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Officers: Ex-CIA chief Tenet a 'failed' leader

Story Highlights

• Letter: Tenet culpable in mistakes made in lead-up to war in Iraq
• Tenet should give royalties of his book to Iraq veterans, CIA officers write
• Ex-CIA chief is "self-serving," his former employees say
• "You failed the people of the United States," officers write
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(CNN) -- In a letter written Saturday to former CIA Director George Tenet, six former CIA officers described their former boss as "the Alberto Gonzales of the intelligence community," and called his book "an admission of failed leadership."

The writers said Tenet has "a moral obligation" to return the Medal of Freedom he received from President Bush.

They also called on him to give more than half the royalties he gets from book, "At the Center of the Storm," to U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq and families of the dead. (Watch Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice talk about Tenet's book)

The letter, signed by Phil Giraldi, Ray McGovern, Larry Johnson, Jim Marcinkowski, Vince Cannistraro and David MacMichael, said Tenet should have resigned in protest rather than take part in the administration's buildup to the war. (Read the full letter)

Johnson is a former CIA intelligence official and registered Republican who voted for Bush in 2000. McGovern is a former CIA analyst.

Cannistraro is former head of the CIA's counterterrorism division and was head of intelligence for the National Security Council in the late 1980s.

The writers said they agree that Bush administration officials took the nation to war "for flimsy reasons," and that it has proved "ill-advised and wrong-headed."

But, they added, "your lament that you are a victim in a process you helped direct is self-serving, misleading and, as head of the intelligence community, an admission of failed leadership.

"You were not a victim. You were a willing participant in a poorly considered policy to start an unnecessary war and you share culpability with Dick Cheney and George Bush for the debacle in Iraq."

Tenet's 'lack of courage'

The writers accused Tenet of having helped send "very mixed signals" to Americans and their legislators prior to the war.

"CIA field operatives produced solid intelligence in September 2002 that stated clearly there was no stockpile of any kind of WMD in Iraq.

"This intelligence was ignored and later misused."

The letter said CIA officers learned later that month Iraq had no contact with Osama bin Laden and that then-President Saddam Hussein considered the al Qaeda leader to be an enemy. Still, Tenet "went before Congress in February 2003 and testified that Iraq did indeed have links to al Qaeda.

"You showed a lack of leadership and courage in January of 2003 as the Bush administration pushed and cajoled analysts and managers to let them make the bogus claim that Iraq was on the verge of getting its hands on uranium.

"You signed off on Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations. And, at his insistence, you sat behind him and visibly squandered CIA's most precious asset - credibility."

The letter described Tenet as "one of the bullies."

"You helped set the bar very low for reporting that supported favored White House positions, while raising the bar astronomically high when it came to raw intelligence that did not support the case for war being hawked by the president and vice president.

"It now turns out that you were the Alberto Gonzales of the intelligence community -- a grotesque mixture of incompetence and sycophancy shielded by a genial personality."

The letter said Tenet's failure to resist pressures from Cheney and then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld helped build public support for a war that has cost more than 3,000 American lives and many times that among Iraqis.

"You betrayed the CIA officers who collected the intelligence that made it clear that Saddam did not pose an imminent threat. You betrayed the analysts who tried to withstand the pressure applied by Cheney and Rumsfeld.

"Most importantly and tragically, you failed to meet your obligations to the people of the United States."

Tenet's memoir, to be published Monday, covers his tenure as director from July 1997 to July 2004.

In an interview to air Sunday on CBS News' "60 Minutes," Tenet expressed outrage that senior officials including Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have used his "slam dunk" reference in discussing Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq over its weapons of mass destruction, which turned out not to exist. (Read full story)

"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."


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