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Inside Politics

Tenet has enjoyed lifetime of public work

Son of Greek immigrants, raised in Queens

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George J. Tenet
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

(CNN) -- George Tenet, who resigned Thursday as CIA director, almost didn't get the job he held for seven years.

Tenet was President Clinton's second choice for the position, and only became the nominee when Anthony Lake withdrew after facing criticism from the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Tenet said at the time of his confirmation hearings, "I will do my level best to provide leadership, stability, and strength of purpose to the fine men and women who serve our nation with such devotion."

Tenet won unanimous confirmation in July 1997 and took on the task of bringing stability to the department, which had had four leaders in the previous six years. He was also faced a department with low morale and the public disclosure of two Russian moles.

He gained his love for politics while growing up in the New York borough of Queens. The son of Greek immigrants, he and his twin brother, William, worked at the family diner as teenagers. His mother, Evangelia, told Newsday in 1997 that her husband tried to discourage George from going into politics, but the younger Tenet was determined to do it.

Tenet graduated from Georgetown's School of Foreign Service and received his master's from Columbia University. He worked at the American Hellenic Institute in the year after his graduation before joining the Solar Energy Industries Association in 1979.

He began his government career in 1982 as a legislative assistant to Sen. John Heinz, a Pennsylvania Republican. He then joined the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in 1985, where he worked for Senator Pat Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont.

He eventually became staff director of the committee and, according to the CIA's Web site, directed oversight of all arms control negotiations between the Soviet Union and the United States.

When Clinton took office in 1993, Tenet joined the president's national security transition team. Within months he was promoted twice, becoming senior director.

When John Deutch was selected as CIA director in 1995, Tenet was selected as his deputy. In December 1996, Deutch resigned and Tenet was named acting director. Seven months later he was elevated to director.

President Bush said Thursday that Tenet had been an ideal leader.

"George Tenet is the kind of public servant you like to work with," the president added. "He's strong, he's resolute. He's served his nation as the director for seven years. He has been a strong and able leader at the agency. He's been a strong leader in the war on terror."

Tenet resigns after the second longest term as CIA director. He is married to A. Stephanie Glakas-Tenet and has a son, John.

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