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George John Tenet (born January 5, 1953) was the Director of Central Intelligence for the United Statesmarker Central Intelligence Agency and is Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at Georgetown Universitymarker. Tenet held the position as the DCI from July 1997 to July 2004, making him the second-longest serving director in the agency's history – behind Allen Welsh Dulles – as well as one of the few DCIs to serve under two U.S. presidents of opposing political parties. In February 2008 he became a managing director at the merchant bank Allen & Company.


Tenet was born in Flushing, Queensmarker, New Yorkmarker to a family of Greek origin from Greecemarker and Albaniamarker , John and Evangelia Tenet; his father first worked in a coal-mine in France before arriving in the United States. Tenet was raised in Little Neck, Queensmarker where he and his brother Bill worked as busboys in their family's diner (later renamed the Scobee Grill). He attended Public School 94, Louis Pasteur Junior High School 67, and Benjamin N.marker Cardozo High Schoolmarker (he was a classmate of Ron Jeremy and actor Reginald VelJohnson). Tenet holds a bachelor's degree (1976) from the Edmund A.marker Walsh School of Foreign Servicemarker at Georgetown Universitymarker and a master's degree from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University (1978).

Tenet is married to Stephanie Glakas-Tenet. They have one son.

Early career

After he received his M.I.A., Tenet became research director of the American Hellenic Institute from 1978 to 1979. He then began working for the Senate, first as a legislative assistant and later as Legislative Director to former Senator H. John Heinz III of Pennsylvaniamarker (1982-1985). He was a staff member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) from 1985-1988, then Staff Director of the SSCI from 1988-1993. Later, Tenet joined President-elect Bill Clinton's national security transition team. Clinton appointed Tenet Senior Director for Intelligence Programs at the National Security Council (1993-1995).

CIA career

Tenet was appointed Deputy Director of Central Intelligence in July 1995. After John Deutch's abrupt resignation in December 1996, Tenet served as acting director. This was followed by the withdrawal of Anthony Lake, whose nomination had been blocked by Republicans in Congress. Tenet was then officially appointed Director on July 11, 1997, after a unanimous confirmation vote in the Senate. While the Director of Central Intelligence has typically been replaced by an incoming administration ever since Jimmy Carter replaced DCI George H. W. Bush, Tenet served through the end of the Clinton administration and well into the term of George W. Bush.

Tenet embarked on a mission to regenerate the CIA, which had fallen on hard times since the end of the Cold War. The number of agents recruited each year had fallen to an all-time low, a 25-percent decline from the Cold War peak. Tenet appealed to the original mission of the agency, which had been to "prevent another Pearl Harbor". The trick was to see where danger might come from in the post-Cold War world. Tenet focused on potential problems such as "the transformation of Russia and China", "rogue states" like North Korea, Iran and Iraq, and terrorism.

1999 Bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade

On May 7 1999, during the Kosovo War, US bombers struck the Chinese embassy in Belgrade with 5 JDAM precision guided bombs, killing three. The USA claimed the attack was accidental. In testimony before a congressional committee, Tenet later admitted the strike was the only one in the campaign organized and directed by his agency, though he still claimed it was not deliberate. China referred to his explanation for "the so-called mistaken bombing" as "anything but convincing" and has never accepted the US version of events.

Al-Qaeda and the War on Terror

By 1999 al-Qaeda had emerged as a significant terrorist threat. The 1998 bombings of two US African embassies were the latest in a string of attacks on American interests in the west Indian-Ocean region. And in 2000 the USS Colemarker was bombed in Adenmarker in an attempt to sink her, killing 17 naval personnel.

The Plan

In 1999 Tenet put forward a grand "Plan" for dealing with al-Qaeda. In preparation, he selected new leadership for the CIA's Counterterrorist Center (CTC). He placed Cofer Black in charge of the CTC, and "Rich B" (a "top-flight executive" from Tenet's own suite) in charge of the CTC's Bin Laden unit. Tenet assigned the CTC to develop the Plan. The proposals, brought out in September, sought to penetrate Qaeda's "Afghan sanctuary" with US and Afghan agents, in order to obtain information on and mount operations against Bin Laden's network. In October, officers from the Bin Laden unit visited northern Afghanistanmarker. Once the Plan was finalized, the Agency created a "Qaeda cell" (whose functions overlapped those of the CTC's Bin Laden unit) to give operational leadership to the effort.

The CIA concentrated its inadequate financial resources on the Plan, so that at least some of its more modest aspirations were realized. Intelligence collection efforts on bin Laden and al-Qaeda increased significantly from 1999. "By 9/11", said Tenet, "a map would show that these collection programs and human [reporting] networks were in place in such numbers as to nearly cover Afghanistan". (But this excluded Bin Laden's inner circle itself.)

