EX-CIA DIRECTOR GEORGE TENET SAYS THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION'S USE OF HIS "SLAM DUNK" COMMENT AS THE REASON WE WENT TO WAR WAS DISINGENUOUS, DISHONORABLE AND RUINED HIS REPUTATION AND CAREER -- "60 MINUTES"
In His First Network Television Interview, He Explains the Famous "Slam Dunk"
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 Scott Pelley in his first network television interview. The interview will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday, April 29 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
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," he says.
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," says Tenet.