Tenet signs deal to tell his version of Iraq war history

George Tenet, the former CIA director who assured President George W. Bush that finding unconventional weapons in Iraq would be a “slam dunk,” will give his account of the conversation in a book to be published by HarperCollins, the publisher said on Wednesday.

The News Corp.-owned company said it agreed to publish a Tenet memoir that is tentatively entitled, “At the Center of the Storm.” The release was expected late this year or early in 2007.

Representatives for HarperCollins and Tenet declined to discuss the deal’s dollar value.

HarperCollins said the book would shed light on Tenet’s role at the CIA during the agency’s campaign against al Qaeda that started in the 1990s, the September 11 attacks, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the rise of the Iraqi insurgency.

The book will also provide “the real context of Tenet’s own now-famous slam-dunk comment” about Saddam Hussein’s suspected prewar weapon of mass destruction cache, the publisher said. The expression, used originally to describe a basketball move, has come to mean something which can be achieved with complete certainty.

The “slam-dunk” quotation first surfaced in journalist Bob Woodward’s book, “Plan of Attack,” which portrayed Tenet as assuring Bush that finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq would be a virtual certainty.

The 2003 Iraq invasion was justified largely by intelligence that Saddam Hussein had such weapons. No such weapons were found, and the prewar intelligence effort has since been condemned by a presidential commission as one of the most damaging failures in recent U.S. history.

Tenet, who served under both Bush and former President Bill Clinton, resigned in July 2004 amid widespread criticism over intelligence lapses that also involved the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest U.S. civilian award, in December 2004.

Tenet initially had a $5 million book deal with Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. But he postponed his publishing plans last March.

“He never entered into a contract with Crown,” said Tenet spokesman Bill Harlow. “Then he decided to hold off to gain some perspective. Now he’s ready and has decided he’s most comfortable with the folks at HarperCollins.”