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Tenet's Perjury And Resignation: Door Now Open To Question, 'What Did Bush Know And When Did He Know It?'
by MARK G. LEVEY leveymg@aol.com

Washington, DC, June 10, 2004 - Reporters for the major papers may have missed the first page of the biggest story since the 9/11 attacks. When his resignation becomes effective July 11, 2004, CIA Director George Tenet will no longer be covered by Executive Privilege. He may then be compelled to testify about what he as a Director of Central Intelligence told the President regarding several matters about which both he and Bush have thus far displayed a startling lack of candor.

Tenet will no doubt be pressed to truthfully answer what he said to George W. Bush in the weeks before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Owing to his perjury before the 9/11 Commission, Tenet has also forfeited his qualified immunity on topics relevant to his meetings with the President in August and early September 2001. This will give potential prosecutors enormous leverage. In exhange for his true testimony about this, and what he knows about the Bush White House's illegal outing of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame, we should expect Tenet to ask for and receive immunity from prosecution.

Tenet's perjury and resignation presents Congressional investigators and a special prosecutor with an unexpected opportunity later this summer to finally get to the truth of what the President was actually knew and when he knew it. This is also, of course, the Bush White House and the Republican's worst nightmare.

The widely-known but as yet unspoken truth in Washington is that Tenet committed perjury in his April 14 statements before the 9/11 Commission. The CIA Director raised his right hand and was sworn-in before that official inquiry. He stated repeatedly he had not met with President Bush in August 2001. When given several opportunities by Commission members to correct or retract his story during his sworn testimony, he did not do so. It wasn't a momentary memory lapse or slip of the tongue. Tenet lied repeatedly under oath. That is the very definition of perjury. But, within hours it was apparent that public records contradicted Tenet's statement about his meetings with Bush. CIA aides called reporters later that afternoon and offered that Tenet had "misspoken." The alternative explanation given was that Tenet had "temporarily forgotten," and that is what was reported in the newspapers. The story was all but buried.

The Washington Post put the story on page A12 as, Forgotten Briefings of August 2001. [Available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A12951-2004Apr14.html]

AP reported it as a two-inch story, Tenet Misspoke About Not Meeting Bush. [Available at: http://www.khou.com/sharedcontent/nationworld/washingtonprint/041404cckttwwashTenet911.1265794e4.html]

The New York Times did a somewhat better job, squeezing it into the middle of front-page story. [April 15, 2004, Philip Shenon and Eric Lichblau, THREATS AND RESPONSES: THE OVERVIEW; Sept. 11 Panel Cites C.I.A. For Failures in Terror Case] NYT columnist Maureen Dowd is the only major journalist to have followed up with a comment. In her column on the op-ed page the next day, "Head Spook Sputters", Dowd wrote:

" I'm not sure whether Mr. Tenet - a mystifyingly beloved figure even though he was in charge during the two biggest intelligence failures since Pearl Harbor and the Bay of Pigs - has a faulty memory, which is scary. Or if he's fuzzing things up because he told the president more specifics than he wants to admit. But in a town where careers are made on face time with the president, it's fishy that the head spook can't remember a six- hour trip to Crawford ... " [Available at: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FA0717FA3F5F0C768DDDAD0894DC404482 ]

* The story doesn't end there. It turns out that the CIA compounded Tenet's lie with a misrepresentation of its own, and everybody who is anybody in the national media missed that fact. Later in the afternoon of April 14th, Agency spokespersons, Bill Harlow and Anya Guilsher, gave information to reporters that omitted a key Tenet-Bush meeting held on August 24, 2001. They told the media that Agency records showed Tenet met Bush only on August 17 and 31, and then on at least six occasions in September prior to Tuesday, the 11th. [AP report reproduced below, available at: http://www.khou.com/sharedcontent/nationworld/washingtonprint/041404cckttwwashTenet911.1265794e4.html]

Nonetheless, no one in the major media, except Ms. Dowd, even tried to connect the dots. As Dowd points out, the FBI arrested the so-called 20th hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui on August 17, the first of the dates Tenet "forgot". But, even that isn't the whole truth.

