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At the Center of the Storm

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In the whirlwind of accusations and recriminations that emerged in the wake of 9/11 and the Iraq war, one man's vital testimony has been conspicuously absent. Candid and gripping, At the Center of the Storm recounts George Tenet's time at the Central Intelligence Agency, a revealing look at the inner workings of the most important intelligence organization in the world during the most challenging times in recent history. With unparalleled access to both the highest echelons of government and raw intelligence from...

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At the Center of the Storm

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Overview

In the whirlwind of accusations and recriminations that emerged in the wake of 9/11 and the Iraq war, one man's vital testimony has been conspicuously absent. Candid and gripping, At the Center of the Storm recounts George Tenet's time at the Central Intelligence Agency, a revealing look at the inner workings of the most important intelligence organization in the world during the most challenging times in recent history. With unparalleled access to both the highest echelons of government and raw intelligence from the field, Tenet illuminates the CIA's painstaking attempts to prepare the country against new and deadly threats, disentangles the interlocking events that led to 9/11, and offers explosive new information on the deliberations and strategies that culminated in the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Beginning with his appointment as Director of Central Intelligence in 1997, Tenet unfolds the momentous events that led to 9/11 as he saw and experienced them: his declaration of war on al-Qa'ida; the CIA's covert operations inside Afghanistan; the worldwide operational plan to fight terrorists; his warnings of imminent attacks against American interests to White House officials in the summer of 2001; and the plan for a coordinated and devastating counterattack against al-Qa'ida laid down just six days after the attacks.

Tenet's compelling narrative then turns to the war in Iraq as he provides dramatic insight and background on the run-up to the invasion, including a firsthand account of the fallout from the inclusion of "sixteen words" in the president's 2003 State of the Union address, which claimed that Saddam Hussein had sought to purchase uranium from Africa; the true context of Tenet's own now-famous "slam dunk" comment regarding Saddam's WMD program; and the CIA's critical role in an administration predisposed to take the country to war. In doing so, he sets the record straight about CIA operations and shows readers that the truth is more complex than suggested in other versions of recent history offered thus far.

Through it all, Tenet paints an unflinching self-portrait of a man caught between the warring forces of the administration's decision-making process, the reams of frightening intelligence pouring in from around the world, and his own conscience. In At the Center of the Storm, George Tenet draws on his unmatched experience within the opaque mirrors of intelligence and provides crucial information previously undisclosed to offer a moving, revelatory profile of both a man and a nation in times of crisis.

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Editorial Reviews

Michiko Kakutani
Alternately withholding and aggrieved, earnest and disingenuous, At the Center of the Storm is interesting less for any stunning new revelations than for fleshing out a portrait of the Bush White House already sketched by reporters and former administration members. Mr. Tenet depicts an administration riven by factional fighting between the State and Defense Departments, hard-liners and more pragmatic realists, an administration given to out-of-channels policymaking, and ad hoc, improvisatory decision-making.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Former CIA director Tenet leaves the main vocal duties for this audio in the capable hands of Conger (who also recently narrated The Reagan Diaries). Yet in reading both the brief introduction and lengthy-but highly compelling-afterword, Tenet demonstrates a command of the spoken word that makes one wonder why he did not handle his own narration. However, the two men project a compatible style and tone, conveying deeply personal emotion within the boundaries of professionalism and decorum. Tenet does not shy away from acknowledging his own responsibility in controversies involving terrorism and the Iraq War, but he also takes several key political leaders to task for scapegoating the intelligence community in the wake of unpopular policy. The musical interludes at the start and end of each CD serve to maintain the cloak and dagger ambience. Those who prefer to skim the surface of news events may find the length taxing, but listeners ready to move beyond the headlines and into a wider world of nuanced complexity will be more than satisfied. Simultaneous release with the HarperCollins hardcover. (July)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal
Talk about an insider's account. Head of the CIA from 1997 to 2004, Tenet ushers us inside the agency before and after 9/11. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
New York Times
"…fascinating …"
Associated Press
“Tenet’s new book...is delicious and edifying.”
San Francisco Chronicle
"Compelling."
Washington Post
"The drums have been sounding for the long-awaited book by former CIA director George Tenet."
Los Angeles Times
"….very readable…"
Associated Press Staff
"Tenet’s new book...is delicious and edifying."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061147784
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/30/2007
  • Pages: 576
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

George Tenet was the Director of Central Intelligence from 1997 to 2004. He holds a BSFS from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and an MIA from the School of International Affairs at Columbia University. He was appointed to the faculty of Georgetown University in 2004 and lives outside Washington, D.C., with his wife, author Stephanie Glakas-Tenet, and their son.

