Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Ex-Spy Chief on His Years 'At the Center of the Storm'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Ex-Spy Chief on His Years 'At the Center of the Storm'

Article excerpt

Sure, the CIA made mistakes. But wait... there's an explanation.

Such is the core message of At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA, George Tenet's engaging, revealing but ultimately unsatisfying book about one of the darkest periods in the agency's history.

You remember Mr. Tenet, the CIA director from 1997-2004. A few years ago, he was described as running around before 9/11 with his "hair on fire," beset by a "system [that] was blinking red."

Most recently, he appeared about ready to spontaneously combust during a combative interview on "60 Minutes."

A calmer Tenet emerges in "Center of the Storm," the new bestseller about Tenet's tenure as the nation's top intelligence chief. In fact, Tenet seems to like just about everybody he worked with, including Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and many of their minions.

Instead of bashing his bosses, he wants to correct misconceptions and poke at a few easy targets like the press and the political culture of Washington.

As the media has noticed, he also takes a slam at the unnamed White House official who accused him of convincing Bush to go to war in Iraq by saying the case for weapons of mass destruction was a "slam dunk."

Happily for readers, Tenet writes in a smooth, simple style that makes the book easy to plow through despite its 520-page heft (and the author's failure to obey the old saw, "Avoid cliches like the plague. They're old hat").

Throughout, Tenet comes across as a good-natured, likeable family man who enjoys a milkshake and fries and gleefully rides a Schwinn bike between Mideast peace delegations at a Maryland estate.

While he fails to provide any great insight into the character of the people who run this country, he does have an eye for detail and sprinkles the text with plenty of juicy tidbits.

Consider Tenet's hiring as CIA director under President Clinton. If Tenet is to be believed, Mr. Clinton didn't even bother to give him a job interview or ask about his plans for the agency. …

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