Tenet CIA memoir to undergo White House scrutiny
The CIA has submitted portions of a book manuscript by George J. Tenet to the White House for review amid speculation the former CIA director’s memoirs will be critical of President Bush.
The book, “At the Center of the Storm,” is still being analyzed by the CIA’s Publications Review Board. It was during that process that portions of the manuscript were sent to the White House’s National Security Council (NSC).
CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said in response to questions from The Washington Times on Jan. 8 that the book portions were sent to the White House for “classification review purposes.” He said the book was not submitted because of any negative comments about Mr. Bush, as an intelligence source told The Times. The spokesman declined to comment on the book’s contents.
He said the sole criterion for review is whether a book contains classified information, which cannot be published legally by former CIA employees. In this role, the White House would have the power to delete information, or perhaps scenes, it views as classified.
The White House is getting an early peek at one of the most anticipated publishing events of the year because of the former spymaster’s close involvement in virtually all of Mr. Bush’s war decisions. Mr. Tenet was President Clinton’s CIA director, and won reappointment from Mr. Bush.
Mr. Tenet formed a close professional relationship with Mr. Bush, including personally delivering the President’s Daily Brief, a highly classified presentation on world events. He sat at the war Cabinet table as the president made decisions on invading Afghanistan and Iraq.
It was the Iraq invasion, coupled with the agency’s earlier failure to stop the September 11 attacks, that earned the CIA years of criticism on Capitol Hill. The intelligence community’s 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) turned out to be largely wrong. Saddam Hussein no longer possessed stock- piles of usable chemical weapons and had not restarted his nuclear weapons program, as the NIE said.
As the invasion neared, Mr. Tenet told Mr. Bush it was a “slam dunk” that Saddam still possessed WMD, as reported by author Bob Woodward.
New York publishers have enjoyed brisk sales of books that bash Mr. Bush’s handling of Iraq and the broader war on terrorism.
Amazon.com has packaged “At the Center of the Storm” with books highly critical of Mr. Bush, such as “Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War” by Michael Isikoff and David Corn.
Amazon.com markets books together that have similar subject matter, tone and perspective. It lists a publication date of Feb. 6, a date that cannot be met because the administration is still reviewing the book.
Mr. Mansfield said other former CIA directors have seen their books submitted to the White House to review subjects with which it is more familiar. The standard is always to check for classified information, he said.
He said Mr. Tenet, who resigned in 2004, first submitted a portion of his book in October and then more pages in November and December. He said Mr. Tenet “hasn’t completely finished the book yet.”
“Written submissions by former CIA employees are also referred to classification review specialists at other government agencies that may have equities with regard to classification issues,” Mr. Mansfield said. “For example, that agency may be in a better position to know if a certain factor or piece of information is classified. Portions of Mr. Tenet’s manuscript were referred to the classified review specialists at the NSC and that’s in line with what we would do with other CIA employees.”
Mr. Bush bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Mr. Tenet at a December 2004 White House ceremony. The president also honored two other key players in the Iraq war — retired Gen. Tommy Franks and former Iraq administrator L. Paul Bremer. Mr. Bush hailed Mr. Tenet as “one of the first to recognize and address the threat to America from radical networks.”
Looking back: Former CIA Director George J. Tenet’s autobiography is on hold for “classification review purposes.”