CIA Veteran Accuses Tenet of 'Lie'

Sunday May 06, 2007 

Former CIA chief George Tenet, author of "At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA” is getting some tough feedback from his own people for what he claims in the controversial memoir.

Tyler Drumheller, head of the CIA’s Europe Division when he retired in 2004, says Tenet’s assertion that he didn’t know that a key intelligence source for the attack on Iraq was bogus is "a lie,” according to a report by Jeff Stein, Congressional Quarterly National Security editor.

"This is a defense that he and Harlow cooked up,” Drumheller said in an interview last week, referring to Tenet and his writing assistant, former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow.

At issue is "Curveball,” the code name for an Iraqi refugee in the hands of German intelligence, who claimed that Saddam Hussein had a fleet of secret mobile germ warfare laboratories.

CIA officers hadn’t been able to question Curveball on their own. Germany’s foreign intelligence agency didn't the agency access.

In the fall of 2002, Drumheller chatted with his German counterpart about Curveball over lunch in the nation’s capital.

In that meeting, the German admitted that he and his own agency had a lot of doubts about Curveball; that he was very erratic character; that his reporting couldn’t be validated; and that he personally thought the informant was a fabricator.

In George Tenet’s telling, however, he hardly heard about Curveball.

George Tenet claims, "I’ve since learned that there were debates between our analysts and our intelligence collectors about the case.” He does admit that he heard that some on the clandestine side "had a gut feeling” that Curveball wasn’t straight, but that was it."

But the very credible Drumheller, a senior intelligence official with 30 years in the spy business, recounted that he immediately told headquarters about his lunch with his German counterpart – and there ensued a violent debate within the American agency.

Recounts Drumheller: e-mails were flying — between the CIA’s Berlin station and Washington, between Drumheller and the top aide to Tenet’s deputy John McLaughlin, and between Drumheller and Tenet’s chief of staff — all through the fall.

"And if George wasn’t aware of it at that point,” in December 2002, Drumheller says — two months before Secretary of State Colin Powell’s fateful presentation of the (internally) discredited information to the United Nations — "then he’s derelict…”



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