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Ear to the Ground

‘Ex-Chief of C.I.A. Shapes Response to Detention Report’

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Posted on Jul 26, 2014

    George Tenet appears at the Justice Department in summer 2013. AP/Evan Vucci

A tentatively titled and reported New York Times article glimpses former agency director George Tenet’s efforts to suppress and discredit a report accusing “former C.I.A. officials of misleading Congress and the White House” about the agency’s detention and interrogation program.

The article is tentative because the enormous question at its center—whether CIA officials tortured people in the course of the agency’s counterterrorism work—appears only in passing and well into the piece.

The paper reports:

Over the past several months, Mr. Tenet has quietly engineered a counterattack against the Senate committee’s voluminous report, which could become public next month. The effort to discredit the report has set up a three-way showdown among former C.I.A. officials who believe history has been distorted, a White House carefully managing the process and politics of declassifying the document, and Senate Democrats convinced that the Obama administration is trying to protect the C.I.A. at all costs.

… The detention and interrogation program was conceived on [Tenet’s] watch and run by men and women he had put in senior positions. After virtually disappearing from public view since leaving the C.I.A. in 2004 except for a brief period promoting his memoir, Mr. Tenet is working behind the scenes with many of the same people to develop a strategy to challenge the report’s findings. And he is relying on his close relationship with Mr. Brennan to keep him apprised as the report moves through a glacial declassification process. Mr. Brennan rose to the C.I.A.’s senior ranks during Mr. Tenet’s tenure, and served as one of the former C.I.A. chief’s most trusted advisers during the post-9/11 period.

Mr. Tenet, who declined to be interviewed for this article, has arranged a number of conference calls with former C.I.A. officials to discuss the impending report. After private conversations with Mr. Brennan, he and two other former C.I.A. directors — Porter J. Goss and Michael V. Hayden — drafted a letter to Mr. Brennan asking that, as a matter of fairness, they be allowed to see the report before it was made public. Describing the letter, one former C.I.A. officer who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the former directors “think that those people who were heavily involved in the operations have a right to see what’s being said about them.”

Officials are plainly nervous about what the report will show. At a meeting held in April, the current head of the counterterrorism center asked how CIA Director John Brennan planned to defend in public roughly 200 people under his leadership who had participated in the interrogation program. They are concerned about “accusations that the C.I.A. engaged in systematic torture and lied about its efficacy,” the Times states.

Read more here.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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