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Scheer Intelligence

Former CIA Analyst Ray McGovern on the CIA's History of Disseminating Faulty Intelligence

Robert Scheer
Editor in Chief
Robert Scheer, editor in chief of Truthdig, has built a reputation for strong social and political writing over his 30 years as a journalist. His columns appear in newspapers across the country, and his…
Robert Scheer

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern in 2013. (Debra Sweet / CC 2.0)

In this week’s episode of “Scheer Intelligence,” Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer interviews Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst. Listen below, and scroll down to read a full transcript of the conversation:

McGovern spent 27 years with the CIA, beginning in President Kennedy’s era and ending in George H. W. Bush’s administration. After leaving the agency, McGovern co-created the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, an organization of former intelligence officers protesting the use of faulty intelligence to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Scheer begins the conversation by asking McGovern about the CIA’s role in the Vietnam War, and McGovern expresses frustration that the intelligence he and other officers gathered didn’t influence White House policy.

“Our good analysis was published in-house, but most of it never got to the White House, or places where it might have affected policy,” McGovern explains of his early years working in the lower ranks of the agency. He and Scheer discuss how the fear of an international communist movement prompted U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

“This is the part I don’t get. You’re in the CIA, the intelligence agency, and you’re an expert on this,” Scheer tells McGovern. “And the evidence was so clear that what the Americans were being told was nonsense.”

“One has to understand that there are really two CIAs,” McGovern responds. “You can give the president the best of intelligence and the best of assessments, and he’s got other factors to consider.”

The two also draw parallels between the CIA’s faulty intelligence during the Vietnam War and the current political climate involving Russia and WikiLeaks. McGovern says the WikiLeaks documents on the Democratic National Committee were falsely tied to Russia as part of an effort to invalidate the leak.

“I personally heard Hillary Clinton’s PR person — a woman, [Jennifer] Palmieri is her name — I heard her crow and brag about how, even at the convention, she expended all kinds of efforts to make sure that people focused on the Russians,” McGovern says. “Did WikiLeaks get hacks from the Russians? No way. WikiLeaks got leaks, and there’s a big difference.”

Listen to past episodes of “Scheer Intelligence” here.

Full transcript:

Robert Scheer: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence, where the intelligence comes from my guests, hopefully. [Laughter] And in this case, it’s Ray McGovern, who I don’t know personally, but I have followed your career for a very long time. You are probably one of the most interesting people to come out of the deep state, the CIA in particular. You went there as a young person in 1963, I believe; you were there until 1990. You ended up preparing the briefings for the president each day. So you really know, from an analyst’s point of view, the inside of the whole American secret state. I was, you know, already writing for Ramparts magazine in 1963 when you decided to go into the CIA. Who recruited you? How did you go there?

Ray McGovern: Well, Robert, that’s kind of an interesting story. I recruited myself. I read this book by [Harry Howe] Ransom; it talked about central intelligence and national security. And it portrayed the prime function of the CIA of being a central place for all the information to come in to one person, and that person to be accountable for analyzing it, and if it were important enough, reporting it to the president the next morning; sort of a glorified journalist. My major at Fordham was Russian, and I took a master’s degree in Russian as well before I went into the Army as a second lieutenant. After those two years I was freed to the CIA to be an analyst of Soviet foreign policy; my first account was Soviet policy toward China, Vietnam, the whole Far East. So that was quite an education, because it began in ‘63 and I did that for the next ten years before I was moved into more responsible positions.

RS: Could I ask you just a question that’s plagued me for so long? The whole, when you went in there in ‘63, that’s when we got deeply into Vietnam. And the whole strategy then was part of the, you know, containing communism that had started back in the forties, late forties after the Second World War. And communism was presented as a monolithic force, transcending nationalism and driven by a Marxist, Leninist ideology, and that you could predict the behavior, which was inherently aggressive, expansionist, and militaristic. And unchanging in any way that one could imagine. And yet, as somebody studying about the Soviet Union and Russia, an expert, you must have known when you went into the CIA that that image was nuts; that communism was highly nationalistic, that there was a Sino-Soviet dispute, that the [laughs] you know, that the Vietnamese communists weren’t particularly sympathetic to the Russians or the Chinese; they had their own nationalist aspirations, as did the Cubans. So did that come up in those early conversations, or–?

