Does Tenet Paint True Picture of Post Sept. 11? In his book, At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA, former CIA director George Tenet defends himself and his agency against criticism stemming from the Sept. 11 attacks and flawed pre-war intelligence. Guests look at Tenet's claims and the counterclaims.
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Does Tenet Paint True Picture of Post Sept. 11?

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

There are few figures more controversial than George Tenet, who served seven years as director of Central Intelligence under President Clinton and the current President Bush. His tenure included 9/11, the war in Afghanistan, and the invasion of Iraq.

In a new book and in a round of media appearances to publicize it, Tenet tries to explain what he got right, what he got wrong, and why he believes he and the CIA are unfairly blamed for not connecting the dots before 9/11 and for presenting the case for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as a slum dunk.

Tenet argues that the president and vice president resolved to topple Saddam Hussein no matter what the intelligence reported and that then National Security adviser Condoleezza Rice ignored his warnings about al-Qaida in the summer of 2001.

Tenet's critics claim the book is self-serving and misleading. A half dozen former CIA officers released an angry letter to him today, calling his book an admission of failed leadership.

Later in the hour, our opinion page, writer E.J. Graff claims that dispatches from the mommy wars have been greatly exaggerated by the media. But first we'll look at George Tenet's claims and the counterclaims. Was the former CIA director a scapegoat or is this a cynical attempt to restore a tattered reputation and sell some books?

Join the conversation, 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK; email is talk@npr.org. You can also join us on our blog, that's at npr.org/blogofthenation. We'll hear from two of Tenet's former colleagues, a critic and a supporter. But we begin here in studio 3A with Jonathan Landay, the national security and intelligence correspondent from McClatchy. Nice to have you back.

Mr. JONATHAN LANDAY (McClatchy Company): Thank you for having me.

CONAN: And after hearing the interviews and what Mr. Tenet had to say, what questions would you have for the former director of Central Intelligence?

Mr. LANDAY: Well, I'd like to know about the way they put the case or the so-called case for weapons for mass destruction together. There are a lots of unanswered questions in there having to do with the idea that Saddam was importing the famous aluminum tubes to build centrifuges for a nuclear weapons program, the forging of the letter that alleged that Iraq was trying to buy yellow cake uranium in the African country of Niger, and various other questions as well.

Let me preface all this by saying I haven't read the book. I've leafed through it. I got my copy this morning. I've leafed through it. And I think what you have to do with what Tenet is writing about is divide it into two - at least for me, I divide it into two parts. One part is the weapons of mass destruction. There's absolutely no doubt that the CIA got this really wrong, and if you - and it's extraordinary, the way they put that so-called national intelligence estimate together in October of 2002.

I've talked to former intelligence officials who say this is - this just is one of the worst jobs they've ever seen. But then you have to - on the other side of the ledger - put the question of links between Iraq and al-Qaida. On that side, which was one of the other justifications that the administration gave for invading Iraq, the CIA got it right on that one, and they got it right repeatedly, beginning immediately after 9/11 in all the way through a series of subsequent reports. And one has to ask - that for me leads to the prime question, which is why did George Tenet tolerate what was going on to the extent that he did, and was complicit in part of it, to a great extent? Why didn't he say I won't be part of this and step aside?

CONAN: There are other questions also about the run-up to 9/11 and that famous meeting he says he has with Condoleezza Rice in which he says there are going to be attacks, multiple targets will be hit, it will be very bad, we should take preemptive action now in Afghanistan.

Mr. LANDAY: Absolutely, and in fact he's not the first person, former senior official from this administration, to talk about the failure of the top policymakers to focus the way they needed them to on al-Qaida. We have former National Security Council senior director Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism chief at the White House, who has said the very same thing, that he was pulling his hair out to get the attention of senior Bush administration officials to focus on the question of al-Qaida before 9/11. So you have that aspect as well.

And plus, there were some warnings that they got. I believe, and I've written about this, there was some intelligence they got, I believe from Britain. There was talking about the intelligence that the al-Qaida was - that they had intelligence that al-Qaida might hijack a jetliner, etc., etc. And then there was some National Security Agency intercepts prior to 9/11. But - all of which adds up to the fact that there was no, as - I think even George Tenet will concede, and as I think he's said on Capitol Hill - there was no specific warning that there are going to be airplanes that are going to be used as flying bombs and flown into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.

