Now that election day is passed I'm catching up...on reading, lawn work, house work, you name it. I finally got the chance to sit down with George Tenet's recent book and am about halfway through. Reading a memoir is always something absorbed with a grain of salt. This is directly one person's perspective, from their ivory tower (usually) and written in the way they'd like history to judge their actions.
Once you keep that in perspective they're treasures of information; insights into who the person is, how they think, how they acted in moments of great import and stress. They are peeks into history providing context for events we could observe only from afar. Tenet's book is fascinating in the background it provides on the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and the myriad of threats they were dealing with the months prior.
Writing about national security issues I'm always cognizant of how little I actually know. I have to rely on my historical knowledge, instincts, and context and knowledge gained from reading many such books over the decades. On the outside, however, you never know the details of what's current. Conversely those on the inside usually miss the historical context and larger picture. Observing from the outside is seeing the forest and no trees while those inside the beltway see the trees but no forest. Reading books like Tenet's gives me some insight into the trees he was seeing at the time.
That's what's fascinating about these memoirs and why I love reading the books. Tenet's book is also well written and moves along. It may be the fact these were historic times of great interest. I was disappointed he devoted less than two pages to Tora Bora. This was the mountainous region where we lost Usama bin Laden. Tenet acknowledges the CIA was leading the effort in Afghanistan instead of the Pentagon and this wound up costing us in Tora Bora. I cannot help but wonder how we might have captured the terrorist there if the Pentagon had had a battalion available on ready standby status for just such an opportunity.
Regardless I thought the book omitted an awfully lot about that failure. I'm very curious to read what he has to say about Valerie Plame, Joe Wilson and the exposure of one of his agents for political purposes and the reaction to that within CIA. It appears only the final chapter deals with this issue and that surprises me as I'd think this had to be a major issue during his tenure as DCI. I'm looking forward to reading this part of the book. All in all I recommend it as good reading material.