Former CIA Director Breaks Ranks With Bush, Rattles Washington

George Tenet's accusations have prompted a response from the White House.

April 30, 2007 — -- Former CIA director George Tenet has become the first person in the Bush administration's inner circle to break ranks.

He's done so explosively with a new bombshell book and a combative television interview, both of which are ricocheting across Washington.

In a "60 Minutes" interview that aired Sunday night, Tenet took aim at his former bosses, who he said turned him into a scapegoat.

"I was a talking point, 'Look what the idiot told us and we decided to go to war.' Well let's not be so disingenuous," he said.

He admitted he mistakenly believed former Iraq leader Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons. But Tenet blasted the administration's spin that his views on WMDs spurred the president to act.

"It's the most despicable think I've ever heard in my life," he said. "I'll never believe what happened that day informed the president's view or belief of the legitimacy or timing of this war."

Tenet claimed the administration had already decided to invade and never seriously debated the imminence of the treat.

"The discussions are…how you might do this, not whether you should do this," he said.

In his new book, "At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA," which goes on sale Monday, Tenet warns of imminent threats to come. He believes al Qaeda is changing tactics in its efforts to attack the West.

He writes that its recruits are now "jihadists with different backgrounds. I am convinced the next major attack against the United States may well be conducted by people with Asian or African faces."

The White House Pushes Back

Tenet's admissions prompted a response from the White House. On "This Week With George Stephanopoulos," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice maintained that the threat posed by Iraq was imminent.

"The question of imminence isn't whether or not someone is going to strike tomorrow, it's whether you believe you're in a stronger position today to deal with a threat," she said.

On "Good Morning America," White House press secretary Tony Snow, back on the job after surgery for a cancerous growth, said Tenet is wrong in saying President Bush tried to link Sept. 11 with the decision to invade Iraq.

"The fact is the president made it clear before the State of the Union in 2002 that there was no link between Saddam Hussein and Sept. 11," Snow said. "So I'm afraid what's happened there is that George Tenet may have been referring to something that has been misreported or at least twisted by people with political motives."