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CNN CrossFire

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CNN CROSSFIRE 16:30 June 3, 2004 Thursday
Copyright 2004 Cable News Network
All Rights Reserved



June 3, 2004 Thursday

Transcript # 060300CN.V20

SECTION: News; International

LENGTH: 3611 words

HEADLINE: CIA Director Calls It Quits

GUESTS: Ray LaHood, Ed Markey

BYLINE: Robert Reich, Robert Novak

CIA Director George Tenet resigns. Tenet says his reasons are personal, but did politics play a role?


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala; on the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.

In the CROSSFIRE: the spy chief who's coming in from the cold. CIA Director George Tenet resigns.


NOVAK: Joining us to talk about George Tenet's resignation, Ray LaHood, congressman, Republican of Illinois who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, and Ed Markey, congressman, Democrat of Massachusetts, member of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security-Bob.

REICH: By the way, Bob, that's your copy of my book. And I want you to not sell it on eBay.

NOVAK: All right.


REICH: Congressman, don't you agree that it's a little bit odd, the timing of this resignation by George Tenet, I mean, five months before an election? Don't you think it has something to do with all of the problems going on between the Pentagon and the CIA, Abu Ghraib, the issue of the leak from the White House, the questions that are all surrounding intelligence failures? I mean, five months before an election, maybe the president wants to actually fine a scapegoat.

REP. RAY LAHOOD ®, ILLINOIS: Director Tenet was kind enough to call me early this afternoon because he and I are friends and we've worked together.

And I asked him if he had been pushed, if he had been pushed out. And he said no. He said, this is a personal decision between my wife and I. This was the time for me to go. And, as a matter of fact, he said the president asked him to stay and he said, this is the right time for him to go. And I believe him. I take him at his word and I take the president's word. He's done a superb job.


REICH: Why is there-now, Congressman, your constituents are from Peoria, Illinois, right? This is heartland America. This is average people looking at the news. Most people looking at the news, wouldn't you agree, scratch their heads and say, well, who's responsible?

Is it the Pentagon? Is it the CIA? Whether you're looking at Abu Ghraib, or you're looking at intelligence failures, you're looking at anything else that's been going on recently, everybody seems to be passing the buck, don't they? Who's in charge?

LAHOOD: Well, as much as you probably don't like to hear it, Mr. Secretary, President Bush and George Tenet played very well in Peoria. As a matter of fact, Director Tenet was just out in Peoria and gave one heck of a speech and talked about values and talked about the importance of intelligence. He did a great job and he was well received.

And people out there don't play the blame game like we do here in Washington. People take people at their word. The director said it was time for him to go. It was his personal decision. The president said he's done a superb job. I agree with all that.

NOVAK: Ed Markey, your leader Al Gore was giving a rant in his imitation of Howard Dean last week, and he asked for everybody's resignation, except Laura Bush. And he ended up with asking the CIA director.

Let's listen to what Gore said about what he called his friend, his personal friend, George Tenet.


AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have regretfully concluded that it is also important, extremely important, that our country have new leadership at our intelligence community immediately.


NOVAK: Now, shouldn't you be happy? Al Gore says he's got to go. He's gone. Case closed. Aren't you happy about that?

REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Oh, there's no question that the country is much better off now that George Tenet has left. After all, the war in Iraq was begun on a false premise and that false premise was that there was an active nuclear weapons program in Iraq.

Now, we now know that George Tenet knew that there wasn't, that Dick Cheney knew there wasn't, that Wolfowitz and Rice and the president knew there was no nuclear weapons program.


MARKEY: And we would not be in Iraq today if George Tenet had stood up and said there was no nuclear weapons program. And he knew it.


NOVAK: So you're-you're happy you got his neck.

But let me take another prominent Democrat's proposal-take on this, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. Let's listen to her.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: We're in the middle of a major alert with respect to the anticipation that there might be another attack on our own country. And to have I think the head of the intelligence community resign at this particular point in time is very unusual.


