At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA is a memoir written by George Tenet and Bill Harlow. The chronicle focuses on the CIA happenings before and after the September 11 2001 Islamic terrorist attacks. In this memoir, George Tenet gives a real life account of his works as the director of the CIA and a chronological order of how things happened during his term as the chief of the Criminal Intelligence Agency. Tenet was the Director of the Criminal Intelligence Agency of the year 1997 to 2004. He writes a book where he recounts the world’s most challenging times in history and how the CIA under his tenure dealt with the challenges. He vividly explains both the achievements and the challenges encountered by the Criminal Intelligence Agency and the mistakes that led to the terrorist attack that happened in 2001. George presents a groundbreaking book with the history of the Criminal Intelligence Agency during his term, the challenges they faced, his achievements as the CIA Chief, and the changes that took place in the government during this time. Moreover, the book outlines America’s war on terrorism, the Iraq war, and the Afghanistan war in the year 2001.
The book begins with Tenet’s appointment as the director of the CIA in the year 1997. The author narrates the events that led to his appointment despite the fact that he had no experience in the military or any leadership in any other large organization. During the time of his appointment, there was a disarray in the CIA since it had lost its popularity and confidence in the people after the Cold War. The CIA had an inconsistent leadership because the agency had lost most of its leaders, including the most competent and experienced ones. Therefore, appointed as the director, Tenet had to work hard and build America’s confidence in the CIA. He tells how he worked hard to support and earn trust from the people, all the political parties, and even President Bush himself.
In the remarkable memoir At the Center of the Storm, Tenet writes a compelling story on how exhausting it was handling the CIA during those days he was in charge. The former Central Intelligence Agency chief describes his meetings before the September 11 terrorist attacks and how this could have been avoided. During his term, it is evident in the memoir that many mistakes were committed leading to the failure of the CIA. Despite his efforts, Tenet writes that he faced many ethical issues that he had to make decisions upon, and this led to the questioning of his loyalty. The former CIA chief further writes how the CIA continued to experience major intelligence failures one after the other under his charge. This is evident when he says “we didn’t have a clue” of the many things that were happening (Tenet 206). First, India began their nuclear testing program without them having a clue of the plan. Secondly, the CIA relied on faulty intelligence, which led them to bomb the Chinese embassy by mistake and as the director and loyal soldier, Tenet had to take the blame for this error. The CIA faced other several failures for a long time, including the September 11 terrorists’ attacks that left many dead. This incident left many surprised because most agencies insisted that this attack could have been prevented if the CIA was doing its job. At this time, many questioned the devotion of the CIA as they were accused of not doing their job as expected.
In the book At the Center of the Storm, Tenet makes it clear that the Bush Administration hurried into the war in Iraq with no suitable plans. This is evident when he says the rush to invade Iraq in September 2001 “weighed very heavily on his mind,” meaning it was a burden to him maybe because he was not in agreement with the decision. He narrates how his conversation with Richard Pele and how he insisted, “Iraq has to pay a price for what happened” (Tenet 305). The decision to attack Iraq was a rush one and this led to many other decisions that were made by the government without further considerations. According to the book, the Bush administration made a haste decision without considering the implications of their resolution to invade Iraq. In the book, Tenet writes that there was no explicit discussion if it was the wise thing to do by going to war with Iraq because of the underlying implications (308). According to Tenet, the CIA warned the White House, but they failed to note to the advice. Tenet blames the Bush administration for ignoring the warning given to them, thus causing the September 11 attacks.
Even though George Tenet outlines that the Bush administration made several mistakes, for instance leading to the Iraq war, it is obvious that he failed in his job. He is biased in this memoir account when he faults the Bush administration for the mistakes made, yet he is to blame too. As the CIA director, he could have stopped the white house from invading Iraq if he knew the invasion could pose imminent threats to the American nation. Tenet had the opportunity to speak out against any plans as the CIA boss, but he kept quiet only to speak out later on in this memoir and this makes him biased and subjective. The author failed the country by allowing the White House and the Congress to make the mistakes he could have prevented, but in the book recounts the events to suit his purposes.
George Tenet devotes the book to restore his reputation as the former CIA boss, which he insists that it was trashed by the Bush administration. He insists that even though many mistakes were made during his seven-year tenure, as the head of the CIA, he warned the Bush administration who later on discounted the warnings. Nonetheless, one obvious this is that he should accept that these mistakes happened under his tenure and the director of the CIA and he is to blame because he bears responsibility.
At the Center of the Storm is an interesting, informative, and enjoyable book with prizes insights from Tenet, a high-ranking official. The book is well written with facts and actual happenings with the author as the main character in the story. Tenet’s book is of great significance to the American people as they can learn what really happened before the September 11 attacks. Moreover, they can also learn about the CIA’S challenges, shortcomings, and achievements during George Tenet’s charge. The book is an eye-opener as Tenet explores many of the things that transpired in the CIA and the Bush administration during the most critical times in the American and world history. Even though the author gives these accounts in his personal view, it is clear that during his term, there were many shortcomings, which affected the work of the Criminal Intelligence Agency. At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA is a book that should be read by all Americans.
Tenet, George. At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA. New York: HarperCollins, 2007. Print.