CONAN: There is also - and this has to be on the credit side of the ledger -the CIA-led war in Afghanistan, which toppled the Taliban in surprisingly short time.

Mr. LANDAY: Well, you know, I think Donald Rumsfeld will probably dispute talking about it as a CIA-led war. There were special forces involved in that as well. But yes, it was for the first several years quite a success in toppling the Taliban, bringing President Karzai and his administration in.

And then, even before - and I've been told this by senior officers who are involved - even before they had finished disposing of the remnants of the Taliban and had allowed Bin Laden and the hardcore al-Qaida to get to escape, the administration began diverting very important resources - intelligence resources…

CONAN: Special forces.

Mr. LANDAY: Special forces, you know, as the eyes in the skies, away from Afghanistan, money away from Afghanistan, energy away from Afghanistan, time away from Afghanistan, to the invasion of Iraq. And today what we have - and I've spent 20 years covering Afghanistan, in and out for the last 20 years -what we have today is what I would like to refer as Iraq on a slow burn.

CONAN: Another question that people are asking is why it took George Tenet three years after he left the CIA to say these things.

Mr. LANDAY: Well, I think, it takes a while to write a book, for of all. Second of all, I believe, you know, I'm not the authority on this, I believe there was an effort to sell a first draft, or there was some kind of first draft. It didn't go over very well, so they had to go back and rewrite it. And then it had to go through the CIA vetting process, which is extensive. And so I think that's why it took long.

CONAN: Yeah, but if these are questions of national security, the interest, the importance of them - you have to wait to write a book?

Mr. LANDAY: Good - I mean I can't, you know, I can't speak for George Tenet. You'll have to ask him that.

CONAN: Well, much of the criticism leveled Tenet has come from inside the intelligence community, and joining us now by phone from his home in Virginia is Michael Scheuer, the founding head of he CIA's Bin Laden unit and author of "Imperial Hubris" and "Through Our Enemies' Eyes," and it's nice to have you in the program today.

Mr. MICHAEL SCHEUER (Author): Thank you, sir.

CONAN: And you say we should not buy George Tenet's attempt to let himself off the hook. I mean he does say that he got some things badly wrong.

Mr. SCHEUER: Well, he got things deliberately wrong. If the agency told him that this disaster was going to happen in Iraq and he didn't resign over that after he was ignored, I think he definitely got that wrong. And with all respect for Mr. Landay, nothing was more wrong in American foreign policy than Tenet's prescription for going to Afghanistan. He guaranteed the president that a few special forces and a few intelligence people and lots of money would carry the day there, and of course it didn't. We won the cities, which always fall, and now we're losing the war. So I don't think there's much credit here for Mr. Tenet.

CONAN: And of course he himself admits the forces were too light at Tora Bora to capture the top leaders of al-Qaida.

Mr. SCHEUER: Well, absolutely right. And too light - and that's the general's fault. You know, they subcontracted to people who fought along side Bin Laden against the Soviets. This is not rocket science, sir. We could have stayed out of Iraq and won in Afghanistan with a minimum amount of intelligence. We happen to - intelligence in the sense of brainpower. And people didn't even apply minimum brainpower to these issues.

Mr. LANDAY: Michael, I'm in complete agreement with you on all of that.

CONAN: But let me ask, I mean, to be fair, the switch of resources from Afghanistan to Iraq - that wasn't George Tenet's decision, that was the president's decision.

Mr. SCHEUER: Well, but there wasn't enough resources in Afghanistan to start with. You know, the problem is the whole structure in Afghanistan was wrong from the start. The Marines put more people on Iwo Jima, which is a flyspeck, than we've put in Afghanistan, which is the size of Texas. What are we - you know, what kind of a delusion is that?

CONAN: What was your experience like with George Tenet? What kind of boss was he?

Mr. SCHEUER: He's a very detail-oriented man, a very lively and garrulous -very detail-oriented man. I just think that he never made the transfer from being a cheerleader to being a leader, sir.

CONAN: Give us an example of what you mean by that.

Mr. SCHEUER: Well, I think it's very clear that in his book, Mr. Tenet tacks back and forth. He played down the intelligence that would have allowed Mr. Clinton to kill Osama bin Laden, and he played up the intelligence that allowed President Bush to go to war. And so you're kind of betwixt and between. What kind of a fellow have we got here?

