The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Friday, April 27, 2007

Tenet: "Slam Dunk" Comment Misused

Tenet: "Slam Dunk" Comment Misused

April 26, 2007(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."


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