What You Won't Find in the Ex-CIA Chief's Book George Tenet Cashes in on Iraq
The former CIA chief is earning big money from corporations profiting off the war -- a fact not mentioned in his combative new book or heard on his publicity blitz.
George Tenet, former CIA chief, listens during an interview in New York on April 30 to present his new memoir "At the Center of the Storm."
But those monies are hardly Tenet's entire income. While the swirl of publicity around his book has focused on his long debated role in allowing flawed intelligence to launch the war in Iraq, nobody is talking about his lucrative connection to that conflict ever since he resigned from the CIA in June 2004. In fact, Tenet has been earning substantial income by working for corporations that provide the US government with technology, equipment and personnel used for the war in Iraq as well as the broader war on terror.
When Tenet hit the talk-show circuit last week to defend his stewardship of the CIA and his role in the run-up to the war, he did not mention that he is a director and advisor to four corporations that earn millions of dollars in revenue from contracts with US intelligence agencies and the Department of Defense. Nor is it ever mentioned in his book. But according to public records, Tenet has received at least $2.3 million from those corporations in stock and other compensation. Meanwhile, one of the CIA's largest contractors gave Tenet access to a highly secured room where he could work on classified material for his book.
Tenet sits on the board of directors of L-1 Identity Solutions, a major supplier of biometric identification software used by the US to monitor terrorists and insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. The company recently acquired two of the CIA's hottest contractors for its growing intelligence outsourcing business. At the Analysis Corp. (TAC), a government contractor run by one of Tenet's closest former advisors at the CIA, Tenet is a member of an advisory board that is helping TAC expand its thriving business designing the problematic terrorist watch lists used by the National Counterterrorism Center and the State Department.
Tenet is also a director of Guidance Software, which makes forensic software used by US law enforcement and intelligence to search computer hard drives and laptops for evidence used in the prosecution and tracking of suspected terrorists. And Tenet is the only American director on the board of QinetiQ, the British defense research firm that was privatized in 2003 and was, until recently, controlled by the Carlyle Group, the powerful Washington-based private equity fund. Fueled with Carlyle money, QinetiQ acquired four U.S. companies in recent years, including an intelligence contractor, Analex Inc.
By joining these companies, Tenet is following in the footsteps of thousands of other former intelligence officers who have left the CIA and other agencies and returned as contractors, often making two or three times what they made in their former jobs. Based on reporting I've done for an upcoming book, contractors are responsible for at least half of the estimated $48 billion a year the government now spends on intelligence. But exactly how much money will remain unknown: Four days before Tenet's book was published, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence decided not to release the results of a yearlong study of intelligence contracting, because disclosure of the figure, a DNI official told the New York Times, could damage national security.
That may be a real break for Tenet. Under his watch, according to former CIA officials and contractors I've interviewed, up to 60 percent of the CIA workforce has been outsourced. A spokesman for the CIA told me last week that that figure "is way off the mark," but wouldn't provide the actual figure, which he said is classified. But publication of that number could prove embarrassing to Tenet, particularly in light of his own deep involvement in the privatization of US intelligence.
Despite making himself available for plenty of airtime of late, Tenet was not available for an interview with Salon, said Tina Andreadis, his publicist at HarperCollins. She referred me to Bill Harlow, Tenet's co-author and his former director of public affairs at the CIA, who said Tenet's work on corporate boards "is all a matter of public record."
Tenet's ties with contractors were underscored last week in a dispute between two groups of former CIA officials over Tenet's legacy. On April 28, six former intelligence officers wrote to Tenet, saying he shared culpability with President Bush and Vice President Cheney for "the debacle in Iraq," and suggesting he donate half the royalties from his book to Iraq war veterans and their families. All of the signatories had severed their ties to US intelligence, although three of them, Phil Giraldi, Larry Johnson and Vince Cannistraro, work as consultants for news organizations, corporations and government agencies outside of intelligence.
A few days later, six recently retired officers responded. They called the first letter a "bitter, inaccurate and misleading attack" on Tenet and pointed out that it was drafted by officers who "had not served in the Agency for years." Tenet, his supporters said, "literally led the nation's counterterrorism fight." And three of its six signatories were directly involved in that fight -- as contractors. They included John Brennan of the Analysis Corp.; Cofer Black, Tenet's former counterterrorism director and vice chairman of Blackwater, the private military contractor; and Robert Richer, the former deputy director of the CIA's clandestine services. Richer recently left Blackwater to become the CEO of Total Intelligence, a new company formed with Black and other ex-CIA officials to provide intelligence services to corporations and government agencies.
- Part 1: George Tenet Cashes in on Iraq
- Part 2: A Company Dubbed 'America's Shadow Government'
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