This is related to the Plame affair, but since both thte NY Times and the Post did a story on it, I thought the topic deserved a thread.
C.I.A. Chief Is Caught in Middle by Leak Inquiry
By ELISABETH BUMILLER, NYTimes
ASHINGTON, Oct. 4 — At a few minutes before eight on Thursday morning, George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, was parked in his usual chair just outside the Oval Office waiting to brief his chief patron, the president of the United States.
The morning newspapers were full of developments in what amounted to a war between the Central Intelligence Agency and the White House, and a Justice Department investigation that was barely 48 hours old into whether administration officials had illegally disclosed the name of an undercover C.I.A. officer.
Angry agency officials suspected that someone in the White House had exposed the officer, Valerie Plame, as a way to punish her husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, for his criticism of the administration's use of intelligence to justify the war in Iraq.
But after President Bush told his chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., that he was ready to see Mr. Tenet — "O.K., George, let's go," Mr. Card called out to the intelligence chief — Mr. Tenet, a rare holdover from the Clinton administration and a politically savvy survivor, did not even bring up the issue that was roiling his agency, Mr. Card said in an interview.
Instead, Mr. Tenet briefed the president on the latest intelligence reports, as he always does, and left it to the White House to make the first move about Mr. Wilson and Ms. Plame.
"I think I was the one who initiated it," Mr. Card recalled. The subsequent conversation between the president and Mr. Tenet about the investigation, he added, did not consume "any significant amount of time or discussion or angst. It was basically, `We're cooperating, you're cooperating, I'm glad to see the process is moving forward the way it should.' " In conclusion, Mr. Card said, "it certainly didn't reflect a strain in any relationship."
And yet, six years into running the nation's primary spy organization, Mr. Tenet finds himself at one of the most difficult points in his tenure, caught between his loyalty to the president and defending an agency enraged at the White House. Although the leak investigation that is consuming Washington's political class has not, by all accounts, affected the chummy personal ties between the president and the director, it has still taken its toll on Mr. Tenet.
Even before this latest blowup, Mr. Tenet told friends that he was worn out from the relentlessness of his job since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and that he felt he had served long enough. (Only Allen W. Dulles and Richard Helms held the job longer.) Mr. Tenet, who has directed an extensive overhaul and expansion of the C.I.A. since the attacks, had talked about stepping down by late summer or early fall, people close to him said.
"It's a lot harder job than it was in the Dulles era, and he's been doing it for a long while," an agency official said. "But I think he's for the moment happily engaged."
Friends of Mr. Tenet's said that the leak investigation might now keep him in place longer than he wanted, if only to prove that he was not a casualty of the latest furor — or of the political fallout from the failure so far to find chemical or biological weapons in Iraq.
"He wants to leave on his own terms, but he doesn't want to leave when it looks like he's being chased out of town," a former C.I.A. official said. David Kay, the government's chief weapons inspector, who was chosen and supervised by Mr. Tenet, told Congress on Thursday that his team had failed to find illicit weapons after a three-month search in Iraq, a major setback for the White House.
The latest fight has turned out to be a particularly angry one in an intelligence tug of war that began before the invasion of Iraq. Some C.I.A. officers have long said that they believe the White House and the Pentagon exaggerated intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs to justify the war, while White House and Pentagon officials have long said that the C.I.A. had been too cautious in its findings.
In the summer, the conflict broke into the open when Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, said that Mr. Tenet had been primarily responsible for not stripping from the president's State of the Union address an insupportable claim that Iraq had sought to buy uranium from Niger. Mr. Tenet and his allies were enraged, and Stephen J. Hadley, Ms. Rice's deputy, eventually took the blame.
But within the C.I.A., the exposure of Ms. Plame is now considered an even greater instance of treachery. Ms. Plame, a specialist in nonconventional weapons who worked overseas, had "nonofficial cover," and was what in C.I.A. parlance is called a Noc, the most difficult kind of false identity for the agency to create. While most undercover agency officers disguise their real profession by pretending to be American embassy diplomats or other United States government employees, Ms. Plame passed herself off as a private energy expert. Intelligence experts said that Nocs have especially dangerous jobs.
