture these chemical or biological agents. They needed to go somewhere else. They had to look outside of Afghanistan for help. Where did they go? Where did they look? They went to Iraq.
The support that (al Libi) describes included Iraq offering chemical or biological weapons training for two al Qaeda associates beginning in December 2000. He says that a militant known as Abu Abdula Al-Iraqi (ph) had been sent to Iraq several times between 1997and 2000 for help in acquiring poisons and gases. Abdula Al-Iraqi (ph) characterized the relationship he forged with Iraqi officials as successful.

This intelligence came from Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, an al-Qaeda commander who was tortured by the Egyptians. Even though George Tenet was briefed in January 2003 that his analysts doubted al-Libi’s account (see Hubris pp. 187-88) he signed off on Powell’s briefing.

But he did more. On February 11, 2003 Tenet he went before Congress and said:

Iraq is harboring senior members of a terrorist network led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a close associate of al Qaeda. …Iraq has in the past provided training in document forgery and bomb-making to al Qaeda. It has also provided training in poisons and gases to two al Qaeda associates. One of these associates characterized the relationship he forged with Iraqi officials as successful. … I know that part of this – and part of this Zarqawi network in Baghdad are two dozen Egyptian Islamic jihad which is indistinguishable from al Qaeda – operatives who are aiding the Zarqawi network, and two senior planners who have been in Baghdad since last May.
Now, whether there is a base or whether there is not a base, they are operating freely, supporting the Zarqawi network that is supporting the poisons network in Europe and around the world. So these people have been operating there. And, as you know – I don’t want to recount everything that Secretary Powell said, but as you know a foreign service went to the Iraqis twice to talk to them about Zarqawi and were rebuffed. So there is a presence in Baghdad that is beyond Zarqawi.

The public record is quite clear about the role George Tenet played in helping condition the American people to fear Iraq and support a preemptive war against Iraq.  He helped build the myth that Al Qaeda enjoyed safehaven in Iraq and was biding its time to strike us again. George Tenet was not an honest broker trying to get the best intelligence to the President and the Congress. He willingly and knowingly agreed to make public statements and authorized statements that were at odds with the actual intelligence.

What do you think would have happened if George Tenet had gone to members of Congress and warned them that there was no relationship between Al Qaeda and Saddam’s Iraq? Would overwhelming majorities have voted to give the President authority to start a war with Iraq? I do not think so.

Would Americans still raw from the wounds inflicted by Al Qaeda on 9-11 support the President’s campaign to attack a country which had nothing to do with those attacks and, despite claims to the contrary, was not protecting or enabling Al Qaeda operatives who wanted to launch new attacks against the United States? The answer. No, and hell no!

Lie is the only word that comes to mind and seems appropriate to describe what George Tenet has done. This is the chief reason I say he has the blood of American soldiers on his hands. And I, along with several former members of the CIA, the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Army, believe that George Tenet owes the soldiers and the families of soldiers who have died or been wounded in Iraq part of the proceeds from his $4 million dollar advance for his book. It would be the decent thing to do, but George Tenet’s decency quotient appears to be running on empty.

Previous articleA Man for No Season
Larry C. Johnson is a former analyst at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, who moved subsequently in 1989 to the U.S. Department of State, where he served four years as the deputy director for transportation security, antiterrorism assistance training, and special operations in the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism. He left government service in October 1993 and set up a consulting business. He currently is the co-owner and CEO of BERG Associates, LLC (Business Exposure Reduction Group) and is an expert in the fields of terrorism, aviation security, and crisis and risk management, and money laundering investigations. Johnson is the founder and main author of No Quarter, a weblog that addresses issues of terrorism and intelligence and politics. NoQuarterUSA was nominated as Best Political Blog of 2008.
  • ybnormal

    “…why …we invaded Iraq. Isn’t it about time Bush told us?”


    Maybe the present is a good time to revisit that
    Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq
    Especially since a number of those ‘whereas’ statements are easily proven wrong.

  • Mr.Murder

    Let him turn witness at the Hague.

  • 317537

    LOL. In other words, God only represents 30% of the American people and has told the rest of the world where to go.

    Posted by: Leslie

    Everything out of Bush’s mouth allegedly is based upon his religion, so I can only conclude that Bush’s God instructs him to continue to lie to us about why we really invaded Iraq (e.g, the oil). I am just so confused because I cannot imagine God continuing to tell Bush for five years to blatantly lie to the rest of the world. Somehow, I cannot reconcile Bush’s religion and Bush’s lies. Can anyone else?

    p.s., if you type 317537 in a calculator and turn it upside down, it spells LESLIE. 😉

  • taters

    Well done, Larry.
    “Leave it to George Tenet to make Richard Perle sound sane.”

    Man, ain’t that the truth.

