Skip to comments.Tenet: "Slam Dunk" Comment Misused
Posted on 04/26/2007 6:24:24 PM PDT by FreedomPoster
(CBS) Ex-CIA Director George Tenet says the way the Bush administration has used his now famous "slam dunk" comment which he admits saying in reference to making the public case for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is both disingenuous and dishonorable.
It also ruined his reputation and his career, he tells 60 Minutes Scott Pelley in his first network television interview. Pelley's report will be broadcast Sunday, April 29, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
The phrase "slam dunk" didn't refer to whether Saddam Hussein actually had WMDs, says Tenet; the CIA thought he did. He says he was talking about what information could be used to make that case when he uttered those words. "We can put a better case together for a public case. That's what I meant," explains Tenet.
Months later, when no WMDs were found in Iraq, someone leaked the story to Washington Post editor Bob Woodward, who then wrote about a Dec. 21, 2002, White House meeting in which the CIA director reportedly "rose up, threw his arms in the air [and said,] 'It's a slam dunk case.' " Tenet says it was a passing comment, made well after major decisions had already been made to mobilize the nation for war.
The leak effectively made him a scapegoat for the invasion and ended his career.
"At the end of the day, the only thing you have is your reputation built on trust and your personal honor and when you don't have that anymore, well, there you go," Tenet tells Pelley.
He says he doesn't know who leaked it but says there were only a handful of people in the room.
"It's the most despicable thing that ever happened to me," Tenet says. "You don't do this. You don't throw somebody overboard just because it's a deflection. Is that honorable? It's not honorable to me."
Tenet says to have the president base his entire decision to go to war on such a remark is unbelievable.
"So a whole decision to go to war, when all of these other things have happened in the run-up to war? You make mobilization decisions, you've looked at war plans," says Tenet. "I'll never believe that what happened that day informed the president's view or belief of the legitimacy or the timing of this war. Never!"
Tenet says what bothers him most is that senior administration officials like Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice continue using "slam dunk" as a talking point.
"And the hardest part of all this has been just listening to this for almost three years, listening to the vice president go on 'Meet the Press' on the fifth year [anniversary] of 9/11 and say, 'Well, George Tenet said slam dunk' as if he needed me to say 'slam dunk' to go to war with Iraq," he tells Pelley. "And you listen to that and they never let it go. I mean, I became campaign talk. I was a talking point. 'Look at the idiot [who] told us and we decided to go to war.' Well, let's not be so disingenuous Let's everybody just get up and tell the truth. Tell the American people what really happened."
In the broadcast, Tenet says the intelligence extracted from terror suspects in the agency's "High Value Detainee" program, which includes so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques," was more valuable than all the other terror intelligence gathered by the FBI, the National Security Agency and the CIA.
The nation's former top spy denies that any torture took place, but tells Pelley that the program saved lives and allowed the government to foil terror plots.
The High Value Detainee program uses "enhanced" techniques said to include sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme temperatures, and water boarding, in which suspects reportedly are restrained as a steady stream of water is poured over their faces, causing a severe gag reflex and a terrifying fear of drowning.
In Sunday's interview, Pelley challenges Tenet on the "enhanced interrogations," a topic that gets little play in his much-anticipated book, "At the Center of the Storm."
"Here's what I would say to you, to the Congress, to the American people, to the president of the United States: I know that this program has saved lives. I know we've disrupted plots," he tells Pelley. "I know this program alone is worth more than the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency put together, have been able to tell us."
The new program for interrogation came after the 9/11 attacks. When pressed by Pelley about whether interrogations included water boarding, Tenet insists he does not talk about techniques, and that what he means by "enhanced interrogation" is not torture. Whatever it is, it's justified in his mind.
"We don't torture people," he says. "I want you to listen to me. The context is it's post-9/11. I've got reports of nuclear weapons in New York City, apartment buildings that are gonna be blown up, planes that are gonna fly into airports all over again, plot lines that I don't know. I don't know what's going on inside the United States, and I'm struggling to find out where the next disaster is going to occur. Everybody forgets one central context of what we lived through: the palpable fear that we felt on the basis of the fact that there was so much we did not know."
When 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured in a raid in Pakistan, the "enhanced interrogations" apparently were a surprise to him. According to Tenet, the captured terrorist told CIA interrogators, "I'll talk to you guys when you take me to New York and I can see my lawyer." Instead, he reportedly was flown around the world, kept in secret prisons and water-boarded. Tenet repeated his denial again and again: "Let me say that again to you. We don't torture people. OK?"
