George Tenet | WIKIPEDIA | MAY 22, 2017
George John Tenet (born January 5, 1953) was the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) for the United States Central Intelligence Agency as well as a Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at Georgetown University.
Tenet held the position as the DCI from July 1997 to July 2004, making him the second-longest-serving director in the agency’s history—behind Allen Welsh Dulles—as well as one of the few DCIs to serve under two U.S. presidents of opposing political parties. He played a key role in overseeing the intelligence behind the Iraq War.
In February 2008, he became a managing director at investment bank Allen & Company.
George John Tenet was born on January 5, 1953, in Flushing, Queens, New York City, New York, the son of Greek immigrants Evangelia and John Tenet. His father, a Greek born in southern Albania (Northern Epirus), worked in a coal mine in France before arriving in the United States via Ellis Island just before the Great Depression. His mother was a Greek from Epirus, Greece, who had fled from the communists by stowing away on a British submarine.
Tenet was raised in Little Neck, Queens, where as a teenager, he and his older brother Bill worked as busboys in their family’s diner, the Twentieth Century Diner. Despite Bill and George being fraternal twins, both had different personalities; in his book Ghost Wars, Steve Coll described Bill as “reserved, precise, and studious” (he would later become a cardiologist) and George as “loud, sloppy, and boisterous.” Because of his tendency to talk constantly he was known as “the mouthpiece.” Sol Winder, a family friend and later owner of their diner, said he was “the type of guy who could never keep a secret.” He was also interested in the news; the host of a local current affairs host sent him an autograph in response to Tenet’s letters, calling him “the future editorial page editor of The New York Times.” He played basketball and softball for his Greek Orthodox church, where he was also an altar server.
He attended Public School 94, where he was president of his sixth grade class; Junior High School 67; and Benjamin N. Cardozo High School. In high school he played soccer and edited the school newspaper, graduating in 1971. After studying at the State University of New York at Cortland, Tenet graduated from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in 1976 with a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service (B.S.F.S.) and received a Master of International Affairs degree from Columbia University in 1978.
Tenet is married to A.Stephanie Glakas-Tenet.[a] They have one son, John Michael.
For his first job after graduating, Tenet became research director of the American Hellenic Institute from 1978 to 1979 and worked for the Solar Energy Industries Association as Director of International Programs from then until 1982. He then began working for the Senate, first as a legislative assistant and later as legislative director to former Pennsylvania Senator H.John HeinzIII from 1982 to 1985. He was a staff member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) from 1985 to 1988, then Staff Director of the SSCI from 1988 to 1993. Later, Tenet joined President-elect Bill Clinton‘s national security transition team in November 1992. Clinton appointed Tenet Senior Director for Intelligence Programs at the National Security Council, where he served from 1993 to 1995.
Tenet was appointed Deputy Director of Central Intelligence in July 1995. After John Deutch‘s abrupt resignation in December 1996, Tenet served as acting director. This was followed by the reluctant withdrawal of Anthony Lake, after it became apparent to Lake that his nomination had been successfully blocked by Republicans in Congress. Tenet was then officially appointed Director on July 11, 1997, after a unanimous confirmation vote in the Senate. While the Director of Central Intelligence has been replaced by an incoming administration since Jimmy Carter replaced DCI George H.W. Bush, Tenet served through the end of the Clinton administration and well into the term of George W. Bush. In 1999 the Director declined to reveal the overall budget for intelligence operations (including the CIA) which was a departure from his release the previous two years. This led to criticism from government transparency advocates.
Tenet embarked on a mission to regenerate the CIA, which had fallen on hard times since the end of the Cold War. The number of agents recruited each year had fallen to an all-time low, a 25% decline from the Cold War peak. Tenet appealed to the original mission of the agency, which had been to “prevent another Pearl Harbor“. The trick was to see where danger might come from in the post-Cold War world. Tenet focused on potential problems such as “the transformation of Russia and China”, “rogue states” like North Korea, Iran and Iraq, and terrorism.
1999 Bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade
On May 7, 1999, during the Kosovo War, U.S. bombers struck the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, Serbia with five JDAM precision guided bombs, killing three Chinese reporters and injuring 20 others. The United States claimed the attack was accidental. In testimony before a congressional committee, Tenet later admitted the strike was the only one in the campaign organized and directed by his agency, though he still claimed it was not deliberate. Later analysis has suggested that a 100-yard error in a military targeting database maintained by the Pentagon was not corrected or updated in a timely manner and that other systems intended to prevent such incidents failed to perform as expected. As a result of this and other incidents, systematic changes were made to pre-strike Rules of Engagement (ROE) for U.S. pilots, including checklists verifying target information and coordinates. China has never accepted the United States’ version of events, although Tenet in a published work noted in a bit of black humor that in the prelude to the bombing of Iraq, China had, through unofficial channels, provided the Agency with the exact GPS coordinates of their Embassy in Baghdad so as to ensure the CIA knew the precise location.
Al-Qaeda and the War on Terror
By 1999 al-Qaeda had emerged as a significant terrorist threat. The 1998 bombings of two U.S. African embassies were the latest in a string of attacks on American interests in the west Indian-Ocean region. And in 2000 the USS Cole was bombed in Aden in an attempt to sink her, killing 17 naval personnel.
Bin Laden Plan
In 1999 Tenet put forward a grand “Plan” for dealing with al-Qaeda. In preparation, he selected new leadership for the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center (CTC). He placed Cofer Black in charge of the CTC, and Richard Blee (a “top-flight executive” from Tenet’s own suite) in charge of the CTC’s Bin Laden unit. Tenet assigned the CTC to develop the Plan. The proposals, brought out in September, sought to penetrate Qaeda’s “Afghan sanctuary” with U.S. and Afghan agents, in order to obtain information on and mount operations against Bin Laden’s network. In October, officers from the Bin Laden unit visited northern Afghanistan. Once the Plan was finalized, the Agency created a “Qaeda cell” (whose functions overlapped those of the CTC’s Bin Laden unit) to give operational leadership to the effort.
The CIA concentrated its inadequate financial resources on the Plan, so that at least some of its more modest aspirations were realized. Intelligence collection efforts on bin Laden and al-Qaeda increased significantly from 1999. “By 9/11”, said Tenet, “a map would show that these collection programs and human [reporting] networks were in place in such numbers as to nearly cover Afghanistan”. (But this excluded Bin Laden’s inner circle itself.)
The CIA also experimented with a small remote-controlled reconnaissance aircraft, the Predator, to try to spot Bin Laden in Afghanistan. A series of flights in autumn 2000, overseen by CTC officials and flown by USAF drone pilots from a control room at the CIA’s Langley headquarters, produced probable sightings of the al-Qaeda leader.
Black and others became advocates of arming the Predator with adapted Hellfire anti-tank missiles to try to kill Bin Laden and other Qaeda leaders in targeted killings. But there were both legal and technical issues. Tenet in particular was concerned about the CIA moving back into the business. And a series of live-fire tests in the Great Basin Desert in Nevada in summer 2001 produced mixed results.
Tenet advised cautiously on the matter at a meeting of the Cabinet-level Principals Committee on September 4, 2001. If the Cabinet wanted to empower the CIA to field a lethal drone, Tenet said, “they should do so with their eyes wide open, fully aware of the potential fallout if there were a controversial or mistaken strike”. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice concluded that the armed Predator was required, but evidently not ready. It was agreed to recommend to the CIA to resume reconnaissance flights. The “previously reluctant” Tenet then ordered the Agency to do so. The CIA was authorized to “deploy the system with weapons-capable aircraft”.