"Nocs are the holiest of holies," said Kenneth M. Pollack, a former agency officer who is now director of research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. "This is real James Bond stuff. You're going overseas posing as a businessman, and if the other government finds out about you, they're probably going to shoot you. The United States has basically no way to protect you."
Mr. Tenet's latest battle with the White House began on July 6, when Mr. Wilson, in an article on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times, wrote of a mission the C.I.A. sent him on in 2002 to investigate whether Iraq had tried to buy uranium for its nuclear weapons program from Niger. Mr. Wilson concluded that Iraq had not, and that the administration had twisted evidence to make the case for war in Iraq.
Eight days later, the syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak wrote that it was Mr. Wilson's wife who had suggested sending him on the mission, implying that Mr. Wilson's trip was of limited importance. Mr. Novak identified Ms. Plame, and attributed the information to "two senior administration officials." Mr. Wilson subsequently accused Karl Rove, the president's chief political aide, of involvement in leaking the information to Mr. Novak to intimidate Mr. Wilson into silence and to keep others from coming forward. But he has since backed off and said that Mr. Rove at least condoned the leak.
But Mr. Tenet was aware of the Novak column, and was not pleased, the C.I.A. official said. As required by law, the agency notified the Justice Department in late July that there had been a release of classified information; it is a felony for any official with access to such information to disclose the identity of a covert American officer. It is unclear when Mr. Tenet became aware of the referral, but when he did, he supported it, the C.I.A. official said, even though it was clearly going to cause problems for the White House. "I don't think he lost any sleep over it," the official said.
The important thing, the official said, was that "the agency was standing up for itself."
Friends of Mr. Tenet's say that he knows how important it is that he be seen as defending the agency from political attacks, and that one reason he has stayed so long is to demonstrate that the directorship of central intelligence is not a partisan job. The other reason for his longevity, friends and detractors alike say, is that this son of a Greek restaurant owner from Queens has been brilliant at cultivating the Yale-educated son of the only president, George H. W. Bush, to have been director of central intelligence.
Last week, Mr. Card said, the director took time out from the grimness of the intelligence reports to talk about a subject dear to the president. "Baseball," Mr. Card said.
As the former C.I.A. official summed up Mr. Tenet: "He's not liked by everybody in the administration, but the president loves him."
and from the Post...
The Focus On Tenet Sharpens After Leak
Criticism of CIA and Director Intensifies
By Walter Pincus and Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, October 5, 2003; Page A01
CIA Director George J. Tenet is under fire as never before. With efforts unsuccessful so far to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, some conservative lawmakers and pundits are blaming the agency for inadequate intelligence on Saddam Hussein. Democrats are accusing Tenet of bending the intelligence to support President Bush's policy of preemption in Iraq.
The focus on Tenet has sharpened in the past week with the revelation that the Justice Department has opened an investigation into the unauthorized leak of the name of a CIA operative -- part of an apparent effort to discredit a former diplomat who raised questions about the Bush administration's case against Iraq.
Sources close to Tenet say the director himself was not responsible for initiating the leak investigation. They say lawyers in the agency's general counsel's office referred the matter to the Justice Department in July -- without consulting the CIA director -- as part of the routine way of responding to the disclosure of classified information.
Still, the controversy comes as Tenet's CIA finds itself increasingly on the defensive over the intelligence used by the administration to make its case for invading Iraq. Senior administration officials, some of whom were never fans of the CIA's work on Iraq, have begun to blame the intelligence community for the mismatch between prewar claims and postwar findings. Last week, even some Republicans traditionally supportive of the intelligence community began to question the CIA's Iraq effort.
"There are a lot of people sitting on pins and needles about WMD and who's going to get blamed for that," said an attorney in the intelligence field.
Some close to the agency see an emerging rift between the CIA and the White House. "I can feel among the seniors angst with the White House now," said a former high-ranking CIA officer who maintains contacts in the building. "It went from a year ago when they thought [the White House was] great, to things I haven't heard before, criticisms. It's quite understandable you're going to have this tension."
Another former intelligence official said the grumbling "comes because the president and others exaggerated the intelligence, and Tenet did not or could not control that."
But as those close to Tenet tell it, the CIA director is not spoiling for a fight -- or to leave anytime soon.
