Former CIA director comes out from undercover _ sort of

Saturday, December 4th 2004, 10:28 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Former CIA Director George Tenet's words are still classified ``sensitive'' and there is no shortage of people who want to hear them. Tenet has embarked on what is a rite of passage for many power-brokers who leave government: a speaking tour.

Since leaving the agency in July, Tenet has signed on with the Washington Speakers Bureau. For a fee, the group sends Beltway insiders to dinners, conventions and other events. Tenet is promoted as someone available to discuss democracy and terrorism.

``He's got far more speaking invitations than he is ever going to be able to accept,'' said his former public affairs chief and associate, Bill Harlow.

Tenet is careful about what invitations he accepts. Only select audiences get to hear what he has to say. Also, reporters generally are not allowed in and tape recorders are forbidden.

Harlow said such a policy is typical of other former government officials, including Colin Powell, who did not allow press coverage of his speeches between his tours as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state.

In Tenet's case, Harlow said, ``he does not want to be in the newspapers every day. He doesn't want everything he says to be focused in the prism of everyday news.''

Harlow declined to offer details about how many appearances Tenet has done or what Tenet is making. The speakers bureau Web site says its clients can command more than $40,000 a speech. Experts say Tenet would be at the higher end of the scale.

According to limited press reports, Tenet draws on his experiences overseeing the CIA during an era that included the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the Iraq invasion. He has called the Iraq intelligence ``sloppy,'' but also defended the agency's personnel.

For instance, at an October speech at Georgia's Mercer University, Tenet said information does exist indicating that ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Tenet also argued that the lack of ``direct evidence of stockpiles'' in Iraq does not mean that Saddam could not manufacture and deliver biological and chemical weapons, according to a report in The Macon Telegraph.

But, Tenet acknowledged, the CIA ``probably connected too many dots'' in its analysis of Saddam's weapons capability and intelligence agencies were not at their best.

The published account said Tenet focused on CIA successes, such as its quick work to penetrate Afghanistan before the 2001 invasion, its capture of terrorist leaders and its work that led Libya to dismantle its weapons program.

Tenet's post-CIA career also is returning him to Georgetown University, his alma mater. He will be in the classroom as a professor of diplomacy by next fall.

Tenet and Harlow are also starting work on a book. Harlow, a novelist, is not saying what they will write about. The tentative plan is for a release in early 2006.