"I didn't read the speech. I was involved in a bunch of other things," Tenet says.
"Wait a minute, the president's State of the Union," Pelley remarks. "You didn't read that?"
"Right, I didn't, farmed it out, got it at a principal's meeting, brought it down the hall, handed it to my executive assistant. I said, 'You guys go review this, and come back to me if I need to do anything,'" Tenet remembers.
"Nobody comes back to you?" Pelley asks.
"And therein lies why I ultimately have to take my share of responsibility," Tenet says.
"Did anyone at the White House, did anyone in the defense department ever ask you whether we should go to war in Iraq?" Pelley asks.
"The discussions that are on-going in 2002 in the spring and summer of 2002 are 'How you might do this?' Not whether you should do this," Tenet says.
"Nobody asks?" Pelley asks.
"Well, I don't remember sitting down in a principles committee meeting and everybody saying, 'Okay, there's a deep concern about Iraq. Is this the right thing to do? What are the implications?' I don't ever remember that galvanizing moment when people sit around and honestly say 'Is this the right thing to do?'"
Still, at CIA headquarters, Tenet's team was about to make a historic blunder of its own. The CIA produced its evaluation of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction in a secret report called a "National Intelligence Estimate."
"The first key judgment in the national intelligence estimate says, quote, 'Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons.' Period," Pelley says.
"High confidence judgment," Tenet replies.
How could he make such a bold statement? Says Tenet, "We believed he had chemical and biological weapons."
"But there was no hard evidence," Pelley remarks.
"No, no. There was lots of data. There's lots of technical data," Tenet says. "So you put all of this together, it's not evidence in the court of law. Remember, when you write an estimate, when you estimate, you're writing what you don't know. You might win a civil case. Huh? You're not gonna win a criminal case, in terms of evidence."
"We are going to war. Tens of thousands of people are going to be killed. And you're telling me you had evidence to prove a civil case, not a criminal case?" Pelley asks,
"Well, as you know, hindsight is perfect. The public face on this what we wrote on weapons of mass destruction and for professionals, who pride themselves on being right, this is a very painful experience for us," Tenet acknowledges.
Perhaps the most painful experience for Tenet was the presentation of Secretary of State Colin Powell to the United Nations. Powell asked Tenet to sit behind him.
"Our conservative estimate is that Iraq today has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons agent," Powell said at the U.N.
"Conservative estimate of 100 to 500 tons? I mean, how can you be so wrong?" Pelley asks.
"Scott, we've gone through this. It's what we believed, it's what we wrote," Tenet says.
"Where did these numbers come from?" Pelley asks.
"From our national intelligence estimate," Tenet says. "You don't make this kind of stuff up."
"Wait a minute, you did make this kind of stuff up," Pelley remarks.
"No, we didn't make it up, Scott, we just…," Tenet says.
"It's not true," Pelley remarks.
"Scott, you're doing it again, you're impugning the integrity of people who make analytical judgments and make their best judgments about what they believe of the Iraqis possessed. Intelligence, you know, my business is not always about the truth. It's about people's best judgments about what the truth may be. We believed it. We wrote it. We let the secretary down," Tenet says.
"These are not assertions, what we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence," Secretary of State Powell said.
"He didn't tell the United Nations, 'Look, we think this might be true.' This was laid out to the world as a iron-clad case," Pelley remarks. "Conservative estimate. Between 100 and 500…."
"I wish I could reel the tape back," Tenet says. "Do you think that the American intelligence community's gonna roll out the secretary of state in front of the entire world and consciously let him say things that are wrong? No."
Asked if he apologized to Colin Powell, Tenet says, "Well, Colin and I have talked about it. I'm not going to talk about what he and I have said to each other, but we've talked about it."