George Tenet resigned yesterday. This is kind of odd for a number of reasons.
First, some background: George Tenet is not exactly a friend of Bush. The split has been fairly clear since Tenet left Bush out in the cold on the “imminent threat” question. There’s also been plenty of speculation that the CIA is not pleased with the Bush administration about the Valerie Plame issue. The popular conception among Washington-watchers is that CIA and State are more or less aligned in an effort to blunt the impact of neocon foreign policy. Doug Feith’s Office of Special Plans was a successful attempt to create an alternative channel by which intelligence on Iraq could reach the President.
This should in no way be interpreted as putting the CIA in a good light. The OSP could have been the best, most honest intelligence group in the world and the CIA wouldn’t have been pleased to have another competitor. Turf wars are a terrible thing. All we can say at this point, assuming the speculation is accurate, is that the CIA is not a friend of the various neocons in Bush’s administration.
So: the first question is whether Tenet quit or was fired. If he was fired, why? If he quit, why?
If he was fired it seems likely that he’s going to be the scapegoat for Iraq failures. This is darned risky, given that he’ll have little reason not to fight back since he’s out of a job. You also have to wonder how much the CIA likes Tenet; does Bush want to piss off the CIA more than it already is? Maybe he thought about it and decided it was worth it. But it seems like an odd choice, particularly when you’ve got Doug Feith as a more direct scapegoat with less ability to fight back. Maybe Feith knows where too many bodies are buried.
If he quit, is he just fed up? Does he have an agenda? Will he be writing a book? Will it come out before the elections?
It’s unusual for news like this to be announced on a Thursday; you want to announce big personnel changes on a Friday so that there’s no weekday news cycle chewing over the ramifications. Did Tenet force Bush’s hand with a threat to leak the news himself? Did Bush just blurt it out accidentally?
And I’m not even going to get into the conspiracy theories that link this and the Valerie Plame affair — but man, it’s bad timing for Bush to announce this the day after the news comes out that he’s consulting a lawyer.
You can see what I mean. This raises about a million questions, few of which will ever get answered.