Boy George and George Tenet made the Drudge Report Sunday, both in manners I’m sure they hadn’t planned on. It’s hard to say which story is more appalling, but it’s easy to say which is more serious – Tenet’s. This is the former DCI we’re talking about here. Is he a moron or a liar or both? Any of those three answers is disconcerting but they are the only conclusions you can draw from this:
THE WEEKLY STANDARD has now learned of a second, more stunning error in Tenet’s book (which is due to appear in bookstores tomorrow). According to Michiko Kakutani’s review in Saturday’s Times,
On the day after 9/11, he [Tenet] adds, he ran into Richard Perle, a leading neoconservative and the head of the Defense Policy Board, coming out of the White House. He says Mr. Perle turned to him and said: “Iraq has to pay a price for what happened yesterday. They bear responsibility.”
Here’s the problem: Richard Perle was in France on that day, unable to fly back after September 11. In fact Perle did not return to the United State until September 15. Did Tenet perhaps merely get the date of this encounter wrong? Well, the quote Tenet ascribes to Perle hinges on the encounter taking place September 12: “Iraq has to pay a price for what happened yesterday.” And Perle in any case categorically denies to THE WEEKLY STANDARD ever having said any such thing to Tenet, while coming out of the White House or anywhere else.
This is something much disturbing than mere forgetfulness on Tenet’s part. It is also almost ludicrously poor editing by his publishers HarperCollins. (And they say blogs don’t have fact-checkers!) And how embarrassing is a gaffe like this to the CIA themselves, who are supposed to vet all works of former employees.
The best of the three awful choices above, alas, is that Tenet is a liar. Intelligence agents, as even those of us whose knowledge only comes from LeCarré novels know, are sometimes called up to prevaricate. But they are supposed to do it well. Tenet lies like a nitwit, if that’s what he was doing.
My conclusion: an inept organization was led by a stupefyingly inept man.