CONAN: So he told people what he thought they wanted to hear.

Mr. SCHEUER: It seems to me that's right, and looking through his book, you know, he says he's defending the agents, these officers and the agents, his manpower and womanpower. And at the end of the day, I think few directors have done more to damage the Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. intelligence community than George Tenet.

CONAN: And in terms of, well, his demonstrable mistakes?

Mr. SCHEUER: Well, in terms of keeping quiet for four years now, and that's saying to the American people that the agency had it right. No matter whether Saddam had weapons or not, the point was the agency said that the war wasn't worth it because of the disaster that would ensue.

CONAN: And additionally, the question about links to al-Qaida and of course the question about the yellow cake in Niger.

Mr. SCHEUER: There's a lot of things out there, and only Mr. Tenet really knows why he behaved as he behaved. The point of the matter is, though, that his book is rather designed, from what I've read so far, to be not self-serving but to pout himself up as a martyr. And I don't buy that at all, sir.

CONAN: We have just a few seconds before we have to take a break, but he says that famous slam-dunk line was really taken out of context. He was talking about presenting - making a better case for weapons of mass destruction would be, he said, a slam-dunk.

Mr. SCHEUER: Well, you know, I wasn't there. I don't know what context he used it in. I just - that seems to me to be a bit of ephemera, like this whole business about the medal of freedom. The point was, he had the information, this war was entirely based on intelligence, claiming that intelligence showed Saddam was guilty of any number of things. Only Mr. Tenet could have went to the American people and told them that wasn't the case.

CONAN: We're talking with Michael Scheuer, the founding head of the CIA's bin Laden unit and with Jonathan Landay of McClatchy. We'll be back with your questions for them when we return from a break. I'm Neal Conan, it's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. We're talking today about "At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA." It's a new book by former CIA director George Tenet. In it, he argues that the White House preparation for the war in Iraq was inadequate and accuses the Bush administration of not listening to his warnings. Our guests are Jonathan Landay, national security and intelligence correspondent for McClatchy newspapers and Michael Scheuer, the founding head of the CIA's bin Laden unit. Of course, you're welcome to join us. 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK, e-mail is as well.

And what questions do you have about George Tenet's version of events around 9/11, Afghanistan, and the run up to the war in Iraq? Let's see if we can get a caller on the line. And this is Justin, Justin calling us from Chicago.

JUSTIN (Caller): Good afternoon. It's kind of hard asking a question after the general from the CIA who's so incredibly knowledgeable. I just wanted to point out that…

CONAN: I can answer, because I don't know anything.

(Soundbite of laughter)

JUSTIN: I don't feel so bad.

CONAN: Good.

JUSTIN: My understanding is that the Clinton administration during that transition really went out of their way to try to impart the information about bin Laden, about al-Qaida, about a major terrorist attack in the United States, and I worry that that's kind of lost, because Mr. Tenet, obviously, wasn't a perfect person, I'll have to pick up all these books and read them - but there was a drumbeat. And I think that it's important to point out that somebody along the line was trying to tell the Bush administration that this was going on. I'll stop now and listen to further response.

CONAN: Okay, Justin. Michael Scheuer, is that an accurate statement?

Mr. SCHEUER: Oh, I think that's absolutely right, and the Clinton administration was very concerned that if Bush didn't take care of bin Laden, it would come back to their detriment. I think one of the startling things about Mr. Tenet's book is how pro-Democratic it is and how anti-Republican it is. I carry no brief, as you know, for the Bush administration, but honestly, only Mr. Clinton had the chance to kill Osama bin Laden and had good information and solid intelligence that would have allowed him to try to do that. And Mr. Tenet lets him skate completely.

So I think one of the really discreditable things is clearly, this is a very partisan book by the former head of the D.C. - former head of the intelligence community.

CONAN: You said in an op-ed piece that you thought, in a way, he was returning to his first political home, the Democratic Party.

Mr. SCHEUER: Well, certainly, you know, for an intelligence officer to know the quality of the information we had regarding bin Laden and for Mr. Tenet to say that it was never enough to have made an attempt to go after bin Laden, that can only be seen as an apology for Mr. Clinton's fecklessness when it came to protecting Americans.

CONAN: Jonathan Landay, did you want to…

Mr. LANDAY: Actually, I wanted to say that actually, the Bush administration did have an opportunity to go - to get Mr. bin Laden, and that was at Tora Bora.

