Americans will recognize CIA successes, Tenet says

A day before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a report harshly critical of the U.S. intelligence community's performance regarding prewar Iraq, retiring CIA Director George Tenet Thursday defended his agency's progress and seemingly rejected outside interference in its operations.

In a farewell address to CIA employees, Tenet said the agency's record would ultimately be vindicated and called on lawmakers to be fair in their assessment.

"In the end, the American people will weigh and assess our record - where intelligence has done well, and where we have fallen short. And, aware of the difficulties and limitations that we face, they will recognize and honor your service. My only wish is that those whose job it is to help us do better show the same balance and care: in recognizing how far we have come, in recognizing how bold we have been, in recognizing what the full balance sheet says," he said.

The Senate intelligence committee Friday released a report criticizing the U.S. intelligence community's gathering and assessment of intelligence on Iraq's alleged prewar WMD efforts. Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said that his panel's inquiry found that a "global intelligence failure" led to the widespread belief that prewar Iraq possessed stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, none of which have yet been found, according to the Associated Press.

Roberts was quoted last week as saying that the report's findings "literally beg for changes in the intelligence community." The New York Times reported Thursday that the Senate intelligence panel is now set to begin work on crafting recommendations for intelligence reform. One oft-proposed recommendation has been the creation of a national director of intelligence to oversee the entire U.S. intelligence community - a proposal that has been opposed by some senior intelligence officials.

In his remarks Thursday, Tenet defended the improvements made over his seven-year tenure as CIA director and seemingly rejected outside attempts at reform.

"If people or leaders want to take you back in a different direction, then it is your voices that must be heard to say we know better and we're not going to put up with it," he told agency employees.

Tenet, whose resignation formally takes effect Sunday, has said that he is leaving the CIA for personal reasons, but some experts have said that his decision may have been influenced by the controversies surrounding intelligence operations and prewar Iraq. Tenet will be replaced by agency Deputy Director John McLaughlin, who will serve as acting director until a permanent replacement is named and approved.

In separate remarks yesterday, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called on the Bush administration to appoint a "nonpolitical" choice to help quicken the confirmation process.

"If they nominate somebody who clearly is nonpolitical, someone who clearly is able to call the shots in an objective way and not to respond to what the administration's policies are with the intelligence which is shaped to support that policy; if the person who is nominated … has that kind of a background - that kind of a backbone as well as a background, then I would think that there could be a fairly speedy and prompt … confirmation process," Levin said.

He rejected as too political the potential selection of House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Porter Goss, R-Fla., a former CIA officer who has been the subject of speculation as a possible White House choice to replace Tenet.

"I think Porter Goss just goes in as too political, just automatically would be too political a person going in. I like him; I have a lot of respect for him, but that's not the issue here. The issue is you've got to restore public confidence in the CIA as being able to provide thoroughly objective, unvarnished, unshaped intelligence," Levin said.

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