Two months ago, former CIA Director George Tenet offered his side of the Iraq war story in his memoirs, At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA. In that book, Tenet tried to attack Douglas Feith and other backers of action against Iraq, partly by micharacterizing one key player’s presentations and her background in intelligence. At the time Christina Shelton issued a brief statement in rebuttal to Tenet on both points. In today’s Washington Post, Shelton gives a much more detailed account of her role and Tenet’s lack of truth:
On Aug. 15, 2002, I presented my part of a composite Pentagon briefing on al-Qaeda and Iraq to George Tenet, then CIA director. In his recent book, “At the Center of the Storm,” Tenet wrote that I said in opening remarks that “there is no more debate,” “no further analysis is required” and “it is an open-and-shut case.”
I never said those things. In fact, I said the covert nature of the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda made it difficult to know its full extent; al-Qaeda’s security precautions and Iraq’s need to cloak its activities with terrorist networks precluded a full appreciation of their relationship. Tenet also got the title of the briefing wrong. It was “Assessing the Relationship Between Iraq and al-Qa’ida,” not “Iraq and al-Qa’ida — Making the Case.” …
Tenet’s response to my presentation was to attempt to denigrate my credentials. I was not a “naval reservist,” as he wrote in his book, assigned to the Pentagon for temporary duty. In fact, I was a career intelligence analyst for two decades, and I spent half of that time in counterintelligence. I did not draw conclusions beyond the reporting, as he suggested. I addressed the substantive material in the reports.
Tenet claimed that the body of reporting did not prove an “operational” relationship existed. I never said it did. The use of the caveat “operational” became a convenient — albeit transparent — way to discount the credibility of the 1990s reporting and the relationship as I had described it. In his book Tenet maintained that there was no evidence of Iraq’s having “authority, direction, and control of al-Qa’ida operations.” I don’t recall anyone inside or outside the intelligence community ever making that claim.
It’s odd that Shelton waited two months to publish this rebuttal. The first reviews of the book appeared in the last week of April, and the book hit the stores a week later. As I wrote at the time, even before its publication, the book’s excerpts got panned for their inaccuracies. Afterwards, the criticism turned into a flood, with former high-ranking CIA officials as Michael Scheuer and Tyler Drumheller essentially calling Tenet a liar after they read the book.
Shelton provides a straightforward deconstruction of the charges Tenet leveled at her in his book. She makes it clear that Tenet at best told a lot of half-truths, most of them intending to paint his subordinates as radicals and all of them self-serving. She also points out information that Tenet left out of the book — such as his own assertions to Congress that Iraq and al-Qaeda had some operational ties and those would likely increase whether we took military action or not.
Be sure to read it all. It comes late in the debate over Tenet, his book, and his tenure at Langley, but not so late as to be at all irrelevant.
9 thoughts on “Shelton Takes On Tenet”
Capt’n: I saw this article this morning, and I’m GLAD you addressed it!
The most important sentance in that entire article by Shelton, is this one:
“That day I summarized a body of mostly CIA reporting (dating from 1990 to 2002), from a variety of sources, that reflected a pattern of Iraqi support for al-Qaeda, including high-level contacts between Iraqi senior officials and al-Qaeda, training in bomb making, Iraqi offers of safe haven, and a nonaggression agreement to cooperate on unspecified areas. ”
As a former Intel Officer in the Corps, who read CIA “message traffic” for a decade or more, I can tell you, honestly, that one of the GREATEST frauds, EVER, perpetrated upon the American people, is the MSM/Democratic Party/Leftist nuts assertion, that there were a) No WMD’s in Iraq and b) there were not “ties” between Iraq & Al Qaeda, because Iraq was “secular” under Saddam!
The CIA was the LEAD agency, in building those EXACT two specific cases, for years, and in some cases, DECADES!
The CIA are the ones that convinced the Entire US IC that WMD’s existed, not only in Iraq, but Iran, and Syria and Libya, among other places!
And as Shelton pointed out, she reiterated what was essentially CIA reporting on the Iraq-Al Qaeda ties!
This is NOT stuff that President Bush, nor VP Cheney, nor SecDef Rumsfield made up!
Even a cursory, unbiased review of Bill Clinton, Al Gore’s, the US Justice Dept, etc., under Clinton, will show that THEY believed the SAME THINGS; and they got that info from the CIA, mainly!
There was NO “cherry-picking” of Intel, in the run-up to the war; another successful Propaganda campaign, carried out by the Leftists, with their enablers in the MSM and the Democratic Party!
It also, betrays a fundalmental lack of knowledge, and misunderstanding, about how the CIA writes it NIE’s!
They are written by committee, and submitted for review by dozens of people, and a “consensus” opinion is formed.
Then, the “dissenters” (always 10% of any organization”), are given a chance to put in their 2 cents; that stuff is usually included at the end of the document, and no one pays attention to it, because they are usually the Leftist nutbags in the organization to begin with, and almost always wrong as well! People like Mr. Larry “Terrorism is no threat to the United States” Johnson, for example!
But the overwhelming amount of CIA “evidence”, was that there WERE WMD’s in Iraq, and that Iraq – Al Qaeda had “ties”, going back over a decade!