RM: Well, it didn’t until I actually was brought aboard in 1963 at the end of the year, after I did some career training. As a staff officer for infantry and intelligence, you don’t get much big-picture stuff. And my education was real good with respect to language, literature, and history, but not real good with respect to what was going on with the communist movement. So my first account was Soviet policy toward China, primarily, and I learned very quickly from my associates and from reading all the stuff that this Sino-Soviet rift, this conflict was real as could be. They’d hated each other from the 16th century, OK? When Russia had taken large swaths of Siberia from China. Now, there was great difficulty that we had in persuading our, quote, monolithic communism colleagues, and they were usually senior people–

RS: You say your colleagues, where in the CIA now? You’re–

RM: Well, right, yeah–

RS: How old were you at that moment?

RM: Mid-twenties, twenty-five, twenty-six, yeah.

RS: OK, yes. And you–

RM: So James Angleton was around, and you know, he wouldn’t admit any possibility that this–

RS: For people who don’t know it, this is the famous James Jesus Angleton–

RM: [Laughs]

RS: An Ivy League fellow, but had a Mexican-American mother, I gather, right?

RM: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

RS: And sort of a complex figure, and he shows up in a lot of these good books on the CIA. And you worked for him, or you knew him then?

RM: Well, I knew of him. I met him once or twice in large meetings, but he was famous for denying any possibility that this conflict, “so-called,” as he called it, between China and Russia was real. That we were all being taken in because it was a monolith and, you know–how can you take propaganda, how can you take what these two countries are telling their communist parties, you know, at face value? Well, this was a struggle. So–

RS: But they were shooting at each other across the border, weren’t they?

RM: Well, that hadn’t happened yet; we’re talking ‘63. They didn’t start doing that ‘til ‘67, ‘68. But the neat story is this. We used to have these satellites that would fly over Russia, the Soviet Union at the time. And they used to drop these little packets in the Pacific Ocean, and our Navy would hustle up, try to catch ‘em before they got wet; but even if they got wet, they were salvageable. Immediately flown to Rochester and developed, 30 people from our national intelligence photographic center would go up there. And guess what? One time they came back and said, Ray, you’re going to be really happy about this. I said, what’s that? We found 15 Soviet divisions, highly mechanized divisions, on the Sino-Soviet border. I said, oh! Maybe that will persuade James Angleton. And it was a struggle, but finally they would listen to us. I was able to get my stuff published, until it became Vietnam time. And then we had, you know, these high muckety-mucks, as my grandmother, my Irish grandmother would call them. Like Angleton, and like Averell Harriman, you know? Who had this inflated idea of the influence he would have on Russia.

And so, as I was telling people, don’t count on Russia to pull our chestnuts out of the fire in Vietnam. Number one, they have no reason to do that. And number two, even if they tried [laughs], they had sold the Vietnamese down the river in ‘54 at the Geneva accord. So they have no influence on Hanoi. So don’t, don’t try to push that, OK? Well, Harriman wouldn’t listen, and our uppers there, [Richard] Helms and the others at that time, were very loath to cross people like Harriman or General [William] Westmoreland. And so our good analysis was published in house, but it never, most of it never got to the White House or to places where it might have affected policy. It got so bad that I wrote an article for Problems of Communism–you probably remember that, Robert. It was put out by USIA, but they actually, they actually published some critical essays, such as the one I did. It’s called “Hanoi and Moscow,” how Moscow will never be able to help us to get out of Vietnam.

