George Tenet

George Tenet

Infobox Officeholder
name =George John Tenet

imagesize =200px

caption =
order =18th
office =Director of Central Intelligence
term_start =July 11, 1997
term_end =July 11, 2004
president =Bill Clinton
George W. Bush
predecessor =John M. Deutch
successor =Porter J. Goss
birth_date =January 5, 1953
birth_place =Queens, New York
death_date =
death_place =
nationality =
party =
spouse =
relations =
children =
residence =
alma_mater =
occupation =
profession =
religion =

website =
footnotes =

George John Tenet (born January 5, 1953) was the Director of Central Intelligence for the United States Central Intelligence Agency and is Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at Georgetown University. Tenet held the position as the DCI from July 1997 to July 2004, making him the second-longest serving director in the agency's history — behind Allen Welsh Dulles — as well as one of the few DCIs to serve under two U.S. presidents of opposing political parties.


Tenet was born in Flushing, Queens, New York to Greeks, [ [ Online NewsHour: George Tenet nominated for top CIA position- March 19, 1997 ] ] [ [ Texas A&M Graduation - Transcript - George J. Tenet ] ] John and Evangelia Tenet; his father first worked in a coal-mine in France before arriving in the United States. citebook
authorlink=George Tenet
coauthor=Bill Harlow
chapter=Chapter I: The Towpath, p.10
] Tenet was raised in Little Neck, Queens where he and his brother Bill worked as busboys in their family's diner (later renamed the Scobee Grill). He attended Public School 94, Louis Pasteur Junior High School 67, and Benjamin N. Cardozo High School (he was a classmate of Ron Jeremy and actor Reginald VelJohnson). [ [ Queens Tribune Online, QConfidential ] ] Tenet holds a bachelor's degree (1976) from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and a master's degree from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University (1978).

Tenet is married to Stephanie Glakas-Tenet. They have one son, John Michael. [ [ The George Tenet story - US News and World Report ] ]

Early career

After he received his M.A., Tenet became research director of the American Hellenic Institute from 1978 to 1979. [ [ Hellenic News of America ] ] He then began working for the Senate, first as a legislative assistant and later as Legislative Director to former Senator H. John Heinz III of Pennsylvania (1982-1985). He was a staff member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) from 1985-1988, then Staff Director of the SSCI from 1988-1993. Later, Tenet joined President-elect Bill Clinton's national security transition team. Clinton appointed Tenet Senior Director for Intelligence Programs at the National Security Council (1993-1995). [ [ - CIA director's allies outrank his enemies ] ] []

CIA career

Tenet was appointed Deputy Director of Central Intelligence in July 1995. After John Deutch's abrupt resignation in December 1996, Tenet served as acting director. This was followed by the withdrawal of Anthony Lake, whose nomination had been blocked by Republicans in Congress. Tenet was then officially appointed Director on July 11, 1997, after a unanimous confirmation vote in the Senate. While the Director of Central Intelligence has typically been replaced by an incoming administration ever since Jimmy Carter replaced DCI George H. W. Bush, Tenet served through the end of the Clinton administration and well into the term of George W. Bush.

Tenet embarked on a mission to regenerate the CIA, which had fallen on hard times since the end of the Cold War. The number of agents recruited each year had fallen to an all-time low, a 25-percent decline from the Cold War peak. Tenet appealed to the original mission of the agency, which had been to "prevent another Pearl Harbor". The trick was to see where danger might come from in the post-Cold War world. Tenet focused on potential problems such as "the transformation of Russia and China", "rogue states" like North Korea, Iran and Iraq, and terrorism. [Steve Coll, "Ghost Wars" (Penguin, 2005 edn), pp.317, 354, 359-62.]

Al-Qaeda and the War on Terror

By 1999 al-Qaeda had emerged as a significant terrorist threat. The 1998 bombings of two US African embassies were the latest in a string of attacks on American interests in the west Indian-Ocean region. And in 2000 the USS Cole was bombed in Aden in an attempt to sink her, killing 17 naval personnel.

The Plan

In 1999 Tenet put forward a grand "Plan" for dealing with al-Qaeda. In preparation, he selected new leadership for the CIA's Counterterrorist Center (CTC). He placed Cofer Black in charge of the CTC, and "Rich B" (a "top-flight executive" from Tenet's own suite) in charge of the CTC's Bin Laden unit. Tenet assigned the CTC to develop the Plan. The proposals, brought out in September, sought to penetrate Qaeda's "Afghan sanctuary" with US and Afghan agents, in order to obtain information on and mount operations against Bin Laden's network. In October, officers from the Bin Laden unit visited northern Afghanistan. Once the Plan was finalized, the Agency created a "Qaeda cell" (whose functions overlapped those of the CTC's Bin Laden unit) to give operational leadership to the effort.

