Clashing Face-to-Face on Torture

Ray McGovern


Former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (left) argues with ex-CIA analyst Ray
McGovern about the Senate torture report on CCTV America’s
The Heat” on Dec. 11, 2014.
(Screenshot from program)

It’s rare on TV when you see two former senior U.S. officials clashing angrily over something as significant as torture. Usually decorum prevails. But ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern wasn’t going to let the ex-House intelligence oversight chief get away with a bland defense of torture.

When you get an opportunity like this, don’t fall back – I heard my Irish grandmother telling me last Thursday as I took my place at the table to discuss torture with a former congressional committee chairman whose job it was to prevent such abuse.

Almost rubbing shoulders with me on my right was former House Intelligence Committee chair (2004-2007) Pete Hoekstra, a Republican from Michigan. Central China TV had asked both of us to address the findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture. I said yes, of course, since I was highly interested in how Hoekstra, with his front seat for the saga of “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques,” would try to ‘splain it all.

Here was a unique chance to publicly confront a malleable, moral dwarf who had been in a uniquely powerful position to end the torture. The moment was also an odd one, for Hoekstra – not the brightest star in the constellation – seemed oblivious to his gross misfeasance and dereliction of duty. Or how his behavior might look to non-torture aficionados.

Hoekstra took over the House intelligence “oversight” committee in 2004 when former chair, Porter Goss, a Republican from Florida, was picked as the perfect – as in fully-briefed-and-complicit – functionary to become director of the CIA, replacing “slam-dunk” George Tenet. Tenet left in disgrace in July 2004, still seeking those notional Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” in vain.

Last week, amid the unfolding torture scandal, Hoekstra went on CCTV America’s daily talk show, “The Heat,” to offer a heated defense of what he insisted on still calling “enhanced interrogation techniques.” My opportunity for a blunt exchange with him over exactly what the House Intelligence Committee knew came near the end of the show.


"Russia was always elected to be the enemy"

Ruth Schneider interviews Ray McGovern

On the eve of the NATO summit earlier this month, CIA veteran Ray McGovern, NSA whistleblower William Binney and five other intelligence colleagues sent an open letter to Angela Merkel, "briefing" her about the situation in Ukraine: reminding the German chancellor of the precedent of the Iraq War 12 years ago, they urge her not to trust the "fixed intelligence" presented by the US State Department and NATO officials. There is no evidence of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

As the civil war rages on killing hundreds of civilians and displacing thousands of others, the self-dubbed Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity point out that the US and NATO are stoking the flames of a new confrontation with Russia through shameless media propaganda, reminiscent of a time they know something about: the Cold War.

McGovern served as a CIA analyst under seven presidents from John F. Kennedy to George H.W. Bush, and prepared the President’s Daily Brief for Ronald Reagan's most senior national security advisers from 1981 to 1985. Fluent in German and Russian, he was stationed in West Germany as a CIA liaison officer.


Trying Not to Give Peace a Chance

Ray McGovern


President Vladimir Putin of Russia welcomes President
Barack Obama to the G20 Summit at Konstantinovsky
Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia, Sept. 5, 2013.

Exclusive: The trust between President Obama and President Putin helped avert a U.S. war on Syria and got Iran to agree to limit its nuclear program, but the neocon-driven crisis in Ukraine has dashed hopes of building on that success for a more peaceful world.

The unnecessary and regrettable conflict between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine brings to mind sad remembrances of important junctures at which I watched – as a citizen and a CIA analyst – chances for genuine peace with Russia frittered away.

How vividly I recall John Kennedy’s inaugural address when he bid us to ask not what our country could do for us, but rather what we could do for our country. Then and there I decided to put in the service of our government whatever expertise I could offer from my degrees in Russian. So I ended up in Washington more than a half-century ago.

The missed chances for peace did not wait. On April 17, 1961, a ragtag CIA-trained-and-funded paramilitary group of some 1,500 men went ashore on Cuba’s Bay of Pigs and were defeated in three days by Cuban forces led by Fidel Castro. CIA Director Allen Dulles and the senior military had intended to mousetrap young President Kennedy into committing U.S. military forces to a full-scale invasion, in order to bring what we now blithely call “regime change” to Cuba.

The planned mousetrap, shown for example in Dulles’s own handwriting on paper found in his study after his death, didn’t work. Kennedy had warned Dulles emphatically that he would not send U.S. armed forces into the fray. He stuck to that decision, and thereby created a rancid hatred on the part of Dulles, whom Kennedy fired, and from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, whom Kennedy should also have fired. The top generals, whom Deputy Secretary of State George Ball described as a “sewer of deceit,” had been in on the cabal.


Ukraine: One ‘Regime Change’ Too Many?

Ray McGovern


The President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, and Assistant
Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria
Nuland/Nudelman - smiling before stabbing him in the back.

Consortiumnews Exclusive: Russia’s parliament has approved President Putin’s request for the use of force inside neighboring Ukraine, as the latest neocon-approved “regime change” spins out of control and threatens to inflict grave damage on international relations, ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern explains.

Is “regime change” in Ukraine the bridge too far for the neoconservative “regime changers” of Official Washington and their sophomoric “responsibility-to-protect” (R2P) allies in the Obama administration? Have they dangerously over-reached by pushing the putsch that removed duly-elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych?

Russian President Vladimir Putin has given an unmistakable “yes” to those questions – in deeds, not words. His message is clear: “Back off our near-frontier!”