So it was a very, you know, energizing time. And our problem, our task, really, our ethos was tell the truth, no matter where it led. When LBJ–when Kennedy was killed, LBJ came to us. He said [imitates LBJ], I want to talk to you fellows, now; these blue-suited generals, you know, they tell me that we got these big, big planes now, B-52s, and they got great big bombs, and they’re going to bomb, and they’re going to seal off the Ho Chi Minh trail. What do you fellows think about that? Well, here I am, sitting with a couple of the operations people, who actually brought Ho Chi Minh into Hanoi after the war, on their shoulders, literally, OK? They know Ho Chi Minh–

RS: Woah, woah, woah. For people who don’t know that history, and because I teach at a university I know how poorly prepared our high schools are, I mean the students. What we’re talking about is during World War II, Ho Chi Minh actually was part of the resistance to the Japanese occupation of Vietnam, and cooperated in helping the search for downed American pilots, and worked with people in the then American intelligence community. And he actually, the Vietnamese declaration of independence begins with words from our own American independence. So the hostility to the United States came after, not before, the U.S. intervention, on the side of the French.

RM: Exactly, that’s exactly right. Yeah, he was a nationalist. And he happened to be a communist. But once you’re a communist, in those days–oh my God, we’re having that again now, aren’t we, with the Russian–

RS: Well, unfortunately for the analysis now, Putin believes in the Russian Orthodox Church; he’s not a communist; and the communist that we get along with is China. [Laughter] I mean, this whole thing is a replay of a nutty scenario. And I want to take you back to that, because yes, you went to a very good school, Fordham University and so forth. But the fact of the matter is, the Sino-Soviet dispute, as you say, was a reality before the Chinese were even in power, the Chinese communists. And you know, if you read [Nikita] Khrushchev’s memoir, which was published in the fifties, if you read any of the analysis, you didn’t have to be a spook or a spook analyst to know that there was a lot of bad blood between the Chinese and the Vietnamese–and the Russian–and the Vietnamese communists. That this monolithic idea was a fraud.

And so people just had to be deliberately avoiding the evidence. That’s the part I don’t understand, because once you could tuck Vietnam in and say, oh, they’re just a puppet of international communism–you couldn’t even specify, was it China or Russia–then you have an excuse for ending up killing, you know, Robert McNamara said three and a half million, and some people feel it’s closer to six million Indo-Chinese people died, in a war to stop international communism, when the Vietnamese were in fact nationalists. And the first thing that happened after our side was defeated was that Vietnamese communists and Chinese communists, instead of joining forces and landing in San Diego, they went to war with each other.

RM: [Laughs] That’s right.

RS: OK, so this is the part I don’t get. You’re in the CIA, the intelligence agency, and you’re an expert on this. And the evidence was so clear that what the American people were being told was nonsense–that there was not an international communist movement, that the split–and we knew it from Yugoslavia splitting from Russia; we knew that Cuba, certainly, Fidel Castro was highly nationalistic. What would happen even in the cafeteria when you talked to people, let alone the James Jesus Angleton types?

RM: Yeah. Well, one has to understand that they’re really two CIAs: the James Jesus Angleton types, and the operations officers who simply do what they’re told and have no real purview over accurate intelligence; and we the analysts that do our best to tell truth to power. I referred to LBJ before, he asked that question, you know: should we bomb the Ho Chi Minh trail, what would happen? Well, two days later we went back and said, now, Mr. President, with all due respect, you know, we know about bombing, and we know about Ho Chi Minh. Now, with respect to bombing, the Ho Chi Minh trail doesn’t look anything like, oh, I-66, or I-95, or the 5, or you know; it’s like 165 trails through the jungle and you can’t even see most of them because of the canopy. And number two, we know Ho Chi Minh; we brought him into Hanoi after the war; he’s never going to give up. And as a matter of fact, nobody has ever given up simply under bombing. So, Mr. President, that’s how we look at it.