  • Bill Keyes

    Check out this link about Tenant’s other sources of income….

  • Bill Keyes

    Check out this link about Tenant’s other sources of income….

  • Leslie

    317537 writes: “The only conclusion to draw, is that God continues to instruct Bush to lie, no?”

    LOL. In other words, God only represents 30% of the American people and has told the rest of the world where to go.

  • Leslie

    317537 writes: “The only conclusion to draw, is that God continues to instruct Bush to lie, no?”

    LOL. In other words, God represents 30% of the American people and has the rest of the world where to go.

  • You have to be kidding, are you not???—-

    The only conclusion to draw, is that God continues to instruct Bush to lie, no?

    Posted by: 317537 | Monday, 07 May 2007 at 21:25

    God may speak to many people in many ways, but the voices that bush and his minions hear is not from God. At least not the one I worship. The fact that bush continues to lie, shows that his strength and charisma (sic) comes from the evil power he and his cohorts worship. Corporate greed. A powerful master. You cannot serve God and money. They chose. Let us not follow willingly.

  • 317537

    Thanks. But you see: I know why pundits, journalists and others think we invaded Iraq. Isn’t it about time Bush told us?

    Posted by: Leslie | Monday, 07 May 2007 at 20:47

    The only conclusion to draw, is that God continues to instruct Bush to lie, no?

  • Leslie

    Thanks. But you see: I know why pundits, journalists and others think we invaded Iraq. Isn’t it about time Bush told us?

  • ybnormal

    Leslie, RE: “I still want to know why Bush insisted we invade Iraq in the first place.”

    Greg Palast claims to have an answer. The oligopoly factor in the supply-and-demand principle of economics 101.
    In simple terms, we went in to get the money from the limited supply of oil, not the oil itself.

    Kind of reminds me of “Goldfinger”.

    Whether you agree with him or not, Palast is in fact degreed in economics, and is a strong researcher, so worth a read. He references what he backs it up with, though some of it may be hard to verify.

  • Leslie

    P.S. Bush sent our emergency tents to Iraq too.

  • Leslie

    Excellent post Larry.

    Somewhat OT, I still want to know why Bush insisted we invade Iraq in the first place. Why it was so important to divert the military and National Guard away from the hunt for bin Laden and al Qaeda to Iraq? And why, since Bush’s Mission Accomplished speech, our military and National Guard are still in Iraq? Meanwhile, FEMA, which Bush has turned into a joke, and the National Guard, which Bush sent to Iraq, can’t even pitch tents in Kansas after a tornado.

  • ybnormal

    I second your choice of journalists, Consortiumnews, Robert Parry. He’s one of the clearest thinking journalists out there, right up there with the likes of Moyers, and a handful of others.

    We seem to have a real paradox in our news media. How does a journalist with less exposure who wants to be accountable to telling the true story, compete with the distribution power of large corporate news media outlets, whose primary accountability is to their stockholder owners and their advertiser customers?

  • The next shoe just dropped. Via ThinkProgress, Tenet has been on the payroll of companies profiting from war.

    Can’t bite the hands that feed you.

  • Mike

    Ahh yes, desperation is a stinky cologne…check out the video of Tenet sticking with his story here:

  • ybnormal

    What does it profit a “man” like Tenet, to gain the medal of freedom and millions of dollars,…
    …if he loses his own soul?

    Question for George Tenet:
    Is it worth it?

    Suggestion for future office holders:
    Learn from other’s mistakes, because you can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.

  • Tap Duncan

    George Tenet- Liar, Fraud, Co-Conspirator in the murder of 3,363 U.S. Military Personnel. Or in simpler terms- Fuckhead!!!

  • ybnormal

    Listening to about 15-20 minutes worth of Tenet with Russert on Sunday was about as worthwhile as listening to one of Alan Greenspan’s economy forcasts. Lot’s of gobldy gook, purposely non-definitive, so as not to be pinned down. I caught a few looks on Russert’s face that seemed to reflect that he might be thinking something like “does this guy have a definite answer to anything?”

  • Ninbus, you are right, that excuse is beyond stupid. I wouldn’t accept it from a second grader, let alone director (sic) of mis intelligence…

    I am pleased to see that Rangel is calling for Tenet to come before committee again. I hope he gives tenet the rewards he so deserves…

    I’d like to share an article I read early today on the Iraq intelligence, and ask for comments. I thought it was pretty good, and has lots of further leads in this mess…

  • Centrocitta

    Immigrants who find it difficult to assimilate should go back where they came from. Oh wait. Tenet was born on US soil, wan’t he? My bad.

  • Ninbus

    I believe the low point of Tenet’s interview on “Meet the Press” yesterday came when Russert asked him the following:

    If, after you heard President Bush use the ’16 words’ in the SOTU, and you knew they were false, then why didn’t you go to him the very next day and say, “Mr. President…that was wrong.”

