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Tenet's Unimpressive Response

12:33 PM, Apr 30, 2007 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Think Progress has posted the video of Tom Brokaw's interview with George Tenet this morning. Brokaw pressed Tenet on the details of a conversation he claims to have had with Richard Perle on September 12, 2001, and which Perle denies ever took place--owing to the fact that he was not in the country on September 12, but in France.

Here's the original quote from Tenet's book:

On the day after 9/11, he [Tenet] adds, he ran into Richard Perle, a leading neoconservative and the head of the Defense Policy Board, coming out of the White House. He says Mr. Perle turned to him and said: "Iraq has to pay a price for what happened yesterday. They bear responsibility."

And here's Tenet's response this morning:

"I may have been off by a couple of days. The encounter occurred. The conversation occurred. … So I may have gotten the days wrong, but I know I got the substance of that conversation correct."

Think Progress conveniently reproduces the quote from last night's 60 Minutes--rather than the quote from the book--which makes it seem as though the date of the conversation might be wrong, but the "substance" might still be right. However, the original quote from the book makes clear that the "substance" of the conversation must be wrong if the date is wrong as well: Tenet quotes Perle as saying "Iraq has to pay a price for what happened yesterday."

This quote is a centerpiece of Tenet's charge that there was some kind of conspiracy in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks to pin the blame on Saddam. But the conversation didn't take place when he said it did, and so the substance of the conversation can't possibly be what he said it was. Tenet's explanation is no explanation at all.