Now, there’s a corollary to that, Robert, and that is simply that you can give the president the best of intelligence, and the best assessments, and he’s got other factors to consider. LBJ didn’t want to be the first president to lose a war. And so he disregarded our advice, went with the blue-suited generals, and well, I guess you could say he became the first U.S. president to lose a war because of that. It was awful. We watched it all happen. Our betters, Richard Helms in particular, did not support, did not support our analysis. At one point General Westmoreland was claiming there could not possibly be more than 299,000 Vietnamese under arms in the south. We knew there were twice that many, but he couldn’t abide by that, because they were killing hundreds every week; and you know, the press corp in Saigon was pretty dumb, but at least they did arithmetic right, and he couldn’t take the chance of saying, whoops! No, no, we miscalculated; there are twice as many.

Now, when Helms was asked by us to go to bat with that, you know what he told us? He said: You know, McGovern–and Sam Adams, who was my colleague–You know, my primary job here is to protect the agency. And there’s no way I can protect the agency if we get involved in a pissing match with the U.S. Army at war. So take your estimate, keep it quiet. That’s how bad it was. Now, that’s not what always happened with our estimates. There was one more recently that I am very proud of, and that is the one in Iran, which was completed in November of 2007, and which is the only estimate that I can actually cite that I am persuaded was very, very important in preventing an overt war with Iran which Bush and Cheney had clearly planned for their last year in office, 2008. We had an honest director of that estimate; it came out saying, Iran stopped working on a nuclear weapon at the end of 2003, and has not resumed work on a nuclear weapon. That was a shock. And you don’t have to believe McGovern on this; read Bush’s memoirs. I don’t know, he must have written this part himself: he says [imitates Bush]: That was a shocker! It deprived me of the military option, for how could I justify attacking nuclear facilities of a country that the intelligence community says has no active nuclear weapons program?

RS: You are an expert on Russia. And Russia is now where people are trying to get us into a new Cold War, and the Russians are the devil once again, even though as I mentioned, they’re hardly communists; Putin is opposed by a communist party as sort of his main opposition. But recently, there was this joint study of the intelligence agencies saying the Russians interfered in our election, and a lot of democrats have jumped all over that, because that’s an excuse for why Hillary Clinton didn’t carry the electoral college, and so forth. What did happen there? Is that a misreading of the intelligence data, or what?

RM: Well, it is. It shows how corrupted, how prostituted, the intelligence leadership under John Brennan and James Clapper had become. In a word, the idea was to, number one, explain how it could possibly be that Hillary Clinton lost the election. I mean, hello! How could that happen? It couldn’t be that she was a fatally flawed candidate. No, no, it had to be something else! And they found out very early in the game that–actually, they found out as soon as Wikileaks published the DNC, the Democratic National Committee documents, OK–documents, like no one has challenged their authenticity. When they published that two days before the Democratic National Convention, all hell should have broken loose. But guess what? I can see Hillary around the table there with her war council: What are we going to do about this? My God, what will Bernie say? I mean, the content of these things shows that we pretty much cheated him out of the nomination–what are we going to do? And–

RS: Well, it also showed that she was cozy with Goldman Sachs and the content of those speeches and so forth.

RM: That was the next [one], that was the Podesta emails, OK?

RS: Oh, yeah, right.

RM: So somebody said, We’ll just blame it on the Russians! And somebody else said, Woah, wait a second, it’s not the Russians, it’s WikiLeaks. That’s all right! We’ll say that WikiLeaks is working for the Russians. Now, what would be the rationale? Well, come on! The Russians surely want Trump to win. Give me a break. Now, they sold that to the media, Robert. The media ran with it for two weeks straight. And no one, no one learned what was in those emails. It worked like a charm! And I personally heard Hillary Clinton’s PR person, a woman, [Jennifer] Palmieri is her name, I heard her crow and brag about how even at the convention, she expended all kinds of efforts to make sure that people focused on the Russians, the Russians hacking into–the reality is, did the Russians hack into the DNC? Well, if they didn’t, they’re the only intelligence service in the world that didn’t, it was so vulnerable.

