Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Whatever happened to George Tenet?

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George Tenet was the director of the CIA who arranged to have terrorist suspects (some of whom, as we now know from the CIA’s own documentation quoted in the Senate torture report, were totally innocent of wrong-doing) tortured in order to elicit false confessions that tied Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda so that George W. Bush could justify his invasion of Iraq. (Also useful was the fictitious nuclear arms program that Saddam Hussein was undertaking—Bush exposed a covert CIA agent as payback to punish her husband, a former Ambassador, for pointing out that the yellow-cake shipments of uranium ore were also fictitious).

Tenet was quite eager and enthusiastic to push the US into a war on false pretenses (a CIA specialty), and was rewarded by George W. Bush with a Medal of Freedom. In The Intercept Ken Silverstein reports on Tenet today:

Oceanfront views, 24-hour doorman, heated pool, and perhaps best of all, a “private tunnel to the beach.” This $3 million Palm Beach, Florida penthouse could be yours, but unfortunately it isn’t because this prize has already been claimed by a former high-level U.S. official who helped pave the way for the over decade-long “war on terror,”which has been a near complete catastrophe.

Iraq is aflame, the Islamic State is on the rampage, the situation in Afghanistan worsens by the day, and thousands of Americans—and many more Iraqis and Afghans—have died during the post-9/11 conflicts. Meanwhile, the combined cost of the “war on terror” comes to an estimated $1.6 trillion.

But if the American people got screwed on the deal, a lot of former senior government officials who played important roles in this debacle have done quite well for themselves. It’s New Year’s Eve and I need to write a final sendoff to 2014, so I thought I’d take a look at the fortunes (literally) of some of these figures: Former CIA director George Tenet and former FBI director Louis Freeh (I’ll cover former Department of Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge in a New Year’s post).

Consider Tenet. As head of the CIA, he missed multiple signs of a major Al Qadea attack directed against the United States, called the case against Saddam building Weapons of Mass Destruction a “slam dunk,” and approved the Bush administration’s torturing of terror suspects.

In any fair world Tenet would be tried for criminal incompetence. Instead, he got the Presidential Medal of Freedom and after resigning in 2004 (at which point his agency salary was south of $200,000), he received a $4 million advance to write a memoir. In it, he confessed to “a black, black time” a few months after 9/11 when he was sitting at home in his favorite Adirondack chair thinking about the tragedy that killed 3,000 Americans on his watch and asked, “Why me?”

Tenet has received millions more in his current role as managing director of a privately held New York investment bank and as a board director and advisor to intelligence and military contractors. Meanwhile, he collects fat speaking fees to talk about “current global threats to U.S. security and what the future holds for the U.S., our allies and interests around the globe.” (Top Secret: Here’s where he gets his best intelligence.)

Not bad for the son of Greek immigrants who before entering government service in 1982 (as legislative director to then-Senator H. John Heinz III) worked at the American Hellenic Institute and the Solar Energy Industries Association. When he headed the CIA, Tenet lived in a ranch house in Potomac, Maryland, which he bought in 1986 for $179,000. He currently splits his time between New York and the affluent D.C. suburb of Bethesda, where he reportedly lives in a neighborhood “known for its tree-lined streets, vintage brick homes, and atmosphere oozing with understated luxury.”

Then there’s Louis Freeh, Tenet’s counterpart at the FBI during the run-up to 9/11. (He resigned a few months before the attacks.) The former FBI director was seriously injured in a car wreck this August, but told police he had no idea what happened because he’d been asleep at the wheel, which is a perfect metaphor for his FBI stewardship. (And let me sincerely say I wish Freeh a speedy recovery, but the metaphor is precise.) Like Tenet, Freeh failed to act on a mountain of evidence pointing towards 9/11, i.e. an April 2001 memo sent to him by his assistant director that cited “significant and urgent” intelligence of “serious operational planning” for terrorism attacks by Islamic radicals linked to Osama bin Laden. He also botched cases involving Richard Jewell, Wen Ho Lee, and Robert Hanssen.