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Table of Contents


Principal Characters     ix
Preface     xxv
Part I
The Towpath     3
The Burning Platform     19
Shot Out of a Cannon     43
Waging Peace     80
Beyond Wye     112
Arafat     132
Part II
Gathering Storm     149
"They're Coming Here"     201
9/11     246
"We're at War"     268
Missed Opportunities     291
Into the Sanctuary     314
Threat Matrix     346
They Want to Change History     393
The Merchant of Death and the Colonel     428
Part III
Casus Belli     457
"The One Issue That Everyone Could Agree On"     487
No Authority, Direction, or Control     516
Slam Dunk     545
Taking "the Case" Public     558
Diplomacy by Other Means     582
The Hunt for WMD     606
Mission Not Accomplished     630
Sixteen Words     680
Going     722
Afterword     739
Glossary     769
Acknowledgments     779
Index     787
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First Chapter

At the Center of the Storm
My Years at the CIA

Chapter One

The Towpath

It was like something out of a spy movie.

The date was March 16, 1997, a Sunday. I was at home, on a rare day off, when the phone rang. "Meet me by the C&O Canal, near the Old Angler's Inn in an hour," a voice said, almost in a whisper. "Come alone." That was all. He didn't have to identify himself; he knew I would be there.

The voice belonged to Anthony Lake, who had stepped down as national security advisor two months earlier, when Bill Clinton nominated him to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Back in 1992, at the start of the Clinton administration, Tony had made me part of his National Security Council staff. Prior to that I had served as a Senate staffer, and for the previous four years had been staff director of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Over the course of three years on the NSC staff, I had formed a warm personal and professional relationship with Lake and his deputy, Sandy Berger. Then, in May 1995, John Deutch, who was about to become CIA director, tapped me to be his second in command. We had gotten to know each other when Deutch was deputy secretary of defense and had even traveled together once overseas to deal with a sensitive intelligence matter. But now, after only a year and a half in the job, Deutch was leaving CIA, and my friend and former boss Tony Lake had been picked to replace him.

Tony had all the right tools for the job: intelligence, acumen, the confidence of the president, and strength of character. Outsiders who observed Tony when he was national security advisor assumed from his quietcomportment that he was some misplaced mild-mannered professor. Not so. Amid many large egos, Tony was the unchallenged boss at the NSC, a master at process and bureaucratic intrigue. He had observed up close the dysfunctional backbiting that crippled the Carter administration and had worked hard to prevent a repeat performance under Bill Clinton. A rarity in Washington, Tony had no desire to have a high profile, and he emphasized to his staff that we would succeed or fail together as a team. None of us, he stressed, had been elected to the offices we held.

All those attributes made Tony an ideal choice, I thought, to lead CIA. Selfishly, I also knew that his arrival at Langley meant that I would be able to stay on in the deputy's job—a position I was learning to love.

John Deutch—a brilliant, eccentric, and largely misunderstood figure—had an ability to translate his technical expertise into policy in a way few people could. A gregarious bear of a man, he wanted to be respected by the Agency's workforce. But shortly after he arrived at CIA, the Agency's inspector general issued a report criticizing the professionalism of some CIA officers in Guatemala in the 1980s, and John disciplined some of those named. That got him off to a rough start with the workforce. And then things got worse.

His downfall came when he told a reporter for the New York Times Magazine that he did not find many first-class intellects at the Agency. "Compared to uniformed officers," the Times quoted John as saying, "they certainly are not as competent, or as understanding of what their relative role is and what their responsibilities are." The Central Intelligence Agency is a very emotional place, and after that, John's chances of winning hearts and minds there were pretty much shot. I know he regretted his remarks. It was a valuable lesson that I would put to use later: You have to earn your employees' trust, keep your own counsel, be optimistic, and, as I always said, lead from "the perspective of the glass being always half-full."

John's tumultuous tenure at CIA ended in December 1996 when he abruptly resigned. The conventional wisdom around Washington was that he really wanted to be secretary of defense and that when it became clear that post was not to be his, he left government for good. Whatever the actual reason, after he cleaned out his desk, I became acting director.

I thought I would have to handle the two jobs for only a short while until Lake was confirmed. But four months later, the nomination was still tied up in the Senate. I figured that the delay in Tony's confirmation was behind his request to meet with me, but I had no idea why he had insisted on such an unusual location. His instructions to come alone were especially puzzling. He knew that deputy CIA directors don't go anywhere alone. Since I'd taken the job at the Agency, a heavily armed security detail had been my constant companion. Everywhere I went, I was driven around in a big, black armored SUV with a second follow car full of guys with guns. Threats against senior CIA officials by terrorists and nutcases were very real. In the four months since I had become acting DCI, the security had been ratcheted up even tighter.

Nonetheless, I tried to comply with Tony's request for discretion. I called in the chief of my security detail, Dan O'Connor, and told him that he and I needed to go for a little ride—alone. Dan, known around the Agency as "Doc," for his initials, is a big, genial New York Irishman. He would take a bullet to save my life without hesitation, but he hated the notion of our venturing out without the usual retinue of backups. His duty was to minimize the risk to me, not maximize it. Nonetheless, he drove over to my home, and the two of us headed south toward the Potomac River.

