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'Indian N-tests in 1998 caught CIA by surprise'

Former US CIA director admits that "failure" of the American intelligence to "detect" Indian nuclear tests was his "mistake".

world Updated: May 03, 2007 12:54 IST

Former US Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet has said that "failure" of the American intelligence to "detect" the Indian nuclear tests in 1998 was one of the "mistakes" of his tenure which he cannot "stop remembering" even now.

"Unfortunately when you run a place like CIA, it's the low lights that stand out in the media - the mistakes, the gaffes - things everyone can see and no one, can resist commenting on. For many of those I would like to turn back the clock and erase them. Some, I can't stop remembering," Tenet writes in his book "At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA".

Commenting on the tests by India, he says, "We knew both countries (India and Pakistan) had nuclear desires, intent and capabilities and we new the risks all too well. The India-Pakistan border is one of the most contentious in the world maybe even more than the border that divides Israel and the Palestinians. Unleashing nuclear weapon on the sub continent could kill literally millions".

"That said, the timing of the tests caught us by surprise," he says.

When Senate Intelligence Oversight Committee Chairman Richard Shelby wanted to know what had happened in India, Tenet said, "Senator we didn't have a clue". Shelby announced on television later that it was a "colossal intelligence failure" on the part of CIA.

Disagreeing with Shelby's remark, Tenet writes, it was an intelligence failure "no doubt" but "Colossal is in the eye of the beholder".

First Published: May 03, 2007 12:19 IST