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Should Americans have to pay to get the truth about how their government failed them?

Former CIA director George Tenet’s new book has hit the bookstores. For $30 a reader can find out what really happened in that December 2002 meeting at the White House when Tenet used the phrase “slam dunk.” Or what really happened with the prewar WMD intelligence and how it was used–or abused–by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and others.

The usual promotional theatrics are underway. Tenet appeared on 60 Minutes on Sunday, and CBS had already released some choice tidbits of that interview. Meanwhile, The New York Times last week obtained a copy of the under-wraps book and reported some of its disclosures. (News flash: Cheney pushed the nation to war without ever seriously examining the threat posed by Iraq.)

All of this is making Tenet, the man who was in charge of an intelligence establishment that failed the country before 9/11 and that then produced an intelligence estimate that vastly overstated the WMD threat posed by Iraq, a rich fellow. He reportedly bagged millions of dollars for writing this book.

But here’s an out-of-the-box question: Don’t the citizens of the United States deserve to know what happened in the run-up to the war (and to 9/11) for free? Tenet may feel–as he claims–damn lousy about the screwed-up National Intelligence Estimate that helped pave the way to war in Iraq. But he did not feel bad enough to resign–or to disclose earlier what had gone wrong. He sat on the story and now is peddling it for personal profit.

Tenet should have long ago been questioned openly by a congressional committee about all this–though no Republican committee chair would have dared–or he should have spilled all to 60 Minutes and other media, as a public service, not as an advertisement for his book. On Friday, Representative Henry Waxman, the chairman of the House oversight and government reform committee, sent Tenet a letter asking him to testify before his committee on May 10 regarding “one of the claims used to justify the war in Iraq–the assertion that Iraq sought to import uranium from Niger–and related issues.” Let’s hope Tenet can take time from the book tour to appear.

Tenet’s a smart guy who saw much. And he was screwed by the White House, even though he did fail to make sure the intelligence on Iraq was properly vetted and responsibly used. But if Tenet indeed believed before the invasion of Iraq that Bush and Cheney were pushing the nation to war without adequately assessing the threat or assessing options other than full-scale war, he had an obligation at the time to make that known–at least to members of Congress, if not the public at large. He did not do so. Consequently, he owes the public a full accounting and an apology–not a sales campaign.


DON”T FORGET ABOUT HUBRIS: THE INSIDE STORY OF SPIN, SCANDAL, AND THE SELLING OF THE IRAQ WAR, the best-selling book by David Corn and Michael Isikoff. Click here for information on the book. The New York Times calls Hubris “the most comprehensive account of the White House’s political machinations” and “fascinating reading.” The Washington Post says, “There have been many books about the Iraq war….This one, however, pulls together with unusually shocking clarity the multiple failures of process and statecraft.” Tom Brokaw notes Hubris “is a bold and provocative book that will quickly become an explosive part of the national debate on how we got involved in Iraq.” Hendrik Hertzberg, senior editor of The New Yorker notes, “The selling of Bush’s Iraq debacle is one of the most important–and appalling–stories of the last half-century, and Michael Isikoff and David Corn have reported the hell out of it.” For highlights from Hubris, click here.