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Thursday, June 03, 2004
 

Analysis: Could A Chalabi Scandal Be Behind Tenet's Surprise Exit?


By J.M. BERGER
INTELWIRE.com


President Bush announced that CIA Director George Tenet has resigned for "personal reasons." (external link)

The CIA said in a statement that Tenet reiterated "personal reasons" in a speech to agency employees. "This is the most difficult decision I have ever had to make," Tenet reportedly said. "And while Washington and the media will put many different faces on the decision, it was a personal decision, and had only one basis -- in fact, the well-being of my wonderful family -- nothing more and nothing less."

Tenet has been under fire for months on several fronts. The CIA has taken criticism for its failure to prevent the 9/11 attacks, and for the evolving scandal over pre-war intelligence claims that Iraq was hoarding weapons of mass destruction.

Secretary of State Colin Powell has said on more than one occasion within the last two weeks that intelligence he cited to justify the invasion of Iraq was flawed. Recently, the CIA's interrogation techniques have also come under close scrutiny in the wake of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal.

Perhaps the most likely explanation has to do with Ahmad Chalabi, an Iraqi nationalist favored by the Pentagon who stands accused of revealing U.S. intel secrets to Iran.

Just hours before Tenet's surprise resignation, National Security Adviser Condi Rice announced that Tenet would personally head an investigation into Chalabi on the basis of unspecified national security concerns. (external link)

Perhaps the most likely explanation has to do with Ahmad Chalabi, an Iraqi nationalist favored by the Pentagon who stands accused of revealing U.S. intel secrets to Iran.

Just hours before Tenet gave Bush his resignation, National Security Adviser Condi Rice announced that Tenet would personally head an investigation into Chalabi on the basis of unspecified national security concerns.

The clear implication of the timing of those two events is that Rice (one of Bush's closest confidantes) did not know Tenet was resigning. Most speculation to date has suggested Tenet's resignation was called for by the president, but the timeline calls that substantially into question.

There are any number of reasons why Tenet might not want to oversee an investigation into Chalabi. Such an investigation is likely to embarrass several high-ranking members of the administration, and embarrassment is only the least of the possible outcomes.

A longtime opponent of Saddam Hussein with a vested interest in overthrowing the Baathist regime, Chalabi is believed to be a major source of the flawed Iraq weapons intelligence. Vice President Dick Cheney has long been a proponent of Chalabi and his intelligence, as has Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.

The CIA has long been considered "politically" opposed to Chalabi (external link), who was recently disowned by the Pentagon as well, on the basis of the Iran allegations.

"I can imagine Tenet is just livid to discover, if this is the case, that someone in or affiliated with the Pentagon had caused this disaster to happen. I can imagine him thinking this was the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak. But this is pure speculation on my part," Washington Post Associate Editor Robert G. Kaiser said in an Internet chat today. (external link)

Chalabi himself launched a virulent attack on Tenet as the news of his departure broke, accusing Tenet of authoring false intelligence on Iraqi WMDs.

"He provided erroneous information about weapons of mass destruction to President Bush which caused his government massive embarrassment in the United Nations and his own country," Chalabi said, as reported by Reuters. (external link)

Chalabi also accused Tenet of providing the intelligence that sparked a high-profile U.S. Army raid of Chalabi's home last month. (external link) If true, Tenet may also have been facing pressure within the administration, given Chalabi's once-favored status at the highest levels.

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