George Tenet, director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, resigned his post June 3 amid the ongoing controversy over Ahmed Chalabi. Tenet said he was quitting for personal reasons. The timing of the resignation, however, makes it appear related to the Chalabi incident.
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet tendered his resignation June 3 after a late meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House the night before. Tenet's resignation comes amid controversy in Washington over the reliability of Ahmed Chalabi, formerly the key U.S. liaison to the Iraqi opposition and a key supplier of defectors and information regarding Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs. Tenet cited personal reasons for the official reason of his resignation, although it is too early to know the real impetus behind the sudden move. Given the timing of events regarding the Chalabi incident, STRATFOR must assume this is somehow related. The resignation comes just as U.S. President George W. Bush is about to leave on a trip to Europe, where Iraq, terrorism and U.S. intelligence will undoubtedly be major topics of discussion. Tenet's resignation reflects the clash of views inside the government about the use of Chalabi as a source of information, U.S. plans and operations in Iraq and the broader war on terrorism. Tenet and the CIA have led the recent attacks against Chalabi, arguing that the former close ally of the United States was an Iranian agent who sold secrets to Tehran. The Pentagon has come out in support of Chalabi, downplaying such reports as laughable; U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld minimized the Chalabi issue. Additionally, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith both are — or were — ardently pro-Chalabi. The difference in views on Chalabi stems from a deeper division between Tenet and Rumsfeld; they have engaged in a turf battle of sorts over the past few years about the collection and flow of intelligence to the president and other decision makers. The Chalabi incident — and the question of whether he is an Iranian agent and fed the United States false information to justify the war in Iraq — is a symptom of this deeper division. For Bush, the diametrically opposed points of view on Chalabi — a very public issue — and on the broader war on terrorism have created an untenable situation. Tenet's resignation is designed to end that debate, and to do so in a face-saving way. By not having to fire Tenet publicly, the administration can avoid admitting intelligence failures — willingly or otherwise in the case of Iraq — while still offering up a sacrificial lamb. Bush can then go to Europe and demonstrate that he is taking action to avoid similar issues in the future. For Tenet, the resignation also serves to demonstrate his frustration with the ongoing series of second-guessing CIA operations and the overall capabilities of U.S. intelligence, according to STRATFOR's U.S. intelligence sources. Information already was circulating that Tenet would resign next year, no matter who wins the presidential election, but by making the move earlier, Tenet can attempt to remove himself from the center of controversy.