Monday, April 30, 2007

Tenet and the Intellegence Community

I don’t know how many of you tuned in, but last night 60Minutes interviewed ex-CIA Director George Tenet concerning his role in everything from 9/11 to the Iraq war - you can read the transcript here. One of the more interesting topics was the use of torture by the CIA interrogators. Tenet adamantly denies any use of torture by the CIA referring to it as enhanced interrogation tactics. While interesting, whether or not actual torture was used isn’t really my concern, as this is just another controversial topic in Tenets career as Director which dates back to 1997.

The question that I am concerned with is the fallout the intelligence community will suffer because of not only Tenets comments, but also in the government’s general handling of other intelligence issues. One of the most disturbing issues fleshed out in the 60 minutes interview concerned the Agent Plume leak. Tenet says that he repeated warned the White House that some statements they were making were actually false, including the idea that Hussein was seeking to import uranium from Africa. However, the President kept this statement in his State of the Union address to push the war against Iraq. This lack of trust or maybe communication between the White House and the CIA is disturbing, but the fact that this progressed to the point where Plume’s name was released is far more unnerving.

Certainly this wasn’t the only incident in which mistakes were made about Iraq. Tenet acknowledges many of these mistakes including his appearance with Colin Powel in front of the UN to discuss the amount of WMD’s held by Iraq, numbers that were wildly overestimated. But mistakes will always be made in the intelligence business. The problem isn’t the mistakes, its how the mistakes are handled that matters. Tenet’s comments, if taken for truth which I admit to be a leap of faith, show a gap between the intelligence community and the head of state. This gap cannot exist if the intelligence community it to flourish. CIA officers and analysts must have the confidence that their work will be not only accepted but also trusted and that they will not be sold out and discredited for a political agenda.

To further complicate this matter, posted a story concerning a letter written to Tenet from six former CIA officers. This letter further attacks Tenets tenure and even goes so far as to call it a failed leadership. These officers may be correct in their feelings toward Tenet but their actions work to discredit not only Tenet, but also the institution as a whole. How many people are going to want to work for an institution where you can be sold up the river at any point? Should he be let go for his mistakes with Iraq, probably. Should he be the scapegoat for an administration making constant mistakes, most definitely not. This does nothing but further muddle the already murky water surrounding the intellegence community.

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