NOVAK: You just can't satisfy you Democrats. You say he has to go. Then he goes. You say it's a funny time for him to go. It's all politics, isn't it, Ed?

MARKEY: It's not politics. It's performance. And George Tenet's performance is...

NOVAK: Actually, I'm asking about Dianne Feinstein.

MARKEY: Well, Dianne Feinstein and I disagree on this issue.

NOVAK: OK, then, fine.

MARKEY: And, unfortunately, this is the first break. This George Tenet resignation is the first break inside of the Bush administration.

But we now know that not only did George Tenet, but so didn't Colin Powell and so didn't many other people have grave reservations about the reports of nuclear weapons in Iraq before we started that war with Iraq, and none of them stepped forward to tell the public. So at least in the Democratic Party, even right here, I'm willing to disagree with Diane.

But inside the Bush administration, people were under orders to never step forward and tell the truth that this war in Iraq was started on a lie, and that lie was that there were nuclear weapons in Iraq. We would have never gone to war on the basis that we were going to bring democracy to the whole Middle East. There are now 1,000 -- nearly 1,000 dead, 5,000 injured young men and women.

And each one of them is as a result of something that was absolutely not true. Iraq did not have a nuclear weapons program. George Tenet knew it. All of them knew it. And there was a program in North Korea and in Iran that they knew were there and yet we started the war with the wrong country.

REICH: We started the war...


REICH: Congressman, we started the war with the wrong country. Now, I want to just ask you something, because a couple of weeks ago, you were quoted as saying, "If it was October, I'd probably be having a heart attack."

LAHOOD: Well, sure, that was a reflection-a reporter asked me, what about the numbers? And the polling numbers at that point were not that great for the president. But, you know, we're several months away from election.


REICH: But since then...

LAHOOD: And these polls will go up and down. They will go up and down.

REICH: But since then...

LAHOOD: The important poll will be on Election Day. And I...

REICH: Since then, the polling numbers have gone down. In fact, we have a report recently the president is even consulting a lawyer, not even using the White House lawyer, his own lawyer with regard to the probe in who leaked the CIA operative from the White House. Now, tell me a little bit about all of this.

LAHOOD: Look, Secretary Reich, you've run for public office and I'm sure you took many polls when you were running for public office. And do you that to try and gauge where things are at.

And polls will go up and down, particularly in a presidential race, particularly when people are being barraged the way the president is every day by people writing, kiss-and-tell books, all the criticism that's come.

REICH: And that's why he has his own lawyer.


REICH: Our guests, Republican Congressman Ray LaHood, member of the House Intelligence Committee, and Democratic Congressman Ed Markey, member of the Homeland Security Committee.

NOVAK: Congressman Markey, when George Tenet was CIA director under President Clinton, I didn't hear you criticize him. Did he suddenly-now you just think he's terrible. Do you think he suddenly got dumb and depraved when he went from a Democrat administration to a Republican?


I think, though, that he was put under tremendous pressure from the Bush administration to enable the war in Iraq to begin on that false premise that there were nuclear weapons in Iraq. And for whatever reason, he succumbed to the pressure. He allowed the lie about the Niger uranium to go into the State of the Union address. Unfortunately, he exercised poor judgment. And during the Clinton administration, he did not.

REICH: Congressman LaHood, the FBI apparently is now undertaking lie-detector tests in the Pentagon, actually to try to find out which officials, if any, leaked information to Chalabi about the Iranian code-breaking. Isn't that extraordinary? And do you think that the lie-detector tests are going to be given to Wolfowitz and to Rumsfeld as well?

LAHOOD: Probably not, no. They won't be taking lie-detector tests.

REICH: What's going on here?

LAHOOD: Well, I guess they're trying to get to the bottom of the information that was disclosed. And I hadn't heard this report, but if you say it's so, then I guess we'll take you at your word.


NOVAK: Thank you, Ray LaHood.

It's your turn now to fire back at us. Your interactive comments are next.

Stay with us.


NOVAK: And from the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.


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