The CIA concentrated its inadequate financial resources on the Plan, so that at least some of its more modest aspirations were realized. Intelligence collection efforts on bin Laden and al-Qaeda increased significantly from 1999. "By 9/11", said Tenet, "a map would show that these collection programs and human [reporting] networks were in place in such numbers as to nearly cover Afghanistan". (But this excluded Bin Laden's inner circle itself.) [Steve Coll, "Ghost Wars" (Penguin, 2005 edn), pp.436-7, 451-2, 455, 456, 466-72, 485, 646 note 42, 654 note7; "9/11 Commission Report", [ chapter 11] , p.357 ( [ HTML version] ); ibid., [ chapter 4] , p.142-3 ( [ HTML version] ); cf. ibid, [ chapter 6] , p.204 ( [ HTML version] ); [ Tenet statement to the Joint Inquiry on 9/11, Oct. 17, 2002] ; Tenet, "At The Center Of The Storm", pp.119, 120.]

The Predator drone

The CIA also experimented with a small remote-controlled reconnaissance aircraft, the Predator, to try to spot Bin Laden in Afghanistan. A series of flights in autumn 2000, overseen by CTC officials and flown by USAF drone pilots from a control room at the CIA's Langley headquarters, produced probable sightings of the al-Qaeda leader. [Coll, "Ghost Wars", pp.527, 532; "9/11 Commission Report", [ chapter 6] , pp.189-90 ( [ HTML version] )] Black and others became advocates of arming the Predator with adapted Hellfire anti-tank missiles to try to assassinate Bin Laden and other Qaeda leaders. But there were both legal and technical issues. Tenet in particular was concerned about the CIA moving back into the business of assassination. And a series of live-fire tests in the Nevada Desert in summer 2001 produced mixed results.

Tenet advised cautiously on the matter at a meeting of the Cabinet-level Principals Committee on September 4, 2001. If the Cabinet wanted to empower the CIA to field a lethal drone, Tenet said, "they should do so with their eyes wide open, fully aware of the potential fallout if there were a controversial or mistaken strike". National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice concluded that the armed Predator was required, but evidently not ready. It was agreed to recommend to the CIA to resume reconnaissance flights. The "previously reluctant" Tenet then ordered the Agency to do so. The CIA was authorized to "deploy the system with weapons-capable aircraft". [Coll, "Ghost Wars", pp.580-1; [ Tenet statement to the 9/11 Commission, March 24, 2004] , pp.15, 16; Barton Gellman, " [ A Strategy's Cautious Evolution] ", "Washington Post", Jan. 20, 2002, p.A01; "9/11 Commission Report", [ chapter 6] , pp.210-14 ( [ HTML version] ); ibid, [ Notes] , p.513, note 258 (see note 255) ( [ HTML version] )]

The strategic assessments branch

In late 2000 Tenet, recognizing the deficiency of "big-picture" analysis of al-Qaeda, appointed a senior manager in the Counterterrorist Center to investigate "creating a strategic assessment capability". In spring 2001 the CTC got back to him, requesting the hiring of "a small group of contractors not involved in day-to-day crises to digest vast quantities of information and develop targeting strategies".

The CTC's Strategic Assessments Branch was formally set up in July. But it struggled to find personnel. The head of the branch finally took up his post on September 10, 2001. [ [ Joint Inquiry Final Report, Part Three] , p.387; "9/11 Commission Report", [ chapter 11] , p.342 ( [ HTML version] )]

The September 11, 2001 attacks

After the September 11 attacks, many observers criticized the Intelligence Community for numerous "intelligence failures" as one of the major reasons why the attacks were not prevented. [ CCC - Intelligence Failure and 9/11 ] ] In August 2007, a secret report written by the CIA inspector general was made public (originally written in 2005 but kept secret). The 19-page summary states that Tenet knew the dangers of Al Qaeda well before September 2001, but that the leadership of the CIA did not do enough to prevent any attacks. Tenet reacted to the publication of this report by calling it "flat wrong", citing in particular the planning efforts of the past two years. [cite web| url=| title=CIA criticises ex-chief over 9/11| publisher=BBC| date=2007-08-21| accessdate=2008-02-29]

Worldwide Attack Matrix

Tenet considered that his Qaeda plan had placed the CIA in a better position to respond after the 9/11 attacks. As he put it,

How could [an intelligence] community without a strategic plan tell the president of the United States just four days after 9/11 how to attack the Afghan sanctuary and operate against al-Qa'ida in ninety-two countries around the world? [Tenet, "At the Center of the Storm", pp.121-2; cf. p.178.]

