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Ensor: Tenet no longer useful to Bush?

CNN's David Ensor
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CNN's David Ensor reports on George Teent's resignation.
On the Scene
George J. Tenet
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- CIA Director George Tenet has resigned, citing personal reasons, President Bush said Thursday. Tenet has faced harsh criticism over intelligence failures before September 11 and during the buildup to the war in Iraq.

CNN national security correspondent David Ensor discusses Tenet's career and how the national intelligence community might be restructured after the CIA chief's departure.

ENSOR: If they're going to be reorganizing the intelligence community and the way the leadership is structured, it might be wise to do that before picking the person who's going to have the job.

And there may be two jobs in the future. There may be a director of national intelligence, a Cabinet officer -- this is the idea that some of the 9/11 commission people have been talking about -- and then a separate person who is the CIA director, who runs the CIA itself.

Now George Tenet has said that he has some questions about that idea. He believes that there's always been an advantage for him in that he has troops, so to speak. He has first-hand, face-to-face relationships with the kinds of officers who go off and do the things that need to be done around the world to gather intelligence for the United States.

He's always felt that that combination of being able to know the hands-on people who do that kind of work as well as being able to go to the White House to brief the president in the morning has always given him special strength as a servant of the United States. If you reorganize it, it might not be that way.

You've heard several 9/11 commission members say over the past few weeks that change is in the air -- there are going to be changes whether you like it or not.

I would like to point out one other thing about George Tenet and his longevity amid all the "failures" that have been talked about. In a way, it's been useful to President Bush to keep George Tenet. George Tenet has been a lightning rod, someone who could fall on his sword from time to time, be blamed for what seemed to be failures of U.S. intelligence. And it's allowed the president to deflect the blame in a different direction.

It may be that there are just too many of these issues at this point. There was the failure to warn the United States that India was about to test a nuclear weapon. The India-Pakistan thing got very hot -- there was no intelligence warning of that. And there have been a succession of other failures, or perceived failures, relating to the war on terrorism, the war in Iraq.

The most famous failure, of course, was the matter at the United Nations where George Tenet was sitting behind Colin Powell, in effect saying, "We back this material up."

And so much of it is now in question. The biological weapons labs, the mobile trucks -- people are saying now that was just fabricated by [Iraqi] émigrés. The aluminum tubes that were supposed to have been parts for centrifuges -- now people are saying those were just supposed to be parts for conventional rockets.

Some of these intelligence assessments that were made under the watch of George Tenet are not looking so good anymore. He's taken a bit of a battering.

At the same time, this is the director who has expanded the intelligence agency and moved it into the 21st century and turned it to the war on terrorism in a very concrete way.

We should remember that this is the man who in the summer of 2001 was repeatedly warning pretty much anyone who would listen that al Qaeda was coming, that al Qaeda wanted to attack the United States, that something major could happen.

He was warning senior officials from the president on down. He warned publicly in hearings before Congress that trouble was brewing. Not many people listened.

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