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Bamford implies that Tenet, the ultimate staff guy, is partly to blame for this failure of nerve. When Secretary of State Colin Powell was putting together his now discredited speech to the U.N. last year about Saddam's WMD program, he stood virtually alone against the hard-liners, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and her deputy Stephen Hadley, all of whom seemed keen to pump up the Secretary's talking points. Cheney's staff handed Powell a 50-page draft of allegations; the Secretary rejected most of them as unsupportable, with the hard-liners, Rice and even Tenet fighting him every step of the way during run-through sessions at CIA headquarters. And as it turned out, Powell didn't fight hard enough.
Could Tenet have stopped the rush to war? Bamford suggests he could have. "Off on the sidelines, George Tenet was one of the few who knew the truth," he writes, adding that Tenet preferred to work behind the scenes on minor disagreements about the data "instead of speaking out" against the grand scheme. That's a harsh indictment of the man who kept America's secrets under two Presidents. But one of Tenet's colleagues was even less generous, saying simply, "We caved."