This was at a meeting of the restricted National Security Council -- or "war council" -- at Camp David on September 15, 2001. Tenet presented the Worldwide Attack Matrix, a blueprint for what became known as the War On Terror. He proposed firstly to send CIA teams into Afghanistan to collect intelligence on, and mount covert operations against, al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The teams would act jointly with military Special Operations units. "President Bush later praised this proposal, saying it had been a turning point in his thinking." ["9/11 Commission Report", [ chapter 10] , p.332 ( [ HTML version] )]

Use of Water Boarding

The CIA used water boarding and other "harsh" techniques of interrogation, against suspected Al Qaida members Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri during Tenet's directorship. [cite web |title=CIA admit 'waterboarding' al-Qaida suspects |publisher=The Guardian newspaper (UK) |accessdate=2008-02-29 |date=2008-02-08 |url=] [cite web |url= |title=CIA's Harsh Interrogation Techniques Described |publisher=ABC news (USA) |accessdate=2002-02-29 |date=2005-11-18]

Tenet and Iraq WMD controversy

According to a report by veteran investigative journalist Bob Woodward in his book "Plan of Attack", Tenet privately lent his personal authority to the intelligence reports about weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq. [cite web
title=Woodward vs. Tenet: The New Intelligence War
publisher=The New Yorker
] At a meeting on December 12, 2002, he assured Bush that the evidence against Saddam Hussein amounted to a "slam dunk case." After several months of refusing to confirm this statement, Tenet later stated that this remark was taken out of context. (Tenet indicated that the comment was made pursuant to a discussion about how to convince the American people to support invading Iraq, and that, in his opinion, the best way to convince the people would be by explaining the dangers posed by Iraq's WMD i.e., the public relations sale of the war via the WMD, according to Tenet, would be a "slam dunk"). [ [ Ex-C.I.A. Chief, in Book, Assails Cheney on Iraq - New York Times ] ] The search following the 2003 invasion of Iraq by U.S., British and international forces yielded no stockpiles of WMDs, however.


Citing "personal reasons," Tenet submitted his resignation to President Bush on June 3, 2004. James Pavitt, his Deputy Director for Operations at the CIA, announced his resignation the following day, leading to speculation that the exit of both senior intelligence officials was related to the controversy over alleged Iraqi WMDs and the decision to go to war. Admiral Stansfield Turner, director of the CIA under President Jimmy Carter, said, "I think the president feels he's in enough trouble that he's got to begin to cast some of the blame for the morass that we are in Iraq on to somebody else and this was one subtle way to do it." ("Boston Herald", June 4, 2004) However, Bush voiced support for Tenet's efforts, stating, "George Tenet did a superb job for America. It was a high honor to work with him, and I'm sorry he left." ("Reuters", June 5, 2004)

Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Tenet's seven-year term as Director of Central Intelligence was the second-longest in U.S. history. On December 14, 2004, President Bush awarded Tenet the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This was a decision that some senior Democrats questioned, citing intelligence failures to find WMDs in Iraq.

Recent activities


In October 2006 Tenet joined QinetiQ as an independent non-executive director. [ [ Former CIA chief joins the board of QinetiQ - Business News, Business - ] ] Tenet then stepped down from the board in February 2008 to become the managing director of the secretive investment bank Allen & Company. [cite news | author = United Press International| title = Tenet gets job at secretive N.Y. bank | url = | accessdate = 2008-02-18] Tenet also sits on the boards of directors of L-1 Identity Solutions, a major supplier of biometric identification software, and Guidance Software, which makes forensic software used to search computer hard drives for evidence. [cite web
title=George Tenet cashes in on Iraq


In April 2007 Tenet released his memoir titled "". He appeared on "60 Minutes" on April 29 2007, making several accusations against the Bush administration. The book was the top-selling book in sales in the first week after publication. It has received some discussion in the media from former government officials.

Critics pointed out a major factual error in Tenet's book. On the book's first page, Tenet tells of a conversation with then-Pentagon advisor Richard Perle on September 12, 2001 in which Tenet claims Perle told him in person that "Iraq had to pay for the attack." But the conversation could not have occurred on that day, because Perle was stranded in Paris, France on September 12 and didn't return to Washington until three days later.

In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer during an episode of "The Situation Room" Perle admitted that the two men indeed crossed each other one morning, as claimed by Tenet, but only later in the same week and not on September 12. But Perle insisted that he and Tenet exchanged no words in that encounter. [cite news | author = Associated Press | title = Tenet Memoir Draws Heat From Key Players | url = | accessdate = 2007-04-30]


ee also

*Bin Laden Issue Station: The CIA's Osama bin Laden-tracking unit, 1996-2003.

External links

* [ Frontline: The Dark Side]
* [ SourceWatch entry for George Tenet]
* [ CNN: Tenet told Bush WMD case a 'slam dunk']
* [ Official excerpt of George Tenet's 60 Minutes interview at YouTube]

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