The Predator drone

The CIA also experimented with a small remote-controlled reconnaissance aircraft, the Predator, to try to spot Bin Laden in Afghanistanmarker. A series of flights in autumn 2000, overseen by CTC officials and flown by USAF drone pilots from a control room at the CIA's Langley headquarters, produced probable sightings of the al-Qaeda leader.

Black and others became advocates of arming the Predator with adapted Hellfire anti-tank missiles to try to assassinate Bin Laden and other Qaeda leaders. But there were both legal and technical issues. Tenet in particular was concerned about the CIA moving back into the business of assassination. And a series of live-fire tests in the Nevada Desert in summer 2001 produced mixed results.

Tenet advised cautiously on the matter at a meeting of the Cabinet-level Principals Committee on September 4, 2001. If the Cabinet wanted to empower the CIA to field a lethal drone, Tenet said, "they should do so with their eyes wide open, fully aware of the potential fallout if there were a controversial or mistaken strike". National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice concluded that the armed Predator was required, but evidently not ready. It was agreed to recommend to the CIA to resume reconnaissance flights. The "previously reluctant" Tenet then ordered the Agency to do so. The CIA was authorized to "deploy the system with weapons-capable aircraft".

The strategic assessments branch

In late 2000 Tenet, recognizing the deficiency of "big-picture" analysis of al-Qaeda, appointed a senior manager in the Counterterrorist Center to investigate "creating a strategic assessment capability". In spring 2001 the CTC got back to him, requesting the hiring of "a small group of contractors not involved in day-to-day crises to digest vast quantities of information and develop targeting strategies".

The CTC's Strategic Assessments Branch was formally set up in July. But it struggled to find personnel. The head of the branch finally took up his post on September 10, 2001.

The September 11, 2001 attacks

After the September 11 attacks, many observers criticized the Intelligence Community for numerous "intelligence failures" as one of the major reasons why the attacks were not prevented. In August 2007, a secret report written by the CIA inspector general was made public (originally written in 2005 but kept secret). The 19-page summary states that Tenet knew the dangers of Al Qaeda well before September 2001, but that the leadership of the CIA did not do enough to prevent any attacks. Tenet reacted to the publication of this report by calling it "flat wrong", citing in particular the planning efforts of the past two years.

Tenet immediately increased the size and capability of the CIA's special operations component housed in the Special Operations Group of the Special Activities Division. This force had been allowed to diminish under the early Clinton administration. These Paramilitary Operations Officers were the first to enter both Afghanistan and Iraq. Once in these countries these officers organized and led the Northern Alliance against the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Kurds against Ansar Al-Islam and Saddam's forces in Iraq. The rebuilding of this capability and the successful employment of these elite commandos is considered one of Tenets greatest achievements in the Global War on Terror.

Worldwide Attack Matrix

Tenet considered that his Qaeda plan had placed the CIA in a better position to respond after the 9/11 attacks. As he put it,

How could [an intelligence] community without a strategic plan tell the president of the United States just four days after 9/11 how to attack the Afghan sanctuary and operate against al-Qa'ida in ninety-two countries around the world?

This was at a meeting of the restricted National Security Council -- or "war council" -- at Camp Davidmarker on September 15, 2001. Tenet presented the Worldwide Attack Matrix, a blueprint for what became known as the War On Terror. He proposed firstly to send CIA teams into Afghanistan to collect intelligence on, and mount covert operations against, al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The teams would act jointly with military Special Operations units. "President Bush later praised this proposal, saying it had been a turning point in his thinking."

Use of Water Boarding and Willingness to Use Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EIT's)
The CIA was authorized by President Bush to use water boarding and other forms of enhanced interrogation techniques (EIT's) during interrogations of suspected Al Qaida members Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri during Tenet's directorship.

Tenet and Iraq WMD controversy

According to a report by veteran investigative journalist Bob Woodward in his book Plan of Attack, Tenet privately lent his personal authority to the intelligence reports about weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraqmarker. At a meeting on December 12, 2002, he assured Bush that the evidence against Saddam Hussein amounted to a "slam dunk case." After several months of refusing to confirm this statement, Tenet later stated that this remark was taken out of context. (Tenet indicated that the comment was made pursuant to a discussion about how to convince the American people to support invading Iraq, and that, in his opinion, the best way to convince the people would be by explaining the dangers posed by Iraq's WMD i.e., the public relations sale of the war via the WMD, according to Tenet, would be a "slam dunk"). The search following the 2003 invasion of Iraq by U.S.marker, Britishmarker and international forces yielded no stockpiles of WMDs, however.