Mr. SCHEUER: Exactly right.

Mr. LANDAY: They knew he was there, they had 1,800 Marines in the desert of Helmand province, hundreds of miles away; and instead of using them to shut off the - escape through - the border to Pakistan, they hired three local Afghan warlords, one of whom took an enormous amount of money and allowed Mr. bin Laden to flee.

Mr. SCHEUER: And let me add, Jonathan is exactly right on that. And the agency, when they did the traces on the three warlords, pointed out to the administration and to the military that at least one of those warlords had fought in conjunction with Osama bin Laden against the Soviets in the 1980s.

CONAN: Justin, thanks very much for the call. Let's see if we can go to another caller in Chicago. This is Craig.

CRAIG (Caller): Hi. Thanks for having me.

CONAN: Go ahead, please.

CRAIG: I wanted to know if - I assume they've read the article by Seymour Hersh called "The Stovepipe," I think it was in October of 2005. And stovepipe referring to the system through which intelligence is vetted so that…

CONAN: It wasn't shared between agencies and different people didn't know - the right hand didn't know what the left was doing, or the feeder or anything else.

CRAIG: Right, and the intent is, of the stovepipe, is so that administration officials don't get that information. And Hersh made claims in that article that the Bush administration purposely dismantled that stovepipe, as it's called, in order to get raw information, in order to - that would fit their goals.

CONAN: Oh, this was the Feith group at the Defense Department?

CRAIG: Right.

CONAN: Okay.

CRAIG: And what I wanted to know is - I remember going back and reading it no too long ago, I'm thinking how prophetic the article was in my opinion, from what information I've gotten. And I wanted to know from your guest if they know more that would support or deny some of the claims he made of that actually happening.

CONAN: Michael Scheuer, I guess you would know more about that?

Mr. SCHEUER: Well, I can only give you what I saw from the inside, and in my mind, the intelligence was largely irrelevant in terms of what Mr. Wolfowitz and Mr. Rumsfeld, the president, Mr. Cheney wanted to do. They were going to war one way or another, and Mr. Feith produced a lot of intelligence that was helpful to that really silly notion. But again, Mr. Tenet could have been the one that stepped up and put a brake on it. Mr. Powell, Secretary Powell, could not have delivered his briefing at the U.N. had Mr. Tenet spoken up, and I really think that this is one occasion when a man could have made a difference.

CONAN: Jonathan?

Mr. LANDAY: I think instead - I would put it differently, because I did a lot of writing about this and looked at this question even before Seymour Hersh did. And what they did was, instead of a - breaking down stovepipes, what they did is create their own. They created their own intelligence system, where not only did they use existing stovepipes to obtain raw intelligence collected by the Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA but also their own from people like Ahmad Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress, and this stuff was going directly into the office of the vice president and Doug Feith's office.

But Michael is absolutely right. They were going - they had made the decision, they were going to war. But what they still needed was material to make a public case. This is what they needed to do, so irrespective of what the real intelligence was saying, they needed information that they could then trot out to the public and make the case regarding the war against Saddam. And they were literally obsessed with doing this, which is what led them into doing the kinds of things and creating the kinds of phony intelligence reports that they did.

CONAN: Craig, thanks very much for the call.

CRAIG: Thank you.

CONAN: All right. Let's see if we can go to Kathleen, Kathleen with us from Athens, Ohio.

KATHLEEN (Caller): Yeah, hi. In regard to Feith and the Office of Special Plans, I'm sure hoping - many of us are sure hoping - that Senator Rockefeller really completes phase two…

CONAN: Let's stay on George Tenet for now, Kathleen.

KATHLEEN: Okay. Well, I'm - the question I wanted to ask about as the 16 words. I had read that Tenet had demanded that those words be taken out, and that Stephen Hadley had put them back in.

CONAN: That's George Tenet, director of the CIA, the 16 words referring to the yellow cake in Niger and the so-called British report of Iraq's efforts to buy uranium in Africa - this, of course, the whole origin of the Valerie Plame incident.

KATHLEEN: Correct. So (unintelligible) that, and I'd also like to ask Bill Moyers, if he's in earshot, to do a present-time report on how the spin is being repeated about Iran so that he doesn't have to do a documentary in two years after they've pre-empted the…

CONAN: Let's stay on George Tenet, okay? Michael Scheuer, let me ask you about the 16 words on 60 Minutes last night. George Tenet told CBS TV that he had, in fact, taken words like that out of two previous speeches and missed this one because he didn't read it and turned it over to an executive assistant.

