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Last Updated: Friday, 4 June, 2004, 02:01 GMT 03:01 UK
CIA resignation shocks US media
George Tenet
George Tenet surprised the media with the timing of his resignation
The resignation of CIA director George Tenet was the top story on the nightly news on US networks and dominated coverage on cable news networks all day.

Mr Tenet had long been rumoured to be looking to quit as America's spymaster.

It was widely reported that he had offered to resign last autumn but President Bush refused to accept his resignation.

But the man who lived in a secret world had kept the timing of his departure under wraps.

The announcement caught official Washington and the US media off guard and set off a storm of speculation as to why the spy chief had chosen now to resign.


"It was a move that stunned official Washington," said CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

The surprise was not that he was leaving, said CNN's national security correspondent David Ensor.

"He had said to many people including myself that he was tired. It is a pressure cooker job," he said. The surprise came in the timing.

Former US weapons inspector David Kay told MSNBC, "I was shocked on the timing."

He said he was surprised by "the specific timing, that is right as the president gets on an airplane for what must be a weekend of maximum photo ops".

And he was surprised that Mr Tenet chose to do this just a week after Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI director Robert Mueller warned of an imminent attack on the United States by al-Qaeda.

Political speculation

But it didn't take long for the speculation to begin as to the reasons behind the surprise announcement.

The White House by all accounts was surprised and rejected all claims that Mr Tenet had been forced from office.

President George Bush
President Bush did not try to convince Mr Tenet not to resign
But CNN's Dana Bash said President Bush did not try to convince him not to resign.

"Privately, Bush aides do hope that this will help in the president's efforts to put the continuous negative news about Iraq behind him," she said.

President Bush said that the resignation was for personal reasons, said Peter Jennings, presenter for the US network ABC.

"But after the attacks on 9/11 with the war on terrorism and a war in Iraq, Mr Tenet's resignation is a very big deal," he said.

He described Mr Tenet as a "polarising figure" and added that he was instrumental in the US decision to go to war in Iraq.

The US media pointed to the failures under his watch, including missing the development of nuclear weapons by the India and Pakistan and failures in intelligence in the lead up to the war in Iraq.

And as Mr Jennings said: "In the middle of an election campaign, he may well have been a political liability for President Bush."

NBC's Andrea Mitchell said that the timing was right for Mr Tenet's departure, after the 9/11 Commission hearings but before the Senate releases its report on intelligence ahead of the war in Iraq.

ABC's Martha Raditz said that the decision was not made quickly, but it certainly was abrupt.

And she added Mr Tenet might have resigned because the Senate's report is expected to be highly critical of the CIA and devastating to Mr Tenet.

George Tenet: A high-wire act
03 Jun 04 |  Americas
CIA director's resignation: Your reaction
03 Jun 04 |  Have Your Say
Full text: Bush on Tenet
03 Jun 04 |  Americas

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