NEW YORK — After a weekend barrage to promote his new book, former CIA Director George J. Tenet was on the defensive Monday, answering criticism over his claim that the Bush administration had settled on blaming Iraq for the Sept. 11 attacks from the very start.
In the opening anecdote of "At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA," Tenet wrote that he had encountered Pentagon advisor Richard N. Perle at the White House on Sept. 12, 2001 -- the day after the terrorist strikes -- and that Perle told him: "Iraq has to pay a price for what happened yesterday, they bear responsibility."
The problem, critics say, is that Perle was in Europe on Sept. 11 and has said he didn't return to the United States until Sept. 15. Perle previously has denied making such a comment to Tenet, and was unavailable for comment Monday.
Tenet tried to deflect the growing criticism during an appearance on NBC's "Today" show Monday. During an interview, former "NBC Nightly News" anchor Tom Brokaw asked the ex-CIA chief about the factual discrepancy in the Perle story. Tenet conceded: "I may have been off by a couple of days. The encounter occurred. The conversation occurred.... So I may have gotten the days wrong, but I know I got the substance of that conversation correct."