Tenet resigns CIA
George J. Tenet has resigned as director of central intelligence, President Bush said today in an announcement that stunned Washington by its timing.
"Today, George Tenet, the director of the C.I.A., submitted a letter of resignation," Mr. Bush said on the South Lawn of the White House. "I met with George last night in the White House. I had a good visit with him. He told me he was resigning for personal reasons."
But while Mr. Bush said he had told Mr. Tenet he was sorry to see him go and that he had done "a superb job on behalf of the American people," there was immediate speculation that there was much more behind the departure than Mr. Tenet's wish to leave the demands of a post he has held since 1997.
Mr. Tenet and the C.I.A. have come under intense criticism since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The critics, in the government and outside it, have assailed the C.I.A., along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies, for failing to "connect the dots," or put together what in retrospect seemed to be a cornucopia of clues, and head off the attacks.
More recently, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell has reportedly been pressing the C.I.A. to explain why he was apparently misinformed about Saddam Hussein's supposed possession of deadly chemical and biological weapons. Those weapons, which Mr. Powell told the United Nations were already in Iraq's arsenal and which were a key rationale for the American-led war to topple the Baghdad dictator, have so far not been found.
Mr. Bush announced the resignation in a way that was almost bizarre. He had just addressed reporters and photographers in a fairly innocuous Rose Garden session with Australia's prime minister, John Howard. Then the session was adjourned, as Mr. Bush apparently prepared to depart for nearby Andrews Air Force Base and his flight to Europe, where he is to take part in ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the Normady invasion and meet European leaders — some of whom have been sharply critical of the campaign in Iraq.
But minutes later, Mr. Bush reappeared on the sun-drenched White House lawn, stunning listeners with the news of Mr. Tenet's resignation, which the president said would be effective in mid-July. Until then, Mr. Bush said, the C.I.A.'s deputy director, John McLaughlin, will be acting director.
The president praised Mr. Tenet's qualities as a public servant, saying: "He's strong. He's resolute. He's served his nation as the director for seven years. He has been a strong and able leader at the agency. He's been a, he's been a strong leader in the war on terror, and I will miss him."
Then Mr. Bush walked away, declining to take questions or offer any insight into what Mr. Tenet's personal reasons might be.
The official announcement was unconvincing to a former C.I.A. chief, Stansfield Turner, who held the post under President Jimmy Carter.
Mr. Turner said the resignation is "too significant a move at too important a time" to be inspired by nothing more than personal considerations.
"I think he's being pushed out," Mr. Turner said in an interview on C.N.N. "The president feels he has to have someone to blame."
Mr. Turner went on, "I don't think he would pull the plug on President Bush in the midst of an election cycle without being asked by President Bush to do that."
Mr. Tenet, 51, stepped down as Washington is awaiting the release of a report by an independent commission that has been studying the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the response to them. Washington is also awaiting a report from the Senate Intelligence Committee on Iraq's supposed possession of weapons of mass destruction.
Named to the C.I.A. post by President Bill Clinton, Mr. Tenet proved himself to be a survivor by lasting as long as he did under Mr. Clinton's Republican successor.
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