George Tenet

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George Tenet

George John Tenet (born January 5, 1953) is a former United States Director of Central Intelligence. He submitted his resignation to the President on June 3, 2004, citing "personal reasons". He served as CIA Director until July 11, 2004, when his deputy director, John McLaughlin became acting Director. He was one of the longest serving Directors of the Agency.


A recipient of the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom on December 14, 2004, Tenet served as the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence from June 1995 until he became Director on July 11, 1997, after a unanimous confirmation vote in the United States Senate. This followed the withdrawal of Anthony Lake, whose nomination had been blocked by Republicans in Congress. While the Director of Central Intelligence is typically replaced when a new administration comes to power, Tenet served through the end of the Clinton administration and well into the term of George W. Bush.

During the 1998 Wye River Middle East peace talks, Tenet threatened to resign if President Clinton pardoned convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard. Some speculate that his independence as DCI is what kept him in the position when the Republican Bush administration came to power.

Long before the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States, Tenet focused on the growing threat of terrorism, particularly from Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist group, and the nuclear threats from North Korea and Iran. On September 15 2001, at Camp David, he presented the Worldwide Attack Matrix, an outline of an anti-terrorism campaign in 80 countries. However, the CIA was unable to prevent the attacks and this is seen as a major failure.

Furthermore, despite Tenet's 2002-12-21 assertion that finding Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in Iraq was "a slam dunk case", the search following the 2003 invasion of Iraq by US, British and international forces has proved unproductive and no major stockpiles of WMD were found following the occupation of the country. The case of the invading governments for a legitimate war against Iraq had been based largely on the threat of WMDs in the hands of Saddam Hussein, supposedly on the strength of reliable intelligence assessments, including evidence that could not itself be made public.
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Tenet (left, in pink tie) briefs George W. Bush in the Oval Office.
Thus a failure subsequently to find any banned weapons or programs became a considerable embarrassment for Tenet and the CIA.

The resignation of both Tenet and CIA Deputy Director James Pavitt in June 2004 is speculated by some to be directly related to this failure to find the WMDs that the United States used to justify invasion. For example, Admiral Stansfield Turner (retired), director of the CIA under President Carter, said (Boston Herald, June 4, 2004): "I think the president feels he's in enough trouble that he's got to begin to cast some of the blame for the morass that we are in Iraq on to somebody else and this was one subtle way to do it."

According to another report, by veteran investigative journalist Bob Woodward in his book Plan of Attack, Tenet privately lent his personal authority to the intelligence reports about WMDs in Iraq. At a meeting in December 2002 he is said to have assured the President that the evidence against Saddam amounted to a "slam dunk case".

Tenet's seven-year long term as CIA director was the second-longest in US history; a resignation so soon before an election, especially one in which intelligence-handling is a major issue, is also unusual. However, President George W. Bush said, "George Tenet did a superb job for America. It was a high honor to work with him, and I'm sorry he left," and that Tenet resigned "for personal reasons" (Reuters, June 5 2004).


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Tenet, the son of Greek immigrants, was raised in Queens, attended public schools, and worked in his family's deli. Tenet holds a Bachelor's degree from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and a Master's degree from the School of International Affairs at Columbia University.

He is married to A. Stephanie Glakas-Tenet. They have a son, John Michael.

External links

Preceded by:
John M. Deutch
Director of Central Intelligence
Succeeded by:
John E. McLaughlin

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