Freeh resigned from the FBI two months before 9/11. When he worked there he was making an annual salary of $145,000 and lived “in a heavily mortgaged house in Great Falls, a Virginia suburb,” according to an old and admiring New Yorker profile. He and his wife now own at least four lavish estates worth many millions of dollars, including a residence in Wilmington, Delaware, a six-bedroom summerhouse worth more than $3 million in Vermont, and a beachfront penthouse at 100 Worth Avenue in Palm Beach, Florida, which was bought for $1.4 million and now has an estimated value of $3 million.

How’d that happen? . . .

Continue reading.

This sort of disconnect—along with the fact that no individual was punished in any way for blowing up the US economy by selling fraudulent investments—makes one sympathetic to Patrick L. Smith’s column on the decline of the US. From that column:

Back in the 1960s, the late and great Herbert Marcuse described ours as “a society without opposition.” In such a society, as he put it, we find “a paralysis of criticism,” which is the fault of a very unprincipled press. “Under these conditions,” he wrote, “our mass media have little difficulty in selling particular interests as those of all sensible men.”

The bit about how the mass media abandons its role of critical analysis and simply regurgitates whatever those in power want it to print brought to mind any number of things: how Bill Keller at the NY Times helped the White House conceal its illegal wiretaps, how the mass media accepted uncritically the lies from the Bush Administration that led to a tragic war that we could easily have avoided, and even this report by Glenn Greenwald in The Intercept today:

The identity of the Sony hackers is still unknown. President Obama, in a December 19 press conference, announced: “We can confirm that North Korea engaged in this attack.” He then vowed: “We will respond. . . . We cannot have a society in which some dictator some place can start imposing censorship here in the United States.”

The U.S. Government’s campaign to blame North Korea actually began two days earlier, when The New York Timesas usualcorruptly granted anonymity to “senior administration officials” to disseminate their inflammatory claims with no accountability. These hidden “American officials” used the Paper of Record to announce that they “have concluded that North Korea was ‘centrally involved’ in the hacking of Sony Pictures computers.” With virtually no skepticism about the official accusation, reporters David Sanger and Nicole Perlroth deemed the incident a “cyberterrorism attack” and devoted the bulk of the article to examining the retaliatory actions the government could take against the North Koreans.

The same day, The Washington Post granted anonymity to officials in order to print this:

Other than noting in passing, deep down in the story, that North Korea denied responsibility, not a shred of skepticism was included byPost reporters Drew Harwell and Ellen Nakashima. Like the NYT, the Postdevoted most of its discussion to the “retaliation” available to the U.S.

The NYT and Post engaged in this stenography in the face of numerous security experts loudly noting how sparse and unconvincing was the available evidence against North Korea. Kim Zetter in Wired – literally moments before the NYT laundered the accusation via anonymous officials – proclaimed the evidence of North Korea’s involvement “flimsy.” About the U.S. government’s accusation in the NYT, she wisely wrote: “they have provided no evidence to support this and without knowing even what agency the officials belong to, it’s difficult to know what to make of the claim. And we should point out that intelligence agencies and government officials have jumped to hasty conclusions or misled the public in the past because it was politically expedient.”

Numerous cyber experts subsequently echoed the same sentiments. Bruce Schneier wrote: “I am deeply skeptical of the FBI’s announcement on Friday that North Korea was behind last month’s Sony hack. The agency’s evidence is tenuous, and I have a hard time believing it.” The day before Obama’s press conference, long-time expert Marc Rogers detailed his reasons for viewing the North Korea theory as “unlikely”; after Obama’s definitive accusation, he comprehensively reviewed the disclosed evidence and was even more assertive: “there is NOTHING here that directly implicates the North Koreans” (emphasis in original) and “the evidence is flimsy and speculative at best.”

Yet none of this expert skepticism made its way into countless media accounts of the Sony hack. Time and again, many journalists mindlessly regurgitated the U.S. Government’s accusation against North Korea without a shred of doubt, blindly assuming it to be true, and then discussing, oftendemanding, strong retaliation. Coverage of the episode was largely driven by the long-standing, central tenet of the establishment U.S. media: government assertions are to be treated as Truth. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 January 2015 at 12:37 pm

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