Tenet CIA mem­oir to un­dergo White House scru­tiny

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Rowan Scar­bor­ough

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.”

Joseph Sil­ver­man / The Wash­ing­ton Times

Look­ing back: For­mer CIA Di­rec­tor Ge­orge J. Tenet’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy is on hold for “clas­si­fi­ca­tion re­view pur­poses.”

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