Live

Watch CBSN Live

Former CIA Director Answers Critics

George Tenet's memoir, "At the Center of the Storm," has put him in one, as have interviews he's done related to its publication.

On The Early Show Tuesday, Tenet fired back at his critics.



To see the interview, .

To read an excerpt of "At the Center of the Storm," click here.



Former CIA officials, including some top terrorism experts, are accusing Tenet of hypocrisy for not speaking out earlier against the White House's push to invade Iraq.

Some critics are even calling for Tenet to return his Presidential Medal of Freedom and calling for him to donate significant proceeds from his book to families of United States troops killed or wounded in Iraq.

Trending News

Tenet himself has accused the White House of tarnishing his reputation by falsely asserting he told administration officials finding weapons of mass destruction would be a "slam dunk." Tenet now says that's not what he actually meant.

On The Early Show Tuesday, Tenet told co-anchor Harry Smith that the CIA, under his leadership, provided the truth about Iraq, as the agency saw it but was wrong.

"We provided the best intelligence we knew we had at the time," Tenet told Smith. "We didn't make it up. We didn't distort it. We didn't cook the books to help make the case for war.

"We believed (Iraq) had weapons of mass destruction. We were wrong on that. People believe that we sat back, knew what was gonna go wrong, and didn't tell anybody. Nobody had any wisdom at that point.

"All I can say is, we were faithful to our values. And when we saw things start to turn on the ground in Iraq, we reported honestly and faithfully and gave policymakers a clear sense of what was going on."

On an October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate concluded that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons, which is now known to have been inaccurate, Tenet said: "We'd been following Iraq and its weapons programs for over 10 years. We told the Clinton administration just about the same thing we told the Bush administration … but, look: This is about human beings making judgments. We had an enormous amount of technical data. It got less and less ... We didn't have enough access on the ground. We stated our beliefs and our judgments. We told people we had high confidence in our judgments. Harry, men and women who followed programs for years honestly said what we believed. We turned out to be wrong. We were not disingenuous. And we certainly didn't want to mislead people."

Tenet went on to say, "We believed it, Harry. And we believed it for a long time. And we say we were wrong. And I say it was a very low moment for us when we recognized that we were wrong."

He stood by the CIA's disavowing a possible Iraq-al Qaeda connection, even in the face of the White House at the time continuing to revisit the notion, saying: "When we wrote the definitive piece of paper on terrorism and Iraq's connection to al Qaeda, we noted concerns in three areas: training, safe haven, other issues. We said very, very clearly throughout, there's no authority direction, control or complicity over any terrorist act. There were some (in the administration) who continued to try to take us there. But our analysts maintained our position and we never buckled and we maintained that story throughout. And I believe we're still right."

Does Tenet feel he did all he could have to head off hostilities in Iraq?

"I was the director of central intelligence. You provide honest, unbiased intelligence. You're not a policymaker. You provide — you try to give them the best data you can. Once you start taking policy positions, you've crossed the line. Now, when we saw things go wrong on the ground, when we saw clearly that the way we were implementing the post-war, our intelligence was very clear on this, that's what we do."

View CBS News In