Video: Senators react to Tenet's resignation

updated 6/3/2004 10:07:35 PM ET 2004-06-04T02:07:35

While the announcement from President Bush was sudden, the controversies surrounding now-former CIA director George Tenet have been building for years.

Before the war with Iraq, it was Tenet who told Pres. Bush the evidence of weapons of mass destruction was, "a slam dunk." Tenet then failed to stop this claim, discredited by his own agency, from going into the President's State of the Union speech.

A week later, at the United Nations, Tenet provided the intelligence for this presentation by Colin Powell.

Tenet also faced controversy over 9/11. A month before the attacks, he had been given information about the arrest of a suspicious flight school student named Zacarias Moussaoui. This followed a ratching up of the threat level and fears that Al-Qaeda might use planes as weapons. But that month, Tenet never talked to the president.

Tenet also shocked members of Congress by testifying that the intelligence flaws exposed by 9/11 would take 5 years to correct. Top congressional Republicans started joining the chorus of Democrats calling for Tenet's head to roll. Calls grew louder with a 9/11 commission report expected in weeks.

Video: From one former director to another But Thursday, at the CIA, Tenet said the decision to leave was his own. Still, Tenet's departure comes at an intriguing time. The president has retained a lawyer to help deal with a federal grand jury investigation into administration leaks of the identity of a CIA operative.

A new dispute over Ahmed Chalabi has once again exposed an administration civil war. Neo-cons and hawks loved Chalabi before the Iraqi war. Moderates like Powell and Tenet were skeptical of his claims. Two weeks ago, the CIA began investigating reported links between Chalabi and Iran, links the discredited Chalabi denied.

But the back and forth over Chalabi, like Tenet's sometimes freewheeling alliances, likely sealed his fate. Because while the CIA director may have resigned on his own, in the end, nobody in the administration asked Tenet to reconsider.

'Hardball with Chris Matthews' airs weeknights, 7 p.m. ET on MSNBC.


Discussion comments