Ex-CIA chief blames key Bush aides for failure

April 24, 2007

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WASHINGTON, April 23: Former CIA Director George Tenet is expected to blame US Vice President Dick Cheney for forcing the agency to come out with insubstantial evidence to tie Iraq to the attacks of 9/11.

America’s chief spook, who was forced into retirement nearly three years ago, also blames former President Bill Clinton for the agency’s failure in predicting the 9/11 attacks.

Mr Tenet describes how he had to establish a back-channel relationship in the late 1990s with Republican Newt Gingrich, who was then House speaker, to obtain a much-needed influx of dollars for the intelligence community.

Leaks made to the media show that his book — “At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA” — will take shots at key members of President Bush's inner circle.

Mr Tenet served as CIA director under Presidents Clinton and Bush and oversaw the country's intelligence response during the stormy days in

the wake of September 11 and the run up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

He resigned on June 3, 2004, over his alleged role in giving inaccurate information to the administration on the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

In the book, he details how the White House and the Pentagon – and not just the CIA – share blame for the mistakes made in Iraq.

Mr Tenet received $4 million for the book, which has a print run of 300,000.

But repeated delays to the publication date, now set for next Monday, suggest there have been arguments with the vetters about what could be included.

The reputation of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was national security adviser at the time of the 9/11 attacks, is certain to take a battering. The two have already clashed over Mr Tenet's claim that in July 2001 he gave Dr Rice a full briefing about the threat of a spectacular Al Qaeda attack on America.

She said she could not remember such an explicit warning.

Mr Tenet is also expected to blame Vice-President Cheney and his office and neoconservative former Pentagon officials such as Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith for America’s failures in Iraq.

He claims that they rejected the CIA's belief that there was little evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and al-Qaeda, and ran their own separate intelligence-gathering operation at the Defence Department.

One of the few people to come out well from the book is Colin Powell, the former secretary of state. General Powell's famous 2003 speech to the UN about Saddam's weapons programs, which did so much to make the case for the war in Iraq but was rapidly demolished, was scripted by Mr Tenet and his deputy.

Mr Tenet also claims that the CIA warned the White House that Iraq could fall apart once the invasion was over, but that President Bush and his allies did not want to listen.