The text of George Tenet’s speech today at Georgetown is here. The speech is pretty good; Tenet defends the CIA’s effectiveness not only in Iraq, but with respect to North Korea, Libya and other countries. He also touts the CIA’s record in helping to stop nuclear proliferation.
As to the question of the hour, Iraq’s WMDs, Tenet doesn’t add much that is new. He defends the CIA’s practices and explains the intelligence on which the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate was based. Like Donald Rumsfeld, he dismisses David Kay’s claim that the search for WMDs is 85% complete, saying that “we are nowhere near 85% finished.” As to whether WMDs will be found, he says the jury is still out.
Tenet also talks about the fact that the CIA’s capabilities, in human intelligence and otherwise, were degraded over the years. He refers to his own seven-year effort to build the agency back up. This may foreshadow an election theme, as John Kerry was one of the Senators who consistently voted to shrink the CIA and reduce its capabilities.
DEACON adds: I once heard a well-known Kremlinologist (as experts on the politics of the Soviet Union were sometimes called) defend his failure to predict Krushchev’s overthrow on the theory that, if Krushchev didn’t see it coming, why should he (the expert) be expected to have seen it. By the same token, I suppose one could ask, if (as some say) Saddam didn’t know whether, or to what extent, he had WMD, why should the CIA be expected to have known.
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