Mr. SCHEUER: That's pretty convenient, isn't it? That's kind of a trademark of Clintonians - blame the subordinates. And so I, you know, the boss is ultimately the boss. He didn't do it, it's his fault. To blame a subordinate is rather unmanly, I think.

CONAN: Thanks for the call, Kathleen. And let me ask you, before we let you go, Michael Scheuer - this idea that at the end of that interview on "60 Minutes," George Tenet said look, when history is written - and presumably when all of the inside facts are come out - and he's willing to be judged by that, of course we all have to be willing to be judged by that - but he thinks the ledger will weigh that his assets far outweigh his defects. Do you agree?

Mr. SCHEUER: Well, he presided over 9/11, the failure to kill bin Laden and the invasion of Iraq. I'm not sure; it would take an awful lot to outweigh that. I also have to say that all of these men - Richard Clarke and George Tenet and Republican memoirists also - what they count on is the intelligence documents never being released to the public. They can tell their story however they want to say it because the documents are so classified that until the next century, historians won't be able to check their words, and then they'll be long dead.

CONAN: Thanks very much, Michael Scheuer.

Mr. SCHEUER: Sure.

CONAN: I appreciate your time today. Michael Scheuer was the founding head of the CIA's bin Laden unit and the author if "Imperial Hubris" and "Through Our Enemies' Eyes." He joined us by phone from his home in Virginia.

Let me ask you that same question, Jonathan Landay. What is history going to say about the tenure of George Tenet?

Mr. LANDAY: I think Michael's got it right, and he left a couple of other incidents out: the East Africa embassy bombings, the bombing of the Cole.

CONAN: USS Cole. Oh, yes.

Mr. LANDAY: And I was quite amazed at how long George Tenet stayed around. One of the things he points out on his book is the relationship he had with George W. Bush. And I think - to a great extent - you know, Bush likes the kind of guy that Tenet is. And there was a camaraderie there that I think, A, Tenet was looking to keep his job and B, George Bush liked him, liked the kind of guy he was and he made sure that he kept that job…

CONAN: A Clinton appointee, after all.

Mr. LANDAY: …absolutely, in the midst of people who were gunning for him, people in the vice president's office, people in the Defense Department. And he decided to stay and preside over all of this, and I think it will take a great deal to rectify.

CONAN: Jonathan Landay covers national security and intelligence for McClatchy, with us here in Studio 3-A. Thanks very much.

Mr. LANDAY: My pleasure.

CONAN: Now, another view. From 1999 to 2004, John Brennan worked closely with George Tenet, first as his Chief of Staff and as deputy executive director of the CIA. He's now president and CEO of The Analysis Corporation, which does counterterrorism analysis and information technology for government agencies. He joins us by phone now from his home - his office, excuse me - in Virginia. Thanks very much for being with us.

Mr. JOHN BRENNAN (Former Deputy Executive Director and Chief of Staff, CIA; CEO, Analysis Corporation): Thank you for having me.

CONAN: And I'm going to ask you that same question. When the assets and the defects are added up by historians, where do you think George Tenet will come out?

Mr. BRENNAN: Well, I think George did preside over the intelligence community at a very challenging time. And between 9/11 and Iraq, there were a lot of things that were going on. George did, I think, a tremendous job in terms of rebuilding the morale of CIA, building up intelligence capabilities, doing a tremendous a job in responding to al-Qaida after 9/11. So I think when the historians review the record, I think George is going to come out looking quite good.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. He did say in the interview with "60 Minutes" last night that - and I'm sure he says in the book that he was head of the CIA at a time when they have stopped active plans to attack the United States.

Mr. BRENNAN: Yes. You know, when George took over the CIA, the operational capabilities had been, in fact, degraded. The amount of training that was underway was reduced significantly. And so George had to build up those capabilities. And prior to 9/11, I think he was trying to put in place that intelligence warning in indicators system that could identify those threats that were coming. So sitting on top of the intelligence community is a very demanding and challenging job. George acknowledges that he made mistakes. Looking back on his history, I think he would like to have done things a little bit differently, but at the end of the day, I think he contributed significantly to American security.