Tenet feels he has "gotten to be the meat in the sandwich," said a source close to the director. "But he plans to keep going with his head down because he feels there are much bigger dangers, with a lot on the line in other parts of the world."
Above all, officials close to Tenet and Bush say the CIA director continues to enjoy a close working relationship with the president, the key ingredient in a successful six-year bureaucratic run in which Tenet is just months short of passing the legendary Richard M. Helms to become the second-longest-serving director after Allen Dulles.
When controversy arose last summer about questionable claims in Bush's State of the Union address, officials noted, Tenet initially took the blame for the administration.
National security adviser Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that the president continues to believe Tenet "is doing an excellent job." In a statement, she said he has "upheld the best traditions of the U.S. intelligence community while leading the transformation of our intelligence services to meet the most grave challenges . . . fighting the war on global terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction."
People close to Tenet say he does not see a bureaucratic war as much as sniping at lower levels magnified in importance by outsiders and the media. But other national security officials say he has been dismayed at what he sees as exaggerations of Iraq's link to al Qaeda and its nuclear weapons program offered by Vice President Cheney's office. Tenet's regular access to the president remains, and he continues to "tell him what he thinks," one senior official said.
Tenet's spokesman, Bill Harlow, said he would not be interviewed for this article, but some of his subordinates and friends agreed to talk if given anonymity.
Tenet took over the CIA from John Deutch, whose deep cutbacks and large personality demoralized the spy agency. But on Sept. 12, 2001, the CIA went from being a risk-averse, second-tier agency to the brains behind the unconventional war against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and the leader of what the Bush administration has described as a global war on terrorism. The agency's budgets soared, as did its morale, working as it has with an unprecedented number of foreign intelligence services to detain and interrogate suspected terrorists.
But the failure so far to find chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in Iraq has prompted renewed criticism of the CIA and Tenet. Last week, the Republican leaders of both the House and Senate intelligence committees expressed disappointment in the CIA's analysis of the Iraqi threat.
In a letter to Tenet, House intelligence committee Chairman Porter J. Goss (Fla.) questioned whether the agency had rigorously vetted the largely circumstantial information it had acquired after 1998, when U.N. inspectors left Iraq. Goss, a former CIA case officer, identified "serious deficiencies" in the intelligence community's ability to recruit informants in Iraq to provide credible, fresh intelligence.
Senate intelligence committee Chairman Pat Roberts (Kan.) told reporters he was "not pleased" by the interim report of David Kay, who is heading the U.S. effort to find weapons of mass destruction in U.S.-occupied Iraq. Kay reported last week he has yet to find such weapons.
One veteran CIA officer said some CIA analysts "are realizing their intelligence wasn't adequate, and in the DO [Directorate of Operations] they have to come face to face with the fact that there weren't any spies in Iraq, that the product wasn't satisfactory."
Intelligence officials said Tenet believes strongly that, despite the limited findings in Iraq to date, "the analysts believe what they wrote" in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate. In that report, analysts judged that Iraq still had chemical and biological weapons and had reconstituted its nuclear program.
Other intelligence experts said going to war is ultimately the president's call. "The case for going to war was a political case, not an intelligence case," said Winston Wiley, former chief of the CIA's counterterrorism center and deputy director of intelligence.
Guessing how long Tenet remains on the job has become a Washington parlor game. To beat the Dulles record of 81/2 years, he would have to stay on through July 2005, "and that probably won't happen," said one close associate, indicating that Tenet, like Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, would leave sometime after the 2004 election.
Ten days ago, however, some officials in the national security establishment were speculating that Tenet had decided to go by the end of this year and join the New York private investment banking firm of Allen & Co., which is headed by Herbert A. Allen, a longtime Tenet friend. One retired senior CIA official said he had learned about it directly from an Allen & Co. executive, and the word was passed around within senior intelligence levels at the agency and the State Department.
One reason the rumor may have started was that Tenet, for the second year in a row, appeared at Allen's prestigious summer seminar for media moguls and gave an off-the-record briefing on world trends. CIA officials say the rumor is not true, as did Allen in a telephone interview last week.
The feeling inside the agency, summed up by one veteran officer, is that Tenet "became bulletproof [from being fired by the president] after taking the spear for the State of the Union speech this year, and he is not going anywhere until maybe after the election."
Nosce te ipsum.