But, did WikiLeaks get hacks from the Russians? No way. WikiLeaks got leaks, and there’s a big difference; a leak, you put a little thumb drive in a machine and you get it to Julian Assange. That’s what happened, OK? And all this business was contrived. And do you know–I mean, I can’t resist saying this–if someone would have asked me: Yeah, but those tell-tale signs! You know, the Cyrillic that was left in some of those hacks, how do you explain that, McGovern? [Laughs] Well, you won’t know this from the New York Times, but the explanation is that John Brennan and the CIA worked for 15 years with NSA, developed a program with 700 million lines of code–my colleagues in NSA tell me one line of code is worth $25, OK–and they developed these very sophisticated hacking instruments working with five languages: Russian, Chinese, Farsi, Arabic, and Korean. And you know what they can do, Robert? They can hack and make it appear that it’s somebody else hacking. So if someone had asked me, who’s responsible for those tell-tale signs, leaving Cyrillic in these hacks [laughs]–well, it was John Brennan, and nobody knows that because that’s not in the New York Times, even though it’s documentary evidence, even though it’s right out of CIA original documents; that’s how great our press is today.

RS: [omission] Well, we’re back with Ray McGovern, who spent 27 years in the CIA, talking about the deep state. You got close to Robert Gates, and he worked for you when he was on his way up, right?

RM: That’s correct.

RS: OK, and he wrote a very interesting book. And in that book, he said the Afghan problem, and the problem of the whole Muslim world, really, started with our luring the Russians–the Soviets–into Afghanistan.

RM: Mm-hmm.

RS: And he said we were involved before they ever entered on the side of the secular leader in Kabul, Najibullah. And in his book, he actually has this incredible statement; the book came out, I think, in ‘99 or ‘98, around there. And in there, he said–and this, you know, we now know from Zbigniew Brzezinski’s famous interview with Le Nouvel Observateur, he was in the Carter administration and he said: We lured the Soviets in there because we wanted to give them their Vietnam. And in defense, he said: So what’s a few riled-up Muslims? We ended the Cold War because the Soviets ground to a halt in Afghanistan. Well, a few riled-up Muslims is what the war on terrorism is all about, and it’s shaped the whole world for the last 20 years. But it’s interesting, in Gates’s book he very categorically states: We intervened in Afghanistan before the Russians entered on the side of the guy who was actually the leader of the country at that time. Do you, you’re a Russia expert, do you have knowledge of that?

RM: Well, yeah. I read the books, too. It’s true. This was a provocation. Brzezinski said–

RS: A provocation by the U.S.

RM: By the U.S., to get the Russians involved in their own Vietnam. You know, Brzezinski is Polish; he’s bright; but he’s incredibly Eurocentric, as most of the people have been and were during Vietnam and since. So you know, a few people killed in Afghanistan–well, come on, if we give the Russians a bloody nose [laughs] hello, we’ll be riding high. And we did, and they had to withdraw! [Laughs] The supreme iron, Robert, of course, is that you know, not having learned any lessons from that, the U.S. is in there big time for the longest war that we’ve ever perpetrated, and we keep putting surges of more troops in there. It’s a fool’s errand; our soldiers know that, it’s just a matter of time before our soldiers start acting as they did in Vietnam when they see this inept leadership push them into a fool’s errand.

RS: I think this is important history. I do think–I mean, I have this odd feeling that history matters, and that there are lessons to be learned. And right now when everybody is, I think, correctly freaked out by–not everybody, but a lot of people I seem to know–freaked out by Donald Trump being president and all the dangers involved, and his finger on the nuclear button and everything, it is important to remind people that mischief-making, lying, distortion, deceit did not start now. That there’s a rich history of this.

And I want to bring up one aspect of that that, again, you might know more about than maybe anybody. And that goes to this question of torture. And it’s interesting, because when you were working at the CIA, I was flying around in a little plane–and we mentioned the Ho Chi Minh trail, and the whole thing of what was going on in Vietnam–and I was with a guy named Stanley Sheinbaum, who had been in there for us, doing some reconnaissance, observation, great guy, and became a peace advocate and civil rights guy and everything.

RM: Yeah, just died last year.

