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Jason Holliston
Thursday, February 05, 2004  
Tenet Defending the CIA

While Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs were an important issue to me, as I think they were to all Americans in various intensities, it's didn't rank in the top 3 most important issues. Still, it's important. The administration and our allies made this their legal reason for going to war with Saddam's regime. The weapons, if they existed, could pose a serious threat to our national security if they fell into the hands of terrorists or crazy despots willing to use them. So far, though, we haven't found the large stockpiles of biological or chemical weapons our estimates said Iraq had, and there's been quite a bit of pressure to explain this intelligence lapse.

So, when I saw through a link from Winds of Change that George Tenet had given a rather lengthy speech on the issue at Georgetown today, I had to read it. It's definitely a long read, but if you wonder what the national intelligence estimate before the war said (generally speaking, of course), where we are today, and how these estimates are created, it's worth the time. He makes a spirited defense of the CIA and the estimate given to the President.

Lots of interesting stuff stands out in the speech, but one of the best was this:

We did not have enough of our own human intelligence. We did not ourselves penetrate the inner sanctum.

Our agents were on the periphery of WMD activities, providing some useful information. We had access to emigres and defectors with more direct access to these programs. And we had a steady stream of reporting with access to the Iraqi leadership come to us from a trusted foreign partner.

A "trusted foreign partner" had someone inside the Iraqi leadership? I'd give my eye teeth to find out what country, and just who in the leadership was planted or turned. Israel? Great Britain? That should make a great story someday, when it's all declassified -- assuming I'm still alive when it is declassified.

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