Putin not able to track all nukes Tenet con­tra­dicts Rus­sia in book

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Bill Gertz

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin told Pres­i­dent Bush he could not ac­count for all of Moscow’s nu­clear weapons at the same time al Qaeda was seek­ing to pur­chase three Rus­sian nu­clear de­vices on the black mar­ket, for­mer CIA Di­rec­tor Ge­orge J. Tenet said.

In his new book, Mr. Tenet states that shortly af­ter the Septem­ber 11 at­tacks, Mr. Bush briefed Mr. Putin about a Pak­istani non­govern­men­tal group, Umma Tameer-e-Nau. The group, whose mem­bers in­cluded ex­trem­ist nu­clear sci­en­tists, was help­ing the Tal­iban and al Qaeda de­velop nu­clear arms.

The pres­i­dent “asked Putin point blank if Rus­sia could ac­count for all of its [nu­clear] ma­te­rial,” he states in his book, “At the Cen­ter of the Storm.”

“Choos­ing his words care­fully, the Rus­sian pres­i­dent said he was con­fi­dent he could ac­count for ev­ery­thing — un­der his watch,” Mr. Tenet stated, not­ing that the de­lib­er­ately am­bigu­ous re­sponse tended to con­firm re­ports of nu-

clear smug­gling shortly af­ter the 1991 col­lapse of the Soviet Union.

Mr. Tenet said the CIA in­formed Rus­sian intelligence about for­mer Soviet nu­clear sci­en­tists who were work­ing with al Qaeda.

Rus­sian of­fi­cials “re­fused to delve into any mat­ters re­lated to the se­cu­rity of their nu­clear fa­cil­i­ties and nu­clear weapons, in­clud­ing re­ports sourced to Rus­sian of­fi­cials con­cern­ing pos­si­ble theft of Rus­sian ‘suit­case nukes,’ ” Mr. Tenet stated.

The com­ments con­tra­dict Rus­sian gov­ern­ment claims for the past 16 years that no nu­clear arms were miss­ing.

Alexan­der Lebed, a for­mer Rus­sian na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, stated in 1997 that Rus­sia could not ac­count for about 80 por ta­ble nu­clear weapons, a claim later de­nied by Moscow.

Mr. Tenet dis­closed the pres­i­den­tial ex­change in ex­plain­ing de­tailed intelligence re­por ts from late 2002 to spring 2003 stat­ing that se­nior al Qaeda lead­ers were “ne­go­ti­at­ing for the pur­chase of three Rus­sian nu­clear de­vices.”

The for­mer CIA chief iden­ti­fied the al Qaeda nu­clear pro­cure­ment group as in­clud­ing No. 2 leader Ay­man al-Zawahri and Ab­del al-Aziz al-Masri, who is de­scribed as the “nu­clear chief” for the ter­ror­ist group.

The dis­clo­sures in Mr. Tenet’s book are gen­er­at­ing crit­i­cism from peo­ple who say some meet­ings and dates de­scribed in the book are in­ac­cu­rate.

Ken­neth deGraf­fen­reid, a for­mer se­nior intelligence of­fi­cial, said the book can­not be gauged for ac­cu­racy be­cause the CIA con­tin­ues to with­hold a crit­i­cal in­spec­tor-gen­eral re­port on the agency’s pre-Septem­ber 11 ac­tiv­i­ties.

Michelle Van Cleave, a for­mer high-rank­ing coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence co­or­di­na­tor, said Mr. Tenet’s book and its “kiss and tell” for­mat are more than “bad man­ners.”

“In­sights into how de­ci­sions are made — the thought pro­cesses and con­fi­dences and per­sonal traits of our se­nior lead­ers — are real intelligence jew­els,” she said. “Our en­e­mies hunger for th­ese kinds of in­sights. Of all peo­ple, Ge­orge Tenet knows that. He at least could have waited un­til the pres­i­dent was out of of­fice be­fore bar­ing his soul.”

Intelligence of­fi­cials said the book in­ac­cu­rately quoted De­fense Intelligence Agency an­a­lyst Tina Shel­ton dur­ing an Au­gust 2002 meet­ing at the CIA, falsely claim­ing that Miss Shel­ton said con­nec­tions be­tween Iraq and al Qaeda were an “open-and­shut case.”

Of­fi­cials who were present at the meet­ing said the state­ment was never made.

CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield praised the book as an ac­cu­rate de­pic­tion of Mr. Tenet’s “ser­vice and lead­er­ship at the CIA dur­ing a time of great in­ten­sity and chal­lenge.”


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