Citing "personal reasons," Tenet submitted his resignation to President Bush on June 3, 2004. James Pavitt, his Deputy Director for Operations at the CIA, announced his resignation the following day, leading to speculation that the exit of both senior intelligence officials was related to the controversy over alleged Iraqi WMDs and the decision to go to war. Admiral Stansfield Turner, director of the CIA under President Jimmy Carter, said, "I think the president feels he's in enough trouble that he's got to begin to cast some of the blame for the morass that we are in Iraq on to somebody else and this was one subtle way to do it." (Boston Herald, June 4, 2004) However, Bush voiced support for Tenet's efforts, stating, "George Tenet did a superb job for America. It was a high honor to work with him, and I'm sorry he left." (Reuters, June 5, 2004)

Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Tenet's seven-year term as Director of Central Intelligence was the second-longest in U.S. history. On December 14, 2004, President Bush awarded Tenet the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Recent activities


In October 2006 Tenet joined QinetiQmarker as an independent non-executive director. Tenet then stepped down from the board in February 2008 to become the managing director of the secretive investment bank Allen & Company. Tenet also sits on the boards of directors of L-1 Identity Solutions, a major supplier of biometric identification software, and Guidance Software, which makes forensic software used to search computer hard drives for evidence.Along with a number of other notable Greek Americans, he is a member of the advisory board of The Next Generation Initiative, a leadership program aimed at getting students involved in public affairs.


In April 2007 Tenet released his memoir titled At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA. He appeared on 60 Minutes on April 29, 2007, offering much criticism of the Bush administration. The book was the top-selling book in sales in the first week after publication.

The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of its Enemies since 9/11 (2006) by Ron Suskind was apparently written with Tenet's cooperation. The book claims that Abu Zubaydah, once said to be al-Qaida chief of operations, was a low level functionary and mentally ill. Even after determining this, Tenet continued to have Zubaybah waterboarded so he could produce fanciful stories of terrorist plots, the book claims.

In his memoirs, Tenet responded as follows:

Critics pointed out a factual error in Tenet's book. On the book's first page, Tenet tells of a conversation with then-Pentagonmarker advisor Richard Perle on September 12, 2001 in which Tenet claims Perle told him in person that "Iraq had to pay for the attack." But the conversation could not have occurred on that day, because Perle was stranded in Parismarker, Francemarker on September 12 and didn't return to Washingtonmarker until three days later. Perle later stated that the two men indeed crossed each other one morning, as claimed by Tenet, but only later in the same week and not on September 12. But Perle insisted that he and Tenet exchanged no words in that encounter.

See also


  1. Online NewsHour: George Tenet nominated for top CIA position- March 19, 1997
  2. Texas A&M Graduation - Transcript - George J. Tenet
  3. Queens Tribune Online, QConfidential
  4. The George Tenet story - US News and World Report
  5. Hellenic News of America
  6. - CIA director's allies outrank his enemies
  8. Steve Coll, Ghost Wars (Penguin, 2005 edn), pp.317, 354, 359-62.
  9. Steve Coll, Ghost Wars (Penguin, 2005 edn), pp.436-7, 451-2, 455, 456, 466-72, 485, 646 note 42, 654 note7; 9/11 Commission Report, chapter 11, p.357 ( HTML version); ibid., chapter 4, p.142-3 ( HTML version); cf. ibid, chapter 6, p.204 ( HTML version); Tenet statement to the Joint Inquiry on 9/11, Oct. 17, 2002; Tenet, At The Center Of The Storm, pp.119, 120.
  10. Coll, Ghost Wars, pp.527, 532; 9/11 Commission Report, chapter 6, pp.189-90 ( HTML version)
  11. Coll, Ghost Wars, pp.580-1; Tenet statement to the 9/11 Commission, March 24, 2004, pp.15, 16; Barton Gellman, " A Strategy's Cautious Evolution", Washington Post, Jan. 20, 2002, p.A01; 9/11 Commission Report, chapter 6, pp.210-14 ( HTML version); ibid, Notes, p.513, note 258 (see note 255) ( HTML version)
  12. Joint Inquiry Final Report, Part Three, p.387; 9/11 Commission Report, chapter 11, p.342 ( HTML version)
  13. CCC - Intelligence Failure and 9/11
  14. Woodward, Bob (18 November 2001). "Secret CIA Units Playing a Central Combat Role", Washington Post.
  15. Woodward, Bob (2002) "Bush at War", Simon and Schuster.
  16. Woodward, Bob (2004) "Plan of Attack", Simon and Schuster.
  17. Tenet, At the Center of the Storm, pp.121-2; cf. p.178.
  18. 9/11 Commission Report, chapter 10, p.332 ( HTML version)
  19. Ex-C.I.A. Chief, in Book, Assails Cheney on Iraq - New York Times
  20. Former CIA chief joins the board of QinetiQ - Business News, Business -
  21. Capsule Reviews of Books About Dick Cheney
  22. The Shadow War, In a Surprising New Light

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