RS: But he had been involved in the Michigan State project, which trained people to go–it was a CIA front, and trained people to go over to Vietnam and so forth, back in the early fifties when we decided to violate the Geneva accords and not allow the reunification of the country. But here we were in 1964, ‘5, looking for the Ho Chi Minh trail. And the [camp] had made a little plane available, a little prop plane that we could, you know, puddle-hopper that we could fly around looking for this thing. And I remember his brother was in charge of a section of South Vietnam; he was on the other side. And they actually believed that–you know, the way you describe it, you would have thought the Ho Chi Minh trail was kind of a superhighway, sending stuff down. And particularly what was frightening about it is they were asserting it went through Cambodia, which was, you know, a neutral country, and [Norodom] Sihanouk was certainly an independent leader. And that became, ultimately, the excuse for the carpet-bombing of Cambodia. Of course, as well as Laos, and much of Vietnam.

So we’re not kidding around. And at that time, when I got ahold of the Michigan State documents and wrote my own first thing about it, what I learned is that even when my good friend Stanley had been in that program–and he didn’t know because he was on the U.S. side–they had been involved in covering up torture and in actually doing torture. And one of the reasons that Tony Russo and Daniel Ellsberg got involved in releasing the Pentagon Papers is because Russo’s job at the RAND Corporation was to evaluate the prisoner interrogation program, and the results. So did you folks in the CIA know, you know, then, that there were these practices of our cooperating with vicious, secret police agencies around the world, including in Vietnam?

RS: You know, Robert, the answer is yes, we did. From what we read–the New York Times used to publish these things; what we read in Ramparts. In other words, we were cut off from that. And that was, you know, a mixed blessing. Because we could see what the Army–you know, the Amy was really running things out there; the CIA would do what the Army said; Westmoreland was very much in favor of this, and Bill Colby ran that program, which killed some thousands of people. Now, you can say, that was a war. My familiarization with torture was a non-war, and that is when we had Guantanamo, we had these kidnappings and renditions and taking people to black sites to torture them. My God! That’s when we really got energized. That’s when I gave my very fancy intelligence commendation medallion back to the head of the House Intelligence Committee. I said, I don’t want to be associated in any way with an outfit that is overtly involved in banging on Senator McCain’s door saying, No, we have to have an exception! You can forbid the Army to torture, but we–we need an exception. That’s when I gave back that big medallion.

So what I’m saying here is this. That [on the evening of] 9/11, we know from Richard Clark’s book that down in the bunker in the White House, first time the President had ever been there, OK, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, George Tenet, the head of the CIA, and Clark. Now, one of them says: We got to go get, we got to go get Iraq now. And one of the more honest ones, I forget which, says, well, you know, Iraq didn’t have anything to do with what happened this morning; and you know, the international lawyers would object. And Bush says–and I quote from Clark’s book– “I don’t care what the international lawyers say. We’re going to kick some ass.” Period, end quote. Now, why do I say that? Well, because he would have gone to George–I’m sure he did go to George Tenet the next day or the next week, and say, you got some guys, you got some guys that can interrogate these guys? Can you get this stuff out of them? You know, get ‘em to admit that there were ties between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein and that there are weapons of mass destruction–can you get that? And Tenet would have had to say: Well, actually, the closest we come are exit interviews or lie detector tests. –But, but we’ll go back to our old veterans from Vietnam, they know how to do this stuff, and they have contractors! So all I’m saying here is, this was the most awful kind of prostitution of an agency, where George Tenet was told that he’s got to serve up evidence to justify an illegal war. And he said: Yes, sir, how fast do you need it? Now, the torture turned out to be completely useless; worse than useless, as we all know. And how do we know that? [Laughs] Because by some wonderful miracle, Leon Panetta, then head of the CIA, let the Senate Intelligence Committee get access to original CIA cables and documents. Those young people worked for four years and came up with a report which indicated, number one, the heinous practices–rectal feeding–oh, it defies the imagination. But more important, not one bit of good intelligence ever came from that, despite the lies told by John Brennan and everybody and his brother and sister that this was getting actionable intelligence. They were all lies.

