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'Bush aides made me Iraq war idiot'

world Updated: Apr 27, 2007 12:49 IST

Former CIA chief George Tenet has attacked the Bush administration for using his "slam dunk" comment to justify the now-discredited case for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, media reports said.

Tenet told CBS television network on Thursday that the phrase, which he used at a December 2002 White House meeting, was only meant to suggest that the administration could improve its public case on the WMD issue.

When no illicit weapons were found in Iraq, someone leaked the remark to journalist Bob Woodward, who wrote of the account in a book published in 2004. The leaked version cast Tenet as a cheerleader for intelligence suggesting that Iraq had WMDs.

"It's the most despicable thing that ever happened to me," CBS quoted Tenet as saying in an interview. "You don't do this. You don't throw somebody overboard just because it's a deflection. Is that honourable? It's not honourable to me."

Major decisions on going to war in Iraq had already been made at the time of the "slam dunk" remark, he said.

He told CBS he was especially upset that US Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, at the time Bush's national security adviser, used his basketball analogy to make him a scapegoat for the administration's flawed case for invading Iraq.

"I mean, I became campaign talk. I was a talking point. 'Look at the idiot (who) told us and we decided to go to war'," Tenet told CBS.

"Let's everybody just get up and tell the truth. Tell the American people what really happened," he said.

Tenet was appointed by Bill Clinton but stayed on after George W Bush became US president in 2001. He resigned in June 2004, under fire for intelligence lapses before the Sep 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and in the run-up to the Iraq war.

In the interview, he defended the CIA's use of "enhanced interrogation" methods to squeeze information from terrorism suspects after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.

"Because these are people who will never, ever, ever tell you a thing. These are people who know who's responsible for the next terrorist attack," he said.

He strongly insisted that US interrogators never used torture, but added: "Of course, you lose sleep over it. You're on new territory."