THE RESIGNATION OF GEORGE TENET: ONE DOWN…

ORIGINALLY POSTED: AUGUST, 2004

(Updates Throughout)

 

The resignation of CIA Director George Tenet will be attributed to many factors (Tenet himself cited only “the well-being of my wonderful family” in what seemed to be a heart-felt announcement), but whether intentionally or not, the resignation will serve to calm the fervor for someone to be held accountable for the intelligence failures leading to the September 11th attacks and the war in Iraq.  The 9/11 Commissionand the Senate Intelligence Committee have both issued reports blasting the intelligence community, and especially Tenet, for these failures.  Tenet’s pre-emptive resignation will “take the wind out of the sails” of those critics who would have been demanding the resignation.

 

But will it be enough?

 

There is a general feeling that someone must be held accountable for these failures, but President Bush didn’t seem to feel that Tenet should be the one – in fact he praised Tenet’s “superb job on behalf of the American people” as CIA Director, and later presented Tenet with the Presidential Medal of Freedom!  If Bush is not going to hold Tenet accountable, then who will it be?

 

As the theory goes, you can delegate a task, but not the responsibility.  This is why real leaders – those who show actual leadership – are those who accept responsibility for their own actions, as well as the actions (or inactions) of their subordinates.

 

There have been many “failures” in this Administration, and arguments could be (and have been) made for further resignations in the top echelon of the Bush Administration.  Among them:

 

Donald Rumsfeld – The Defense Secretary knew about the Abu Ghraib abuse allegations as early as December of 2003 (when the International Committee of the Red Cross filed a report citing abuse concerns), and certainly by January of 2004, when the Pentagon began its own investigations into the matter.  Rumsfeld failed to notify either of the Congressional Armed Services Committees, as he is required to do by law.  He even had a morning meeting with several Senators on the same day that CBS broke the Abu Ghraib story on “60 Minutes II”, but gave the Senators no warning.  This angered several of the Senators, including Virginia Republican John Warner, the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  He also failed to notify President Bush, who in May publicly announced that he had “rebuked” Rumsfeld for the lack of notification (Presidents up for re-election rarely appreciate surprises like this one).  Furthermore, several of the legal memos detailing the various Constitutional justifications for the use of torture in the interrogations of detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay came from a group of lawyers hand-picked by Rumsfeld and headed by the Defense Department’s General Counsel, William J. Haynes II (who has since been nominated to a Federal Appellate Court by President Bush). As the Secretary of Defense, Rumsfeld is at the top of the military chain of command, and is therefore responsible for whatever actions his subordinates take on his watch.

There is also the small matter of $700 million that Congress had specifically allocated to the military for Afghanistan, but which Rumsfeld shifted to war preparations for Iraq, before Congress had approved any military action in Iraq.  Rumsfeld didn’t notify Congress about this shift in funds, either.  He instead took the position that Iraq was in the same “theater” as Afghanistan, and he could therefore move the money around as he saw fit.  I seriously doubt that any Member of Congress thought they were authorizing $700 million for Iraq when they voted on the Afghanistan allocation, and the phrase “impeachable offense” echoed through the halls of the Capitol.

UPDATE:  Rumsfeld resigned (or was he fired?) as Secretary of Defense the day after the mid-term elections in November, 2006.  He has been replaced by former CIA Director and Iran-Contra figure Robert Gates.

 

Condoleeza Rice – The President’s National Security Advisor testified (finally) before the 9/11 Commission that “no one could have envisioned terrorists crashing planes into buildings”.  Really?  A 1995 National Intelligence Estimate on foreign terrorist threats in the United States identified targets that were especially at risk, including “national symbols such as the White House and the Capitol, and symbols of U.S. capitalism such as Wall Street”.  The Estimate identified the most likely foreign terrorist threat as “the network of Islamist groups that had formed during the jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan” (this network evolved into Al Queda).  The Estimate also highlighted civilian aviation as a “vulnerable and attractive target”.  Not only had the authors of this National Intelligence Estimate “envisioned terrorists crashing planes into buildings”, they had envisioned those specific terrorists crashing that specific type of airplane into those specific buildings!  As comedian and political commentator Bill Maher recently pointed out on CNN’s “Larry King Live”, several people had envisioned it – just not Rice. The National Intelligence Estimate had envisioned it, the FBI had warned of it, the Secret Service had taken precautions against it for every “State of the Union” Speech for years, even Tom Clancy had written about it (in Debt of Honor).  Most notably, the terrorists who planned and carried out the attacks had envisioned it.  As National Security Advisor, Rice should have envisioned it – that’s her job!  By the way, Rice was scheduled to give an evening speech on September 11, 2001, detailing the future threats our nation faced (the speech was cancelled due to the 9/11 attacks).  The speech she was to give made absolutely no reference to terrorism – or to Al Queda.

UPDATE:  Rice was promoted to Secretary of State. She was replaced as National Security Advisor by her deputy, Stephen Hadley.

