Six former intelligence officials released a letter today responding to the piece written a few days ago by six other retired CIA officers, who had called for George Tenet to return his Presidential Medal of Freedom and donate half of his book's royalties to Iraq veterans "who have paid and are paying the price for your failure to speak up when you could have made a difference."
Open Letter From Senior Former CIA Officers
A recent public letter by six former CIA employees is a bitter, inaccurate and misleading attack on Former CIA Director George Tenet’s leadership and, ultimately, on the CIA itself. That letter came from officers many of whom had not served in the Agency for years and in some cases decades. For the most part, these few individuals did not bear the burdens of rebuilding an agency that had been battered by resource cuts in the 1990s, battling terrorism in the run-up to 9/11 and in its aftermath, or wrestling with the complex problems associated with US involvement in Iraq.
Their letter was written from the comfortable confines of hindsight and from afar. We note they launched their attack before any of them could have had an opportunity to read Mr. Tenet’s book.
In contrast, what we saw during the seven years Mr. Tenet was Director was a very different picture than the one presented by these former officers.
We saw a Director who worked tirelessly and passionately to restore, modernize, and enhance the nation’s intelligence capabilities.
We saw a Director who cared deeply about the people of the intelligence community – about their welfare, their training, their opportunities and about the diversity of the intelligence workforce.
We saw a Director who understood before most other senior officials in Washington the seriousness of the threat al Qaeda and other terrorists represented and declared war on them long before many in Washington were ready to fight.
We saw a Director who, after 9/11, literally led the nation’s counterterrorism fight – aggressively pushing, cajoling, and demanding the best from everyone across the entire US counterterrorism community.
We saw a director who was adamant that his intelligence officers not become policy advocates; to do so would make the objectivity and credibility of all intelligence suspect in the eyes of the recipients. In short, he set an example of what it takes to be a dedicated public servant and the consummate intelligence professional.
And on Iraq, we saw a Director who did not shrink from conveying bad news to policymakers when the war began going badly, and who now has the courage to acknowledge errors that were made and accept the responsibility that belongs to him and the intelligence community he led.
None of us would argue that the CIA’s record or Mr. Tenet’s is perfect. The CIA is a human institution; Mr. Tenet was just one man directing the nation’s intelligence operations during the most tumultuous period in recent history. But the record is dramatically better than the above referenced letter indicates.
Intelligence and the issues of recent years are too complex to deal with in the emotional sound bites we’ve heard in the last few days. We suggest that everyone take a deep breath, read the book in its entirety, and weigh it thoughtfully against all the other things that have been written and said. It is doubtful that Mr. Tenet expected any more than that in writing this account, but that thoughtful debate has yet to begin.
Ambassador Cofer Black
John O. Brennan
Ambassador Henry A. Crumpton
Robert L. Grenier
The Honorable John E. McLaughlin