(CBS News)Former CIA Director Tenet Breaks His SilenceSun Apr 29, 2007 22:46
Apr 29, 2007 10:21 pm US/Central
Former CIA Director Tenet Breaks His Silence
"I still lie awake at night thinking about everything that could have been, that wasn;t done to stop 9/11. To the 9/11 families, I said, you deserve better from your entire government. All of us," Tenet says.
Spy Chief Counters WMD 'Slam Dunk' Claims
(CBS News) As director of the CIA, George Tenet has kept America's most important secrets. And until now, his lips were sealed.
Tenet's CIA has been blamed for failing to stop 9/11, praised for the fall of the Taliban, and vilified for predicting that Iraq held chemical and biological weapons.
Now, three years after leaving the CIA, Tenet has written a book, aptly named, "At the Center of the Storm." This month, correspondent Scott Pelley sat down with Tenet. 60 Minutes wanted to know how he got "weapons of mass destruction" wrong. Are we using torture in the war on terror? And who was it at the White House who finally put the knife in his back?
60 Minutes found him passionate, combative, apologetic, defiant, and fiercely loyal to the people of the CIA and their fight against terrorism.
"People don't understand us, you know, they think we're a bunch of faceless bureaucrats with no feelings, no families, no sense of what it�s like to be passionate about running these bastards down. There was nobody else in this government that felt what we felt before or after 9/11. Of course, after 9/11, everybody had that feeling. Nobody felt like we felt on that day. This was personal," Tenet tells Pelley.
His story erupts after a silence of three years. 60 Minutes spoke with Tenet at Georgetown University.
In a sense, his career began and ended there. He's a professor now, but he first came as a student from Queens, New York. After college, he worked on Capitol Hill and in the Clinton White House, rising to lead the CIA at the age of 44. Tenet served seven years, all that time hunting Osama bin Laden.
"I still lie awake at night thinking about everything that could have been, that wasn�t done to stop 9/11. To the 9/11 families, I said, you deserve better from your entire government. All of us," Tenet says.
If he lies awake, men like Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Midhar, two of the 9/11 hijackers, are among the reasons. Before 9/11, Tenet�s CIA headquarters knew that they were al Qaeda and in America. But the information was filed, not passed to the FBI.
"Two of the 19 hijackers, in your files, in Langley, Virginia, a year and a half before 9/11 � they don't get on a watch list. They don't get on a no-fly list. You know these are bad guys," Pelley remarks.
"Scott, they don't. And honest people doing honest work, for whatever you know, all of these people who are doing the best that they can, and understand this in great granularity, understand all of this and feel this pain, we all know this. I can't dress this up for you," Tenet replies.
"People were inundated with data and operations. And they missed it," Tenet acknowledges. "We're not trying to intentionally withhold�human beings made mistakes."
But the 9/11 Commission accused Tenet�s CIA of being bureaucratic and failing to recognize al Qaeda for the threat that it was.
"All these commissions, and all these reports never got underneath the feeling of my people. You know, to see us written about as if we're idiots. Or if we didn't understand this threat. As if we didn't understand what happened on that day. To impugn our integrity, our operational savvy. You know, the American people need to know that's just not so," Tenet says. "We're the ones that stand up and tell you the truth about when we're wrong. It's a great thing about this government. The only people that ever stand up and tell the truth are who? Intelligence officers. Because our culture is, never break faith with the truth. We'll tell you, you don't have to drag it out of us. You didn't have to serve me a subpoena to tell me I didn't watch list Hazmi and Midhar. We knew right away; and we told everybody. Truth matters to us."
The truth of the CIA and al Qaeda starts before 9/11. Two years before the attacks, the CIA had officers on the ground in Afghanistan laying plans to overthrow the Taliban and take out bin Laden. But Tenet says neither Clinton nor President Bush would give him the go ahead. Then, by the summer of 2001, Tenet says he was so alarmed by intelligence that an attack was coming, he asked for an immediate meeting to brief then-National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice.
"Essentially, the briefing says, there are gonna be multiple spectacular attacks against the United States. We believe these attacks are imminent. Mass casualties are a likelihood," Tenet remembers.
"You're telling Condoleezza Rice in that meeting in the White House in July that we should take offensive action, in Afghanistan, now. Before 9/11," Pelley remarks.
"We need to consider immediate action inside Afghanistan now. We need to move to the offensive," Tenet says.
In his book, Tenet says that even though he told Rice an attack on Americans was imminent, she took his request to launch pre-emptive action in Afghanistan and delegated it to third-tier officials.
"You�re meeting with the president every morning. Why aren't you telling the president, 'Mr. President, this is terrifying. We have to do this now. Forget about the bureaucracy. I need this authority this afternoon,'?" Pelley asks.
"Right. Because the United States government doesn't work that way. The president is not the action officer. You bring the action to the national security advisor and people who set the table for the president to decide on policies they're gonna implement," Tenet says.
"You thought you had some time," Pelley remarks.
"Well, you didn't know. Yeah, you thought you might have time," Tenet says. "You can second guess me until the cows come home. That's the way I did my job."
On Sept. 11, Tenet was at breakfast near the White House when the first plane hit. He thought instantly of his old nemesis.
"I knew immediately this was bin Laden. I excused myself from breakfast. I jumped in the car," he remembers.
"What do you mean you knew immediately? I mean, most people in the country thought there had been a terrible accident," Pelley asks.
"Listen, when you�ve been following this as long as I've been following this, when you�ve been thinking about multiple spectacular attacks. There was no doubt what had happened in my mind immediately," Tenet explains.
At the CIA headquarters, as the towers burned and the Pentagon was hit, Tenet got the aircraft passenger manifest; Hazmi and Mihdhar were listed.
"After all these years of planning and plotting and wanting to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, you must have thought, 'The SOB got me first,'" Pelley remarks.
"Um, yeah. But I had another thought. 'I'm gonna run you and all your bastards down. And here we come. Because the rules are about to change. Here we come; our turn now. Unleashed, authorities, money, direction, leadership; here we come, pal.' That's what I thought," Tenet says.
Immediately, Tenet got the authority he had been asking for in Afghanistan. And for the first time, the CIA led an American war. Tenet calls it the agency�s finest hour, except, perhaps, for just one thing.
"Was Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora?" Pelley asks.
"We believe that he was," Tenet says.
"And, the question is, 'How did he get away?' If this plan of yours is so great � and Afghanistan went so well�. How does Osama bin Laden get away, when we've got him cornered at Tora Bora?" Pelley asks.
"Well, have you ever seen the geography in Tora Bora?" Tenet asks.
"I have," Pelley replies.
"You don't have anybody cornered in Tora Bora," Tenet says.
Tenet says our forces were too light to stop bin Laden�s escape. "We played with what we had. 'Cause you didn't have a big force presence on the ground. We caught a lot of people, we didn't catch the one we wanted," he says.
But they did catch others, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the man who planned 9/11. He was captured in Pakistan.
"When Khalid Sheikh Mohammed ended up in the hands of CIA interrogators, what did he say?" Pelley says.
"I'll talk to you guys when you take me to New York and I can see my lawyer," Tenet replies.
MUCH MORE, FULL REPORT:
NOTE: Tenet is still lying and covering up....
9/11 was an inside job!!!!
The 60 minutes distraction is why he got the
Freedom medel... and put on STANDBY!!
Don't trust him for a minuest!!!!
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