Now, what happened? This is interesting, I really have to say this. We know now from the chief investigator, OK–he was working for Dianne Feinstein; his name is Jones, OK? He gave an interview to [Spencer] Ackerman from The Guardian. And at the end of the interview he said, you know, what really shocked me is that when we were going to battle with the CIA to get this report released, before the change in government, when the republicans would take over the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, you know who the biggest–that John Brennan had some big, big supporters. The biggest of which was a fellow named Barack Obama. Now, I had some supporters too, he said: Dianne Feinstein. And also, Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader. He calls the president, he says: Mr. President, we have to release that, at least the executive summary. And the president said no, no, no, national security, national security. And Reid tells Jones, he said, I said to the president, Mr. President, I wish that you could hear yourself, what you’re saying here. He goes to the very end, early December, just before the change of leadership of the Senate, and guess what happens? [Laughs] Dianne Feinstein is fighting what she thought was a lost battle, but Mark Udall, the senator from Colorado who lost his bid for reelection but was on the Senate Intelligence Committee, says: Dianne, you tell the president that if he doesn’t release that executive summary, I’m going to read it from the floor of the Senate, OK? So he’s got a choice; ask him which one he picks. [Laughs] Great, great scenario. So she goes and she finally went, What do I say to all that? Because John Brennan had a hold over Barack Obama, one that I cannot quite explain. But when the Senate minority leader now, Chuck Schumer, tells Rachel Maddow as he did two months ago: Rachel, I thought Donald Trump was a pretty wise guy, pretty smart operative, but he’s done something very foolish. And Rachel said: Oh, what’s that? He said: Well, he’s taken on the CIA, and the CIA has six ways to Sunday to get him. So I thought he was a pretty smart businessman, but he’s done this very, very foolish thing. Now, what does Rachel say? Does she say what you, Robert, or what I would say? No: Are you suggesting, Senator Schuman, that the President of the United States should be afraid of the CIA, is that what you’re suggesting? [Laughs] But she said, we got to go to break, or something like that–she [didn’t] pick up on the thing. So, what I’m saying here is–

RS: She didn’t pick up–let’s talk about what she did not pick up on, which is really what the founders of this country were most concerned about. Which was transparency, which was not getting involved and becoming Rome with an empire, not getting involved in these foreign adventures where secrecy dominates. And really, this entire discussion that we have been having, whether you’re talking about Lyndon Johnson or even Jack Kennedy, you’re talking about Nixon, you’re talking about Bush or you’re talking about Donald Trump, lying is the norm. Deceit is the norm, and the public doesn’t know what’s going on. It’s not just lying about weapons of mass destruction–

RM: Yeah, but that’s the most important thing, Robert. I just have to interject here. That 54 years in this town, OK, you see a lot of change. But there’s one change that dwarfs all the other changes in importance, and that is that we no longer have, in any real sense, a free media that is big, that is bigger now than ever before with respect to, you know, Russia; with respect to Syria; with respect to all these war-making things. And so it’s really up to us, just as it was up to you and others with Ramparts and the rest of them, to find some way. And this program is helpful, no doubt, to get the word out to American citizens that you’re being conned; you’re being deprived of enough information to make sensible judgments.

RS: OK, and this is the word from Ray McGovern, who was in the CIA in the deep state for decades. But I want, I think there’s another saving grace. Part of it is people like yourself, who after you’ve served, then help us understand, help us read between the lines. And by the way, I want to point out that that Senate intelligence investigation on torture, in one of the greatest crime stains in our government’s long history, we only have the executive summary; we don’t have the report. And it’s not been released. I mean, that’s just reality, right?

RM: That’s right, yeah.