In a previously overlooked August 25 White House transcript, the President referenced meeting with Tenet "yesterday" to discuss "a very important subject" at Bush's Crawford, TX ranch. [http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/08/20010825-2.html] The fact is, Tenet, Rumsfeld, Rice, and and the newly appointed Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Myers were all present with the President on August 24. [Also, see, White House press posting for August 24: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/08/20010824.html ]

Here's the kicker: the Flt. 77 hijackers had been watchlisted on 8/23, the day before Bush had the previously undisclosed 6-hour roundtable with his national security team in Crawford. In a verbatim transcript, the President is quoted during an impromptu walking tour of Bush's Crawford, TX ranch that he had met the day before with CIA Director and newly appointed members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and National Security Advisor Rice were also present at a Presidential press conference in Crawford on the 24th, according to the White House press notice issued that day.

In the August 25 transcript, the President Bush states to reporters and visitors:

THE PRESIDENT: " ... Yesterday, we spent -- well, they arrived at 10:00 a.m. It took a while to get the press conference. We got back here at about 11:30 a.m. and met until 5:15 p.m. I think they left. That's the longest meeting I've had in a long time, on a very important subject ...

Q When you have those business meetings, like the Joint Chiefs briefing, do you like to keep it separate from the living quarters on the ranch?

THE PRESIDENT: Actually, you know, what we call the governor's house, the place where you all came out during the -- that's where we went. Condi and Karen Hughes stayed there. And right across the street from that is a -- it's a nice looking government doublewide. (Laughter.) And that's where the mil aide, the nurse, the WHCA head, the doc, they stay.

The CIA briefings, I have on our porch, the end of our porch looking out over the lake. When Tenet came up, that's where we visited, out there.

You know, everybody wants to see the ranch, which I'm proud to show it off. So George Tenet and I -- yesterday, we piled in the new nominees for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the Vice Chairman and their wives and went right up the canyon. [emphases added]"

* The "very important subject" discussed for almost six hours by Bush with his core national security team would likely have been the CIA's action the day before placing four wanted Al-Qaeda terrorists on the "watchlist" of persons to be detained if located in the US. On August 23 the Agency sent "cables to the State Department, the FBI, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, requesting that 'four bin Laden related individuals' including Almidhar and Alhazmi, be placed on the watchlist." (Washington Post, A8, September 21, 2002) Two of those - Khalid Almidhar and Nawaf Alhazmi - subsequently led the hijacking of American Airlines Flight 77 that slammed into the Pentagon.

The pair had been the subject of CIA-directed surveillance since at least late 1999, when they were followed by the CIA to an Al-Qaeda planning session in Kuala Lumpur, at which they were observed meeting with a ranking terrorist operations director and Mohamed Atta's roommate, Ramzi Binalshibh, who subsequently wired money to them from Germany. Binalshibh also sent funds to Zacarias Moussaoui, who in August 2000 stayed at the same Al-Qaeda safehouse in Malaysia while on his way to the United States. On August 17, 2001 Moussaoui was arrested by the FBI at a Minnesota flight school.

If Tenet did not take the opportunity of his meetings to discuss Al-Qaeda with the President, he committed one of the worst acts of derelection of duty in CIA history. Former DCI George Tenet is generally held to be a thorough and responsible intelligence executive. It is simply implausible that Tenet and Bush did not discuss the 9/11 hijackers when they met in Crawford on August 17 and then, again, on August 24, both dates coinciding with important developments in the Al-Qaeda operation.

A special prosecutor needs to be appointed to investigate CIA Director Tenet's apparent perjury on April 14 and the Agency's material misrepresentation of fact in its statement the next day. The former CIA Director and the President need to reveal publicly, and under oath, what was discussed at their numerous meetings in the weeks before 9/11, and why there has been an effort to conceal this.

Ironically, when Tenet misspoke, he opened the door to answering the question: "What did George W. Bush know, and when did he know it?"