Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Saturday | July 12, 2003

Tenet Takes One for the Team

by RonK, Seattle

CIA Director George Tenet issued a statement yesterday taking personal and agency-level responsibility for failing to block an ill-advised 16 words from appearing in Bush's SOTU address.

Tenet's gambit may give the White House -- and the Agency -- a moment's respite from the fulminating Yellowcake scandal ... just as an athlete's feigned injury might buy his team's foundering defense precious moments to catch a breath and get their signals straight.

I'm loathe to give the topic any time at all, as the mainstream scandal-hounds will catch the scent soon enough ... but here's a little fast-forward for the dailyKos community.

On key points of interagency fingerpointing, Tenet asserts:

(1) CIA did in fact review the text in question.

(2) CIA cleared the text, in the technical sense that they formally refrained from formally rejecting it.

(3) CIA acknowledged the text as hypertechnically true. [As others very energetically note, the text is hypertechnically not hypertechnically true, given the semantic distinction between "learned" and "reported".]

(4) The CIA should have formally disapproved the text.

Case closed? Not exactly.

Before Tenet's statement, the inner circle had circled its wagons around a cover story that the text originally rested on the Niger forgeries ... that for almost a year, everybody but the WH knew these were crude fakes ... that the WH found out a few days too late ... and no retraction was warranted since the WH thought it had other satisfactory intelligence supporting the same conclusion, until some time last week.

On Tenet's statement, the new cover story is that the text in question never had anything to do with the Niger forgeries ... that the text rested on no US intel whatsoever ... that the text simply, factually and nonjudgmentally observed that our coalition partner across the pond had reached certain conclusions.

How bad is that? If Tenet's version stands, the public defense to date has been a pack of lies (and not just by the departing Ari Fleischer).

And if Tenet's version stands, somebody's got a lot more 'splainin' to do.

Somebody in the WH initially lobbied for an unsustainable text (to the effect that US had knowledge of Iraq/Africa uranium transactions), and CIA rejected it. Somebody in the WH then concocted the hypertechnically defensible replacement text, and negotiated its passive clearance-by-inaction with the CIA.

Somebody in the WH knew (or willfully avoided knowing) that somebody out there had been shopping phony uranium stories around the global intelligence community. Somebody in the WH knew our DCI wasn't buying.

Somebody (WH, CIA or both) knew the UK reached conclusions suspiciously similar to those we might have reached if we had taken the dodgey documents at face value. Nobody rang up our coalition allies (and most intimate intelligence partners) and invited them to share and compare sources.

The wagons are still circled. Tenet's statement momentarily quells a firefight (CIA/NSC) inside the circle. It buys a pause in the action while those outside the circle rub their eyes and exclaim "WHAAA?" ... but the next volley of flaming arrows is only a news cycle away.

Posted July 12, 2003 08:55 AM


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