RS: We don’t have it. So accountability is not there. We don’t know what was done in our name. But the other saving thing–and your organization, you know, defense officials, and you’ve been doing this one way or another for a long time now–the fact is, you’re aided by whistleblowers. And one of the, you know, interesting things about whistleblowers is how few of them there are. What Edward Snowden revealed, lots of people knew, OK? Only Edward Snowden came forward. And there’s another person in the CIA, John Kiriakou. And I’d like to talk a little bit about him, because here’s a guy who was in operations; he was involved in capturing what was then the most, you know, successful capture of an Al Qaeda operative–

RM: Mm-hmm, Abu Zubaydah.

RS: –yeah. And he knew that torture didn’t work, because it came after his, while he was physically guarding the body and then the FBI was getting useful information, the CIA was; then they brought in the torturers and they got nothing, even though the movie Zero Dark Thirty and other officially induced propaganda asserts that torture works. And what happened to John Kiriakou, after all his service in the CIA, and he got medals just like you did? He ends up in jail for two and a half years, and he’s put there by the Barack Obama government.

RM: That’s right, yeah. Well, John is a good friend, as you might imagine. He’s got guts that won’t quit. He had to cop a plea, because he has five kids, right? And he just couldn’t risk, you know, thirty, thirty-five years in prison like Bradley or Chelsea Manning got. So he spent actually 23 months; I went and visited him up there in what used to be a Catholic college up there in Pennsylvania. And he was just, you know, he was able to take care of himself with all these pedophiles and all these tax cheaters and all that kind of stuff. But it was a terrible time for his family; he has three real small kids, and I used to go and babysit every now and then. But you know, his wife’s going through all this stuff, and here he is, you know, he’s up there. And finally comes out, and right now he’s doing just fine, thanks very much. But I don’t know, he’s a strange, strange guy in terms of how resilient he is.

RS: What really depressed me more than anything else–because I’ve always had a lot of respect for John Kerry. And even when I disagreed with him, I had respect for him. And John Kiriakou, who after he left the CIA was working in an important position for Senator Kerry, then Senator Kerry. And as I understand it, when Kiriakou got out of prison, someone, an in-between guy came over and said, you know, good you’re out, and then he had a message from Kerry that he just cannot have any contact with him. And I found that incredibly depressing. And the attack on whistleblowers, they’re using the Russia thing now as a way of dismissing, of blasting not only whistleblowers but people who print information that comes out, like Julian Assange or something. And we’ve got this ugly atmosphere where the red baiting of people who tell the truth is coming more from democrats even than republicans; it’s so easy, because they’re so eager to lump Trump in with that stuff.

RM: Mm-hmm. Yeah, it’s the establishment, it’s the groupthink. And I have to tell you, it’s the upper crust. I know a guy who went to prep school with John Kerry; I said, what was he like? [Laughs] He said, well, he never shared the puck; he played hockey, but he never shared the puck. You know? And for him to lie as he did with respect to that first sarin attack outside of Damascus, 35 times he accused Bashar al-Assad of having perpetrated that–we know now for sure that it wasn’t Assad, it was the rebels trying to mousetrap his boss, Obama, into starting an overt war on Syria. It’s odd that Trump would be mousetrapped into doing precisely the same thing that Obama tried to avoid. Now, Kerry, he’s a member of the upper crust, and my Irish grandmother had a definition for the upper crust. She said [using Irish accent]: Raymond, the upper crust is a bunch of crumbs held together by a lot of dough.

RS: Oh, OK. Well, here’s the end of a conversation between two guys from the Bronx [laughter], and we never were in the upper crust; I went to City College, you went to Fordham; you know, we probably had some ethnic differences, I didn’t get along all that well with the Irish in the Bronx, but that’s life. But I really want to thank you, Ray McGovern. You’ve been an incredible example of a heroic voice in American life, and a guy who devoted much of his adult life to making the country safer and working with the CIA, trying to make the system work, trying to get at the truth. And after, in your post-CIA career, you’ve been stellar in helping the public understand what they don’t know, and the complexity of these issues. That’s it for Scheer Intelligence. Joshua Scheer and Rebecca Mooney have been the producers. Kat Yore and Mario Diaz have been the technical staff, exemplary in every way. And see you next week with another edition of Scheer Intelligence.

—Posted by Emma Niles

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