CONAN: We're talking about George Tenet's new book, his argument about intelligence before 9/11, before the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

John Brennan, in the run up to the meeting - run up to 9/11, Condoleezza Rice has responded to some of George Tenet's criticism by saying that meeting where he says he told me to - we needed to act down preemptively in Afghanistan that attacks were coming - how come he did not make that same statement to the 9/11 Commission?

Mr. BRENNAN: Well, I think there was a lot of information that was conveyed to the 9/11 Commission, and much of it was written up in their report. I think George did, in fact, point out that he had this session with Condoleezza Rice along with Cofer Black, the chief of the Counterterrorism Center. And he was trying to basically provide her a sense that the warning lights were blinking red, and that action needed to be taken because the intelligence was rather strong that al-Qaida was going to hit us.

You know, quite frankly - and looking back on that time - the system itself was very - not very well, sort of, positioned in order to respond to such a threat warning. We have a much a better system in place today. If we had the same system in place, I think there would have been quite a few more actions that were taken - not just preemptively against al-Qaida and Afghanistan, but putting in place those security measures and safeguards here in the States that might, in fact, have prevented some of those hijackers from coming in to the States, as well as being detected once they were here.

CONAN: If, in fact - well, the CIA did have it right that there were no links between al-Qaida and Iraq, that, in fact, great concerns that the - there would be would drastic consequences from an invasion of Iraq. George Tenet certainly had been criticized for not coming out and saying that in a more vocal manner before these decisions were actually acted upon.

Mr. BRENNAN: Well, I think what George tried to do is to present the president and the senior officials a sense of what the intelligence was related to WMD in Iraq. And I think everybody realized that the intelligence community and worldwide intelligence services had it wrong. Also, whether or not there were links between al-Qaida and Iraq, George and the CIA adamantly opposed efforts to try to enhance the nature of that relationship on the part of some officials within the administration.

But George had to walk a very fine policy line between being an advocate of a certain policy course and presenting objective intelligence. A lot is raised about why didn't George go in and tell the president, Mr. President, invading Iraq is a mistake? You shouldn't do it because of all the implications. But if he did that, he would have been perceived immediately as being an advocate for not going forward. And I think, from that point forward, all of his input to the president and others and all the intelligence he brought forward would have been suspect, because they would have perceived him as trying to push a certain policy course that he had favored, which was to continue with the sanctions.

So, you know, I think as George said in his book and on "60 Minutes," the president never asked him directly. He tried to present the pros and cons. He tried to present the intelligence fairly. George recognizes that the intelligence he provided, it was flawed, which is unfortunate. But to go in there and to bang his fists on the table and say you shouldn't do this - that was a policy decision. The policy makers made that decision. The intelligence did not drive that decision.

CONAN: And…

Mr. BRENNAN: It enabled it, but it didn't drive it.

CONAN: And one final question - a lot of people criticize him sitting behind at Colin Powell's shoulder at the United Nations when Colin Powell presented as fact the estimates that turned out to be so disastrously wrong.

Mr. BRENNAN: Well, an estimate is exactly that - it's an estimate. It's an assessment based on all the information from reliable and…

CONAN: And I don't mean to interrupt, but that's what George Tenet said last night on TV. But, nevertheless, he provided the credibility there for Colin Powell. He says the CIA director is sitting right behind me. His credibility is on the line.

Mr. BRENNAN: Absolutely. And it was on the line. And George, I think, feels badly that the intelligence that was presented, in fact, turned out not to be accurate. So, you know, George was standing behind or sitting behind the intelligence on that day, and the intelligence community believed that there were weapons of mass destruction.

The intelligence community didn't say we must invade or we're going to be attacked by Iraq - no. It was, what is the basis for that decision by the policy makers to go forward with it? Do they have a WMD building? And unfortunately, the estimate was incorrect.

CONAN: John Brennan, thanks very much for your time. We appreciate it.

Mr. BRENNAN: Thank you.

CONAN: John Brennan, former deputy executive director of the CIA, former chief of staff to George Tenet, now president and CEO of The Analysis Corporation. He joined us by phone from his office.

When we come back from a short break, the TALK OF THE NATION Opinion Page. This week, the "Mommy Wars" - is the fight between the briefcase and the diaper bag real, or a hype created by the media? 800-989-8255 - e-mail talk@npr.org. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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