Jeffrey LewisTenet, Libya and Soccer

I was contemplating a new section called “Sunday Tenet Blogging” where I patiently comb through Tenet’s memoir, picking our interesting chapters or stories for scrutiny.

Yesterday was supposed to deal with his account of the disarmament of Libya … at least until I ran into another, incredibly stupid error in Tenet’s book.

At the end of his chapter on the AQ Khan network and Libya, entitled “The Merchant of Death and the Colonel,” Tenet tells this amusing little vignette:

By mid-December [2003] enough progress had been made that the deal [with Libya] would soon become public. Even that was a carefully orchestrated dance; Gadhafi would first announce to his own people that he had decided to renounce hs WMD programs. Then Prime Minister Blair was to make public comments welcoming the news, to be followed by remarks from President Bush. The timing was tightly negotiated for December 19. And then, at the last minute, word came from Libya that the colonel wanted to delay. Uh oh, we thought. He is about to pull the rug out from under this deal. But the explanation turned out to be a simple one. The Libyan national soccer team was playing on television that night, and Gadhafi didn’t want to annoy the fans by breaking into coverage of an important game with an announcement about something most Libyans didn’t care about, weapons of mass destruction.

You see where this is going. Nope, the Libyan national soccer team did not play on December 19. Go look it up in the FIFA Database yourself (something that Tenet’s co-author and staff might have done).


A version of the soccer story first appeared in the British press, in a story by Andy McSmith in The Independent entitled, “Thinking the Unthinkable: How Libya Returned to the Fold”:

In Whitehall, meanwhile, they were just as anxiously monitoring the Libyan media, waiting to hear that the Foreign Minister had spoken. They were expecting the announcement early in the evening, but it appears that there was a vital football match in progress in Libya, and Mr Shalqam waited until after the final whistle before releasing his announcement at about 9pm British time. Then the translators had to get to work, and senior staff at the Foreign Office had to check that the statement was exactly as agreed. At last, at about 9.55pm, Mr [David] Hill [Tony Blair’s Director of Communications] received the call he had awaiting – just five minutes before the start of the BBC’s main news bulletin.

That version of events is more or less plausible. Libya did have soccer games taking place on December 19th (Round 10 of 26 in the Libyan Premier League). So, it seems, that the announcement was broadcast after the game.

Anyway, you can listen the announcement in Arabic on the BBC website, as well as read the Libyan, British
and American statements.

Bush made his announcement 5:32 EST—a few hours after the Libyan announcement.


  1. Dan

    If we’re not going to have designated Sundays of Tenet (which I think we’d all enjoy), do you think you could make a new category for the Tenet posts, so they can easily be referenced?

  2. James O'Brien

    Let’s have Tenet guest blog rebuttals. I’m sure you can find his contact info through his publisher. Come on, let’s go for it!

  3. abcd

    So does this mean you will have to develop an entirely new blog devoted to dissecting the contents of Feith’s upcoming memoir?

  4. Juan-John (History)

    If you have Tenet guest blog rebuttals, you may need to fact-check THEM, too! 🙂

  5. Anna L.

    Jeffrey, you should link Judy Miller’s version of events also.