As we continue to wait for the White House to finally release the heavily redacted version of the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s CIA torture report (the full report is over 6,300 pages and cost $40 million to produce), it appears that those who are likely to take the blame are already preparing their response. As has already leaked out over the past few months, the report will show how the program went further than people expected, that it basically uncovered no terrorist plots and that the CIA regularly lied to Congress about the nature of the program and its impact. The CIA, led by current boss John Brennan, has hit back against these conclusions, but it appears that those who were actually in power during the torture program are even more worried. Former CIA boss George Tenet, who was already considered something of a disgrace for the CIA’s intelligence failures prior to invading Iraq, is apparently working hard behind the scenes to coordinate an attack on the credibility of the report — because it pretty clearly is going to attack his credibility.
Just after the Senate Intelligence Committee voted in April to declassify hundreds of pages of a withering report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s detention and interrogation program, C.I.A. Director John O. Brennan convened a meeting of the men who had played a role overseeing the program in its seven-year history.
The spies, past and present, faced each other around the long wooden conference table on the seventh floor of the C.I.A.’s headquarters in Northern Virginia: J. Cofer Black, head of the agency’s counterterrorism center at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks; the undercover officer who now holds that job; and a number of other former officials from the C.I.A.’s clandestine service. Over the speakerphone came the distinctive, Queens-accented voice of George J. Tenet.
Over the past several months, Mr. Tenet has quietly engineered a counterattack against the Senate committee’s voluminous report, which could become public next month.
Apparently Tenet and others demanded early access to the report, and eventually Dianne Feinstein, the White House and those former CIA officials negotiated a deal letting them read the report over in James Clapper’s offices. The NY Times report also details how Brennan is basically a Tenet lackey whose rise through the ranks occurred under Tenet — making it more likely that Brennan wants to protect the reputation of his former boss.
We’ll see how this eventual “response” comes out, but given the initial leaks from the report, it sounds like it’s going to be fairly devastating, and make a further mockery of Tenet. As the report linked above also notes, back in 2007 Tenet got angry at a 60 Minutes interviewer and started wagging his finger at the correspondent, while insisting “We don’t torture people!”
Wagging a finger at the correspondent, Scott Pelley, Mr. Tenet said over and over, “We don’t torture people.”
“No, listen to me. No, listen to me. I want you to listen to me,” he went on. “Everybody forgets one central context of what we lived through: The palpable fear that we felt on the basis of that fact that there was so much we did not know. I know that this program has saved lives. I know we’ve disrupted plots.”
It’s pretty easy to say that when no one can fact-check you. But it appears that the report is going to point out that almost none of what Tenet said was true. No wonder he’s so concerned about leading the attack on the report.