CBS/AP Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Face The Nation dismissed accusations made by former CIA Director George Tenet about the Bush administration’s early decisions on Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tenet tells Scott Pelley in a 60 Minutes interview that, before the September 11 attacks, he told Rice in a White House meeting the U.S. should take preemptive action inside Afghanistan.
“We need – we need to – we need to consider immediate action inside Afghanistan now,” Tenet remembers telling Rice, who was then National Security Advisor. “We need to – we need to move to the offensive.”
Rice, however, said Tenet’s claim was a “new fact” and she would “have to look.”
She told Bob Schieffer, “It’s very interesting because that’s not what George told the 9/11 Commission at the time. He said that he felt that we had gotten it.”
Asked why Tenet would make the claim if it wasn’t true, Rice said she didn’t know. “I don’t know what we were supposed to preemptively strike in Afghanistan,” she said. “Perhaps somebody can ask that.”
Tenet also claims that the administration never had a serious debate about whether Iraq posed an imminent threat or whether to tighten existing sanctions before its 2003 invasion.
“The president came in, in 2001, determined to try to deal with the Iraqi situation perhaps even by sanctions, by smart sanctions,” Rice said on Face The Nation. “There was an extended period of time of trying other efforts, including the president’s September address to the U.N. in 2002.”
Tenet also tells 60 Minutes the way the Bush administration has used his now famous “slam dunk” comment — which he admits saying in reference to making the public case for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq — is both disingenuous and dishonorable.
“It’s the most despicable thing that ever happened to me,” Tenet says. “You don’t do this. You don’t throw somebody overboard just because it’s a deflection. Is that honorable? It’s not honorable to me.”
Tenet says to have the president base his entire decision to go to war on such a remark is unbelievable.
Rice said she remembers Tenet using the “slam dunk” line once but said the intelligence failures leading up to the invasion of Iraq were a worldwide problem.
“We all believed the intelligence was strong,” she said. “It wasn’t just a problem with intelligence in the United States, it was an intelligence problem worldwide. Services across the world thought that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”