WASHINGTON: CIA public affairs director Mark Mansfield said that the release this week of a new memoir and related media appearances by former CIA chief George Tenet had generated a fair number of inquiries by the media, as well as interest among current CIA employees.
"The media has focused on the book, but we haven't been swamped with calls from reporters," Mansfield told PRWeek via e-mail. "As you might expect, they are more interested in speaking to Mr. Tenet himself. His book is obviously of interest to many people here."
Mansfield noted that the CIA's response to the controversial book was simply: "This is former director Tenet's account of his service and leadership at the CIA during a time of great intensity and challenge."
Mansfield declined to comment specifically on any of Tenet’s controversial claims on, among other things, the Bush administration’s promotion of the war, CIA interrogation tactics, the lack of any ties between Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, and incorrect assessments of the presence of “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD) in Iraq.
During a CBS 60 Minute interview to promote release of his new book, At the Center of the Storm, Tenet said, among other things, that his infamous “slam dunk” comment about the strength of evidence of WMD in Iraq had referred only to the “public case” for justifying the war, not actual evidence of WMD. Yet Vice President Cheney and other officials in media appearances following the Iraq invasion continued to cite what they said was CIA assertions of the presence of WMD in Iraq.
“They never let it go,” Tenet told CBS reporter Scott Pelley. “I became campaign talk: ‘Look at what the idiot said!’ Well, let’s not be so disingenuous.”
In addition, Tenet repeated previous assertions that Bush administration officials publicly claimed connections between Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda even though the CIA had told them they found no evidence of them.
A number of former CIA officials and employees wrote an open letter to Tenet this week agreeing that the war was waged on “flimsy reasons” but excoriating Tenet for not speaking out sooner and sending “very mixed signals to the American people and their legislators in the fall of 2002.”
White House officials this week in response to the controversy said that they had considered a number of options other than war to the perceived threat of WMD in Iraq and based the decision for war on a number of factors.
Release of the memoir coincided with a Congressional tussle with the White House over an Iraq funding bill that would have mandated withdrawal of US troops from Iraq in 2008. President Bush vetoed the bill, and Democrat House leaders failed to override it.