But when asked by Pelley why the "enhanced interrogation" techniques were necessary, Tenet says, "Because these are people who will never, ever, ever tell you a thing. These are people who know who's responsible for the next terrorist attack [who] wouldn't blink an eyelash about killing you, your family, me and my family and everybody in this town."
When Pelley presses, asking whether he lost sleep over the interrogations, Tenet says, "Of course you lose sleep over it. You're on new territory."
If that’s his explanation, then I don’t see why he’s not apologizing for not making himself clear. Doesn’t seem like it’s the Bush Administration’s fault.
What a sniveling weasel.
You are far too kind.
George Tenet, ex-CIA Director - can’t believe the President took HIS opinion on Iraqi intention and led our nation to war - and now George expects us to weep with him over HIS ruined reputation? Cry me a river!
Anyone got a small violin?
The DUers have been saying for days that Tenet was going to claim he never said “Slam Dunk” and have taken it to mean that Tenet would claim that Cheney and Bush invented all the evidence.
Now he’s saying that the CIA did think Hussein had WMDs.
Guess they’ll claim that Tenet sold out.
It seems to me the MSM/DBM have been obsessed with the “slam dunk” comment, not the Bush administration.
Kerry has been helping him with the nuance issues getting ready for the book.
I wonder if this little gem will actually make it into th 60 minutes broadcast?
He meant a "slam dunk" case could be made to the public that Sadaam had WMD.
Can anyone tell me the significant difference?
Well, I forgot to mention that he is a backstabbing double-crossing self-serving blowhard. Bush has been nothing but kind to him, praising him at every turn, giving him the medal of freedom. And the SOB sicked the BS Valerie Plame thing on him as his private confidential thank you note, and now has vented his vain and pompous spleen in this score-settling self portrait of himself as selfless hero who did no wrong, and can’t accept responsibility for the obvious boners he did commit.
Total crock, total poseur revealing himself unworthy of the position he held.
I mentioned on an earlier thread that the only reason 60 Minutes (one of the BS Channels), is that somewhere he bashes the Bush Administration and by extension, Donald Rumsfeld, and/or Dick Cheney.
No way would 60 Minutes EVER have anyone on from the Bush Administration unless he/she bashed President Bush!
That has been my impression from day one!
Thank you for saying what was on my mind.
Only you said it better.
Tenet is the poster boy for why you should never accept the previous administration’s key players. Their loyalty is suspect.
The new tone that Bush hoped for was wasted on little men such as the Dems and Tenet.
From Jay Garner blaming Bremer to Colin Powell's people knocking Cheney's people to Tenet's begging-off of responsibility to military personnel's ceaseless complaints against Rumsfeld, it was a 576-page blame game. On that theme, the gist of Tenet's claims here were recited in Denial.
But however important Tenet was to the president's decision, the fact is that, as the CIA director, he absolutely assured the president of the United States that a dangerous, America-hating dictator had WMD. And he had the misfortune to do it memorably.
I expect nothing less from a Clinton appointee.
He was a useful idiot. By uttering Its a slam dunk, and being a Clintoon appointee, he gives Bush/Cheney a CIA get out of jail free card in the upcoming impeachment trials. By cooking the intel, Tenet is responsible for misleading the Congress and the nation, not Bush/Cheney.
Tenet’s book as well as the Woodward book, are cuationary tales by people who blame others. You’ll notice that Condi never spoke with anyone.
Be Seeng You,
This is such utter BS I can smell it through the my broadband.
That the "CIA thought he did" IS a slamdunk in regards to whether they gave Bush a rational basis to move forward on pressing Iraq to comply and then eventually ending the 12-year ceasefire and recommencing military action. Of course WMD was not the only reason - numerous violations/ignoring of various provisions from the original ceasefire over twelve years was more than enough to justify action and Tenet admits as much.
Tenet is playing a semantical game where he knows W can't counter by producing notes of the meetings without comprimising national secrets and at the same time diminishing executive privilege. If the case to made to the public was a slamdunk then the judgement of the actual intelligence should obviously match. Otherwise Tenet is essentially saying - "We've got a slam dunk public case that the actual intelligence doesn't verify."
What a pathetic person.
He didn’t “cook” the intel—It was consistent with the intel reports from around the world. But his complaint is stupid. And he was a rotten director of a corrupt, failing agency.
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