    Tenet’s answer:

    I didn’t hear the State of the Union speech.

    Now, I’ve heard many a fine excuse in my time (I used to teach) but that really ranks up there in the Annals of Pure Bullsh*t.

    How, on national TV, could the DCIA say something like that with a straight face and expect viewers not to vomit in their throats??

    And, while you’re at it, check out this fascinating article: “George Tenet Cashes in on Iraq” from Salon. Comes as no surprise:

  • Tom

    I guess no one should be surprised but now it is revealed that Tenent is feeding at the trough with the intelligence contractors, receiving millions in salary and stock options as a “consultant” to the terrorist war. Funny, that was not disclosed in his book or in his ad nauseum appearances.

    The beat goes on.


  • oldtree

    is there any chance that senility or dementia is what has caused this?

    if not, it will be prison orange for this one. he will have his friends to tell tall tales to.

  • Centrocitta

    ….And I, along with several former members of the CIA , the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Army, believe that George Tenet owes the soldiers and the families of soldiers who have died or been wounded in Iraq part of the proceeds from his $4 million dollar advance for his book…..

    I think they owe ME, as well for what I have had to live with for the past seven years.

    I almost dropped my drawers when I saw Colin Powell tell the American people a deliberate lie about “al-Zarqawi” and flash his picture to the UN, because all I had to do was call “Zarqawi” to confirm that he was, in fact, still where I had last seen him and left him during the week before June 15, 2000. And that would have been in Austin, Texas. Burnet Road to be exact.

    And just not to cause even more confusion, pictures and videos of “Zarqawi” that started circulating at the beginning of 1995 are NOT the same man. The new guy has sloping shoulders. “Zarqawi” has the squarest and perhaps broadest shoulders I have ever seen on a man. The “Zarqawi” who couldn’t shoot straight in the Desert is an old fart. He has creases on the back of his forearms. You don’t get these kind of creases until you are at least 50 years old. “Zarqawi” would only be about 40 now. It’s all a bunch of disgusting, sick lies made up by whackos who have some balls to be running the greatest country in the world. Take it from one who knows.

    Yours truly,

    The Woman In The Leopard Print Slip

  • AnonE.Mouse

    Isn’t anybody advising this guy that it’s time to take a lower profile?
    Unfortunately for Tenet(and Powell,who managed to evade any responsibility for IranContra or covering up the MyLai war crime),history will always remember them for their performance at the UN.

  • LoneStarLiberal

    Never let it be said that the Presidential Medal of Freedom comes cheap. Even for a not-too-bright political animal like George Tenet, selling your soul must be a steep price.

    One of the most important goals of this administration in the runup to war was deceiving the American public into thinking that there was a connection between 9/11 and Iraq. And it’s a deception that continues to this day. Your post makes it clear that it could not have been done without the active collaboration of George Tenet.

    Thank you for your important work on this issue–it’s great to see your thoughts on Tenet seeping into the mainstream media.

  • anon


    Zarqawi did not join al-Qaeda forces until October 2004, long after The Cabal invaded Iraq:

    The statement, posted on Islamist Web sites, addressed bin Laden as “the sheik” and said al-Zarqawi’s Unification and Jihad movement “badly needed” to join forces with al Qaeda.

    “We will listen to your orders,” it said. “If you ask us to join the war, we will do it and we will listen to your instructions. If you stop us from doing something, we will abide by your instructions.”

    Before that, Zarqawi was a member of Ansar al-Islam:

    In the summer of 2002, Zarqawi was reported to have settled in northern Iraq, where he joined the Islamist Ansar al-Islam group that fought against the Kurdish-nationalist forces in the region.[16] He reportedly became a leader in the group, although his leadership role has not been established. According to Perspectives on World History and Current Events (PWHCE), a not-for-profit project based in Melbourne, Australia, “Zarqawi was well positioned to lead the Islamic wing of the insurgency when the March 2003 invasion took place. Whether he remained in Ansar al-Islam camps until April 2003 or laid the preparations for the war during extensive visits to Baghdad and the Sunni Triangle is uncertain, but clearly he emerged as an important figure in the insurgency soon after the Coalition invasion.”[17]. The possibility of Zarqawi’s presence in Iraq before March 2003 (according to a Bill O’Reilly article, as advanced above) was used by the Bush Administration to justify the Iraq invasion, although recently declassified Pentagon documents reveal that there was no substantial link between al-Qaeda and Iraq.

  • Maeme

    I’m sorry, but I feel his ass should be in prison because no amount of money can ever replace our bravest that we have all lost.

    He is scum and a traitor and needs to suffer the consequences. He sold out this country in order to feel that he ‘fit-in’ with the criminals in the White House and at DOD.