 

John Ashcroft – The Attorney General used the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks to push the “Patriot Act” through Congress, and has been using it as justification for ever-increasing abuses of power ever since. These abuses range from illegal eavesdropping to warrant-less searches to indefinite detentions without due process of law (such as the Padilla case).  In what was clearly a “fishing expedition”, he recently subpoenaed the private medical records (in defiance of privacy laws relating to doctor-patient confidentiality) of thousands of women who have had late-term abortions, attempting to determine whether any of the procedures were not “medically necessary”.  Several court cases have been decided (or are currently pending) against the Attorney General, among them a recent Federal Appeals Court ruling that specifically rebuked Ashcroft for overstepping his authority in trying to block Oregon’s “Death With Dignity” Act.  In the face of these rulings, Ashcroft still maintains the attitude that it is within his power to do these things.  His consistent disregard for the Constitutional rights of American citizens is appalling, and has no place in the Attorney General’s office.

UPDATE:  Ashcroft resigned at the end of President Bush’s first term, and was replaced by Alberto Gonzales.

 

Rod Paige – When the Bush Administration pushed the “No Child Left Behind” educational “reform” package through Congress, the onus fell on Secretary of Education Paige to promote the law to school districts around the country.  “No Child Left Behind” has become one of the largest unfunded mandates the federal government forces on the states, and its requirements are wreaking havoc in classrooms around the nation. It has gotten so bad that its critics have taken to calling the act “Every Child Left Behind”. Paige’s attempts to defend the act have been, at best, disingenuous.  Under Paige, a major PR campaign for the Act, that has now been ruled by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office to have been illegal propaganda was launched, including fake “news reports” that gave no indication they were produced by the government, and $240,000 of taxpayer money paid to conservative commentator Armstrong Williams. When the National Education Association (NEA), the largest union of working classroom teachers in the country, dared to criticize “No Child Left Behind”, Paige responded by calling the NEA “a terrorist organization”.  In the post-9/11 world, there is no excuse – none – for such a comment.  If that is how Paige feels about classroom teachers, then he simply has no business being the Secretary of Education.

UPDATE:  Paige resigned at the end of President Bush’s first term, and was replaced by Margaret Spellings.

 

Richard Cheney – If the allegations from former Ambassador Joe Wilson are true, then it may have been the Vice President’s Chief of Staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who revealed to journalist Robert Novak that Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, was a covert CIA operative (Novak then took the story and ran with it).  It is Wilson’s belief that his wife’s identity was revealed in retaliation for Wilson’s public criticisms of a claim President Bush made in his January, 2003 “State of the Union” speech before the Iraq invasion:  that Saddam Hussein was attempting to obtain enriched uranium from the African nation of Niger.  Wilson had looked into the matter at the CIA’s request, found no truth to it, and had so advised the CIA; he was stunned when Bush included the allegation in the speech anyway.  If it turns out that Libby is in fact the source who gave Novak the information on Plame, then Libby should go to jail and, because it is inconceivable that Libby would reveal Plame’s identity without the knowledge and approval of his boss, Cheney should resign under the “accepting responsibility for the actions of their subordinates” doctrine.

UPDATE:  Libby has been indicted on five counts in the CIA leak case (one for Obstruction of Justice, two for Perjury, and two for Making False Statements), Libby resigned immediately, and Cheney himself has been mentioned as a possible target of the Special Prosecutor’s investigation.

There are others, of course.  I could argue for the resignations of Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who so forcefully pushed to connect Iraq to the 9/11 attacks and the War on Terror, and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, Ahmed Chalabi’s strongest official advocate within the Administration.  Arguments could also be made for resignations from Undersecretary of StateRichard Armitage, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, National Security Council Middle East Affairs head Elliot Abrams, top civilian advisor to the Pentagon Richard Perle, and many others. (I would include Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson, but he’s already announced his resignation.  Two down…)

UPDATE:  Paul Wolfowitz was promoted to head the World Bank.  Feith is gone and his “Office of Special Plans” closed.  Richard Armitage turned out to be Robert Novak’s original source for the Valerie Plame leak, and has left the State Department.  Alberto Gonzales was promoted to Attorney General.  Elliot Abrams has been promoted to Deputy National Security Advisor.  Richard Perle is no longer in public service.

 

A Lesson in Contrast:  On July 14th, 2004, a committee from Great Britain’s Parliament, chaired by Lord Butler, issued a report (similar to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report in this country) stating that England had gone to war in Iraq based on flawed intelligence, but emphasized that “We should record in particular that we have found no evidence of deliberate distortion or of culpable negligence”. Prime Minister Tony Blair responded by accepting personal responsibility for the failures and for how the information was presented, even though he was clearly exonerated of any wrongdoing in the report. This is the mark of a real leader – one who shows actual leadership – and it is something that no one in the Bush Administration seems willing to do.  No one!  Is there not a single real leader anywhere within the Bush Administration?

As President Harry Truman so famously had mounted on his desk, “The Buck Stops Here”.  Accordingly, I would argue that George W. Bush is ultimately responsible for all of it.

Hmmm….

 

© 2004 by David Bleidistel.  All rights reserved.