We pulled into the gravel parking lot across from the Old Angler's Inn. From there, with Doc keeping a discreet distance, I set off down a dirt path to the century-and-a-half-old canal that once carried . . .

At the Center of the Storm
My Years at the CIA
. Copyright © by George Tenet. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 7 of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2008

    The Man That Knew

    If one wants to get a more fuller picture of the war on terrorism, instead of the idiotic persuasions of the Bush Administration, this is the book. George Tenet, the singular man in the CIA, that nearly wiped out al-Qaida in the mountains in Afghanistan had it not been for the distractions of Iraq, as he clearly shows. Among his other deserved accomplishments were that he was totally independent in his evaluations to modernize the once-mighty CIA, captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and got contacts no other previous DIC could ever possibly fathom. Although he was too submissive into the lead-up of the Iraq War, as many others were, he acknowledges his mistakes and further dangers that have occurred because of Iraq, because of the cherry-picking by Feith, Hadley, and Rice, we are in this morass today. As the CIA is rapidly losing contacts in the Middle East because of Tenet's assertive humint resources and his uncanny pragmatism, it is clear that the Mossad is picking off where we left off with al-Qaida, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and the Iranians. With the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, al-Libi, two atomic scientists for the Iranians and the capture of Omar al-Basher, the old crew is back and the heads of al-Zawhari, bin Laden, Amadinjehad, and Nasrallah are all but guaranteed. Good bye, al-Qaida.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2007

    Fantastic truth ..at last ...

    AT THE CENTER OF THE STORM is George Tenet's fabulous book that unravels the facts and documents the fiction that the White House fed the nation to engage in the war. Never before has truth been so powerful. It is a shame that so much blood had to be shed, before the facts were revealed. One thing that Mr. Tenet still denies is the issue of torture. The entire country knows that CIA does authorize torture through their subsidiaries '3rd party countries'. By the way, in 2004 I read the same facts that Mr. Tenet now reveals in the near-real-fiction CRIMES OF THE RIGHT by author Hope Newman.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2007

    A squandered opportunity to tell the whole truth and come clean

    With the publication of this book by George Tenet, the first significant crack that occurred in the wall of silence built by the blind loyalists of Bush¿s innermost circle has now become visible for all to see. It is only a matter of time before the other members 'Colin Powell?' join him too, and contribute to the collapse of the wall. Well, the inevitable has happened, at last. The cohesion of the members of the President¿s innermost circle, the Bush loyalists, has begun to unravel. In this book George Tenet claims that the Bush administration pushed the country to war in Iraq without ever having a serious debate about whether Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat to the United States. He claims that Bush¿s administration had decided to bomb and invade Iraq long before he used the infamous words ¿slam dunk¿ regarding the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and he explains that Vice President Dick Chaney used Tenet¿s words out of context. According to Tenet, in 2002, deputy C.I.A. director, John McLaughlin presented a draft justifying the planned bombing and invasion of Iraq. George Bush was not impressed with this presentation and suggested that he should ¿add punch¿ ''sex it up' as they did at 10 Downing Street?' by bringing in lawyers trained to argue cases before a jury. The author thinks that sending more troops to Iraq will not help in controlling or reducing violence in Iraq. I wonder why he did not say anything in public when the President proposed to send 'a surge' of troops to Iraq. He unashamedly defends the CIA¿s ¿extraordinary rendition¿- capturing men suspected as being members of the Al Qaeda, and sending them to secret prisons overseas, hence beyond the reach of US laws, and using harsh interrogation techniques 'torture' to get either information or confession from these men. While criticizing Dick Chaney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Condoleezza Rice, he is reluctant to criticize George Bush even though Bush has made statements about Al Qaeda, and Saddam Hussein¿s weapons of mass destruction, and the reasons for Iraq Invasion not based on facts. So George Tenet reveals himself on these pages as less than truthful. The author is convinced that Dick Chaney made him a scapegoat for the Bush administration¿s failed Iraq policy, and now he feels betrayed by Bush¿s cabinet. There is an ancient, very famous, Indian saying: Do your dharma 'Do the right thing, do your duty'. When the President claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that it was trying to buy uranium to make atomic weapons, it was George Tenet¿s duty to speak up and warn Congress that the President¿s claims were not supported by facts. But by choosing to remain silent, he helped to spread misinformation to Americans. In this book he is trying to justify his behavior. He is trying to defend the indefensible. It is sad, but not surprising, that the author has squandered the opportunity to tell the whole truth and come clean. Nevertheless, three stars to George Tenet for singing now, albeit belatedly, and off-key.

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    Posted January 5, 2009

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    Posted January 25, 2010

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    Posted February 13, 2010

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