CIA Chief States His Case

CIA director George Tenet, capitol building, CIA logo, and a flag of Iraq CBS/AP

CIA Director George Tenet wants to clear up some "downright inaccuracies" in what some have asserted about the intelligence community's prewar estimates on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, officials say.

Tenet has been publicly quiet on the debate in the 13 days since one of his advisers, David Kay, resigned as the CIA's top weapons inspector in Iraq. Kay's statements that Saddam Hussein's purported weapons didn't exist at the time of the U.S. invasion have sparked an intense debate over the prewar intelligence that the Bush administration used to justify the war.

At least five inquiries into the U.S. intelligence on Iraq are under way, and President Bush was expected to announce another commission this week to review the intelligence community.

Tenet was scheduled to speak Thursday at Georgetown University, his alma mater, to discuss the prewar intelligence on Iraq, the intelligence community's counter-proliferation work and the inherent difficulties of the intelligence business.

He planned to address what one senior intelligence official called "misperceptions and downright inaccuracies" concerning what the intelligence community reported — and didn't report — in its prewar assessments on Iraq.

"He is going to point out that it is premature to jump to conclusions," the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Sources say Tenet will point to intelligence successes not
previously made public, reports CBS News White House Correspondent Bill Plante. He is also expected to say that despite Kay's assertion, it's premature to assume Iraq's alleged weapons don't exist.

Tenet began exploring themes for the speech last week. He is expected to describe some of the intelligence community's successes, something Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld encouraged at a Senate hearing Wednesday.

"The reality is we have had some wonderful successes, and some of them not public," Rumsfeld said. "The failures are very visible, and that's always the case."

Even as Mr. Bush and his aides have backed away from their predictions that weapons would be found, Rumsfeld said he thinks Iraq may have had weapons of mass destruction before U.S. troops invaded and inspectors need more time to search for them.

Rumsfeld also denied assertions by Democrats that Bush administration officials manipulated intelligence to push for war.

Comparisons of CIA reporting to administration officials' statements reveal differences.

For example, the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, drafted in October 2002, reveal doubts by some intelligence agencies about the extent of its nuclear program, the purpose of work its on unmanned aircraft, its doctrine for using WMD and the circumstances under which Saddam Hussein might partner with al Qaeda.

Administration officials rarely, if ever, hinted at those doubts.

And when Mr. Bush and aides in January 2003 mentioned an allegation that Iraq had tried to buy uranium in Africa, it flew in the face of repeated efforts by the agency to keep the charge — which was not substantiated — out of the case for war.

Tenet took some of the blame for that misstep.

"First, CIA approved the president's State of the Union address before it was delivered," he said in a July statement. "Second, I am responsible for the approval process in my agency."

Tenet's agency is embroiled in controversies besides the dispute over Iraq's weapons.

The Justice Department is investigating the possible illegal leaking of a CIA operative's name to the press. And an independent commission is studying the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks — a probe that may document intelligence failures.

Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., has called for Tenet to resign. A holdover from the Clinton administration who has been in his post since July 1997, Tenet is already the third-longest serving director of central intelligence. Only the terms of Allen Dulles (1953-61) and Richard Helms (1966-73) exceed Tenet's tenure.

Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by Sen. Pat Roberts, scheduled a meeting Thursday to study a 200-plus-page report compiled by committee staff on the prewar intelligence. Last week, Roberts blamed problems with intelligence on the intelligence agencies, not the way policy-makers used what they were given.

West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the top Democrat on the committee, planned to reiterate calls to expand the probe to examine whether senior administration officials pressed analysts to make the case for war.

"The fact is that the report ultimately will not give an accurate picture if all questions are not answered," said Rockefeller spokeswoman Wendy Morigi.
  • Lauren Johnston

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