Ex-CIA chief accuses Cheney over Iraq
By Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: April 27 2007 19:24 | Last updated: April 27 2007 19:24
George Tenet, the former Central Intelligence Agency director, has accused Dick Cheney, US vice-president, of making him the scapegoat for the decision to invade Iraq on the basis of flawed intelligence about weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Mr Tenet, who ran the CIA from 1997 to 2004, came under intense fire for reportedly telling President George W. Bush in December 2002 that the US intelligence on Saddam Hussein’s WMD programme was a “slam dunk”.
Mr Tenet says his remark has been repeatedly taken out of context by Mr Cheney and Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, in an attempt to justify the US decision to invade Iraq after it emerged that the intelligence on Iraq was flawed.
According to an advance transcript of a CBS interview scheduled to run to-morrow, Mr Tenet says: “The hardest part of all this has been just listening to this for almost three years, listening to the vice-president ... say ‘Well, George Tenet said slam dunk’, as if he needed me to say ‘slam dunk’ to go to war with Iraq.”
Mr Tenet, whose book At the Center of the Storm, goes on sale in the US on Monday, concedes that the CIA believed Iraq had WMD but says his “slam dunk” comment referred to the administration’s ability to make a public case for war.
“We can put together a better case. That’s what I meant,” said Mr Tenet.
Mr Tenet also disputes claims in Bob Woodward’s Plan of Attack that Mr Bush considered the “slam dunk” statement as “very important”. He said Mr Bush had already decided to invade Iraq in December 2002, two months before Colin Powell, then secretary of state, gave his now infamous presentation on Iraqi WMD before the United Nations.
According to the New York Times, Mr Tenet claims in his book that the administration never had a serious debate about the imminence of the Iraqi WMD threat.
The White House Friday rejected that claim, by suggesting Mr Tenet was not aware of the full extent of the debate.
Mr Tenet has been criticised for his role in allowing Mr Bush to claim in his 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq had attempted to purchase yellowcake uranium from Niger, which the White House later conceded was not backed up by US intelligence.
The administration is opposing attempts by a congressional committee to investigate the role of Ms Rice in allowing the famous “16 words” to appear in the State of the Union.
In his CBS interview, Mr Tenet says the CIA never tortured detainees but adds that the CIA’s “high value detainee” programme, which involved using controversial interrogation techniques such as “water boarding” on Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was extremely valuable.