WASHINGTON – Al Qaeda is in the United States, former CIA Director George Tenet says, and he’s surprised there have not been more attacks on American soil.
“I do know one thing in my gut,” Tenet writes in his upcoming book. “Al Qaeda is here and waiting.”
Tenet, who served as CIA chief from 1997 to 2004, questioned how Al Qaeda hasn’t sent “suicide bombers to cause chaos in a half-dozen American shopping malls on any given day.”
Tenet's 549-page book, "At the Center of the Storm," published by HarperCollins, is set to hit the bookstores on Monday.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., invited Tenet to testify about Iraq war intelligence on May 10 before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
"The purpose of the hearing is to learn your views about one of the claims used to justify the war in Iraq — the assertion that Iraq sought to import uranium from Niger — and related issues," Waxman wrote to Tenet in a letter.
Tenet resigned as head of the U.S. intelligence agency in June 2004 amid criticism over the handling of the Sept. 11 attacks and the war in Iraq.
Tenet also criticized the Bush administration for rushing to war without serious debate.
"The president did wrestle with those very serious questions," White House spokesman Dan Bartlett responded.
"I've seen meetings, I've listened to the president, both in conversations with other world leaders like (British Prime Minister) Tony Blair, as well as internally, where the president did wrestle with those very questions," Bartlett said on NBC's "Today" show. "This president weighed all the various proposals, weighed all the various consequences before he did make a decision."
Tenet claimed that they inappropriately used his uttering of the phrase “slam dunk,” which he said during a closed-door White House meeting, to defend the administration’s insistence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
"I am a bit confused by that because we have never indicated the president made the sole decision based on that slam dunk comment,” Bartlett said.
Tenet also said aggressive interrogation tactics saved lives after Sept. 11, 2001, but insisted that none of those tactics can be defined as torture.
“We don’t torture people,” Tenet said in an interview scheduled to air Sunday on CBS' "60 Minutes." “We don’t torture people. I don’t talk about techniques and we don’t torture people.”
Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, said he would let Tenet “speak for himself.”
"We have a manual now that governs what we do and I think certainly for the level of interrogator that we have, that they are very appropriate," Petraeus told FOX News.
Tenet said the highly criticized program of questioning "high value" targets by using sleep deprivation and water boarding, among other techniques, was more valuable to the security of the United States than all the work done at the FBI, the CIA and the National Security Agency, which tracks foreign electronic communications.
Discussing at length the atmosphere at the CIA after the terror attacks, Tenet said it was one of real fear and anxiety because no one knew when the other shoe would drop and end up killing thousands of Americans in the process.
"I've got reports of nuclear weapons in New York City, apartment buildings that are going to be blown up, planes that are going to fly into airports all over again, plots that I don't know. I don't know what's going on inside the United States and I'm struggling to find out where the next disaster is going to occur. Everybody forgets one central context of what we lived through — the palpable fear that we felt on the basis of the fact that there was so much that we did not know," Tenet said in the interview.
Congress passed legislation last year defining what enhanced interrogation techniques could be used during questioning of enemy combatants and detainees. The move came after the Supreme Court demanded Congress define the rules for interrogation. It defined abusive treatment of prisoners in the legislation, though critics said it left unclear precisely the methods permitted.
Asked about the Tenet interview, State Department spokesman Tom Casey described the interrogation debate as old news.
"Look, I think these issues have been well-covered and well- discussed. The U.S. does not support or condone torture. It does not practice torture. You've heard our statements on that over a long period of time," Casey said.
He called the leak of that conversation dishonorable and despicable, CBS reported.
FOX News' Catherine Herridge and The Associated Press contributed to this report.