Friday, Sept. 2, 2005 11:00 a.m. EDT
Former CIA director George Tenet, said to be the target of what the Washington Times called “a scathing report by Inspector General John Helgerson” – may go public with embarrassing disclosures about the Bush administration and its actions leading up to Sept. 11, 2001.
The CIA report, prepared as the result of a 17-month investigation by a team of 11 CIA officials, blames Tenet and several top CIA officials for its failure pre-9/11 to deal with al-Qaida.
But former Reagan White House aide and intelligence expert John B. Roberts II, quoting an anonymous source close to Tenet, wrote in Thursday’s Washington Times that the former chief spook has no intention of taking it lying down.
The report, delivered to Congress this week, recommends punitive sanctions against Tenet, former Deputy Director of Operations James L. Pavitt and former counter-terrorist center head J. Cofer Black.
Roberts writes, “George Tenet is not going to let himself become the fall guy for the September 11th intelligence failures, according to a former intelligence officer and a source friendly to Mr. Tenet.”
In retaliation, Roberts says that Tenet may turn the tables and put the blame on President Bush.
Tenet, he claims, has already written a fiery, 20-page, “tightly knitted rebuttal” to the Inspector General’s report. But Tenet’s response has been marked “classified,” in contrast to usual CIA practice. Also unavailable to the public is the report itself.
Roberts says Tenet’s decision to strike back could be very bad news for the President.
Wrote Roberts, “Mr. Tenet’s decision to defend himself against the charges in the report poses a potential crisis for the White House.
“According to a former clandestine services officer, the former CIA director turned down a publisher’s $4.5 million book offer because he didn’t want to embarrass the White House by rehashing the failure to prevent September 11 and the flawed intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.”
Quoting a “knowledgeable source,” Roberts wrote that Tenet “had a ‘wink and a nod’ understanding with the White House that he wouldn’t be scapegoated for intelligence failings.”
Roberts claims a “deal” was made between Tenet and Bush, one that was sealed with the President’s award of the Presidential Freedom Medal to the former CIA head.
In his rebuttal, Tenet, Roberts warns, “treads perilously close to affirming the account of Richard Clarke, the former NSC terrorism official who claimed the Bush administration’s had delayed adopting a strategy against al-Qaida.”
Current CIA Director Porter Goss is between a rock and a hard place, according to Roberts, who explains that Goss will be criticized for covering up if he does nothing. But if he follows the IG’s recommendation to convene formal hearings as a prelude to sanctions, Tenet himself may go public to defend his reputation by damaging the President and his administration.
Roberts concludes: “The $4.5 million book offer may soon be back on the table, and this time Mr. Tenet might take it.”

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