Now, whether those two things were Intrinsically true, still remains to be seen; but that is NOT the point.
The point is, that post-9/11, and prior to the Iraq Invasion, the IC Consensus Beliefs were that there were WMD’s in Iraq (also CONFIRMED by UK, German, French, Jordanian, Russian, Egyptian and UN Intelligence Communities, by the way!), and that there were Iraq-Al Qaeda “ties”; CONFIRMED by Bill Clinton’s Justice Department, the CIA, and others!
After the Iraq Invasion, and the failure to find substantial mountains of WMD’s as anticipated, the Leftist Elements within the CIA began a war of sedition, and betrayal, against the Bush Administration to Cover their sorry, lying behinds!
it wouldn’t be the first time, and it won’t be the last, unfortunately.
The biggest mystery in all of this, is as you say, why has it taken so long, for people like Shelton, to come out, and tell the American people the Truth!
The other mystery, is why this Administration, has sat back, and taken these clear cases of sedition, by liars and frauds, such as the dozens of examples of people like Tenet, Armtiage, Powell, Joe Wilson & Valerie Plame, etc. of people connected to this Administration who have out and out right lied, obfruscated, leaked, and otherwise sought to undermine this country, this Administration, the War Effort, and worst of all, the Troops in the field!
The Administration’s refusals to defend itself, seek out the liars and leakers and take action against them, has in no small part, contributed to the very situation we now find ourselves in, and in fact, almost makes it look like the Administration has participated in it’s own destruction!
Very perplexing; but hopefully, more, honest, dedicated civil servants like Shelton, will continue to come out, and set the historical record straight; though I fear it is too late for the Bush Administration; their inaction and timidness has so damaged them, the War in Iraq may be un-rescuable!
The former CYA Director’s book did a lot more harm to his reputation than good. I guess, if you’re in the habit of stretching the truth about events, you shouldn’t write it down until you’ve outlived the witnesses.
Why Bush didn’t change directors in February of 2001, I don’t understand. Someone had to know that Tenet was a weak link in the chain. And how he got his medal is even more puzzling.
In her second-to-last paragraph, Ms. Shelton states:
“More reliable information probably will come from seized Iraqi documents — especially those of the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS), which was the conduit for al-Qaeda contacts. One IIS document dated March 28, 1992, cited Osama bin Laden as having a good relationship with the IIS bureau in Syria. Another says that the IIS director met with bin Laden in Sudan in 1995. James Woolsey, a former director of central intelligence, has written that captured documents indicated a participant in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (Abdul Rahman Yasin) was living in Iraq and receiving a monthly stipend.”
Unfortunately for Ms. Shelton and all Americans, the “objective” news media has all but ignored the translated documents that have already come to light proving links between Iraq and al Qaeda. This is because they know that if they honestly and accurately reported it, they would be admitting that their mortal enemy George Bush was right. They would rather be sent to Gitmo than admit such a thing.
Plenty of damning captured Iraqi documents have already been translated by blogger jveritas, who has done a stellar job:
And as noted here, at one point Captain Ed actually paid for two independent translations of what jveritas had uncovered. Both confirmed that his original translation was correct.
Just a comment on the delay in Shelton’s response. It’s possible she had to get clearance to discuss certain aspects of the report, hich would have to work it’s way through the CIA chain of command. Also, we have no dea how long th Post has been sitting on this opinion piece.
Bill, I concurr, I also wonder how much foot dragging and delaying went on by certain elements in the CIA who would rather that Shelton’s response never see the light of day.
Tenet NEVER ONCE mentions the name ‘plame,’ though he goes on at length about Niger. And, the yellowcake already received by Saddam. Some 500-tons worth.
In Israel, among the leadership, Tenet’s been dubbed “GREASE BALL.” They had zero respect for him, over there. Which is probably also true, today, about Lt. General Keith Dayton. A Condi protoge.
If the CIA is about co-opting the media? Well, that’s what Tenet’s book shows he was skilled at doing.
How did Tenet get into his post? The senate was raking Anthony Lake over the coals. When they get into their moods (and this was prior to the growth of the Internet); senate critters can do lots of mischief … rolling the ball around their committees.
By the way, this “hokum” about plame being covert? What the CIA doesn’t want you to know, is they gave her a “status” so she could land her hands on unaccounted funds. Fitz knows this. David Tatel probably doesn’t.
But someday, ahead? The truth will come out.
The CIA was great at taking money and hiding the paperwork on how it would be distributed.
Clinton can pick them. Everyone’s heard of Gaydar, but Clinton has Condar. He picks out the conmen, the liars, the frauds and surrounds himself with corrupt officials, so he can control them. Why Bush kept these people, who have undermined his administrations is beyond me.
Speaking of the CIA, it took me awhile to find this (Google tried their best to hide it from me!) but here’s Larry Johnson’s infamous July 10, 2001 op-ed in the NY Times, claiming Americans have nothing to fear from Islamic terrorists…
Former DIA analyst challenges George Tenet’s account on Iraq/al Qaeda intelligence
In a recent Washington Post Op-Ed former DIA analyst Christina Shelton discussed her intelligence work analyzing links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and countered some of the conventional wisdom on the subject while taking issue with the w…
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