Moscow announced on Saturday that Russia’s parliament has approved Putin’s request for permission to use Russia’s armed forces “on the territory of the Ukraine pending the normalization of the socio-political situation in that country.”

Putin described this move as necessary to protect ethnic Russians and military personnel stationed in Crimea in southern Ukraine, where the Russian Black Sea Fleet and other key military installations are located. But there is no indication that the Russian parliament has restricted the use of Russian armed forces to the Crimea.


Edward Snowden’s Brave Integrity

Ray McGovern

Consortiumnews Exclusive: President Obama says he welcomes the debate on post-9/11 surveillance of Americans and the world, but that debate was only made meaningful by the disclosures of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who was then indicted and sought asylum in Russia, where he just met with some ex-U.S. intelligence officials, including Ray McGovern.

I’ve had a couple of days to reflect after arriving back from Moscow where my whistleblower colleagues Coleen Rowley, Jesselyn Radack, Tom Drake and I formally presented former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden with the annual Sam Adams Associates award for integrity in intelligence.

The thought that companioned me the entire time was the constant admonition of my Irish grandmother: “Show me your company, and I’ll tell you who you are!” I cannot remember ever feeling so honored as I did by the company I kept over the past week.

That includes, of course, Snowden himself, WikiLeaks journalist Sarah Harrison (and “remotely” Julian Assange) who, together with Russian civil rights lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, helped arrange the visit, and – last but not least – the 3,000 Internet transparency/privacy activists at OHM2013 near Amsterdam, whom Tom, Jesselyn, Coleen and I addressed in early August and who decided to crowd-source our travel. (See: “In the Whistleblower Chalet” by Silkie Carlo.)

As representatives of Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence, we were in Moscow last Wednesday not only to honor Snowden with the award for integrity, but also to remind him (and ourselves) that we all stand on the shoulders of patriots who have gone before and pointed the way.


Syria - UN Report - 25 questions

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Question 1: Why was the news of the chemical attack posted before the attack took place?

Question 2: Were the weapons home-made or were they produced in a factory?

Question 3: If the Iranians told the USA in 2012 that terrorists operating in Syria had chemical weapons, why did US Secretary of State John Kerry say they did not and why would it be outside the realms of possibility for them to have deployed such weaponry in Ghouta?

Question 4: Why would the Syrian Armed Forces have deployed such weaponry in an area where their own forces were massing on the eve of a UN inspection?

Question 5: Why was the first video to be released (Amer Mosa), which claimed to be a recording of the attack, showing the terrorists operating in Syria firing rockets at Government positions?

Question 6: Why does the date of the said video antecede the attack and how can its title referring to chemical weapons be taken seriously if the video was released before the attack took place?


Susan Rice for National Security Advisor

Stephen Lendman


Barak Obama, Susan Rice & Samantha Power (A. Wong/Getty)

Previous articles discussed her. Calling her controversial stops short of accurately characterizing her. Moral depravity explains best.

Vishay Prashad calls her the "queen of interventionist hawks." South African journalist Getahune Bekele said she's a "consummate ally of grubby despots." Ray McGovern says she believes "hawkishness" is "safer" for career advancement than "thoughtful diplomacy." Reuters called her "sharp-tongued." Others condemn her bloody hands. Banality of evil describes her. Death and destruction don't bother her. She was quoted once saying, "The only thing we have to do is look the other way."

Reports suggest humanitarian warmonger Samantha Power will replace her as UN ambassador. Senate confirmation is needed. She and Rice played leading roles in urging "humanitarian war" on Libya.

Genocidal slaughter followed. Africa's most developed nation was ravaged. So-called responsibility to protect is code language for show no mercy. When America intervenes, with or without NATO partners, death, destruction, resource theft, exploitation and human misery follow.


The Moral Torment of Leon Panetta

Ray McGovern


U.S. Defense Secretary Panetta speaks with Pope Benedict XVI
during an audience at the Vatican on Jan. 16, 2013.

Consortiumnews Exclusive: Leon Panetta returned to government in 2009 amid hopes he could cleanse the CIA where torture and politicized intelligence had brought the U.S. to new lows in world respect. Yet, after four years at CIA and Defense, it is Panetta who departs morally compromised, says ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, a practicing Catholic, sought a blessing on Wednesday from Pope Benedict XVI. Afterward Panetta reported that the Pope said, “Thank you for helping to keep the world safe” to which Panetta replied, “Pray for me.”

In seeking those prayers, Panetta knows better than the Pope what moral compromises have surrounded him during his four years inside the Obama administration, as CIA director overseeing the covert war against al-Qaeda and as Defense Secretary deploying the largest military on earth.

For me and others who initially had high hopes for Panetta, his performance in both jobs has been a bitter disappointment. Before accepting the CIA post, Panetta had criticized the moral and constitutional violations in George W. Bush’s “war on terror,” especially the use of torture.


The Grilling that Brennan Deserves

Ray McGovern

Consortiumnews Exclusive: When President Obama’s national security nominees reach the Senate, the toughest challenge is expected against Chuck Hagel for Defense, but CIA Director-designee John Brennan has more to explain about his work over the past decade on the terror war’s “dark side,” says ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

As Washington’s pundit class sees it, Defense Secretary-designee Chuck Hagel deserves a tough grilling over his hesitancy to go to war with Iran and his controversial detection of a pro-Israel lobby operating in the U.S. capital, but prospective CIA Director John Brennan should get only a few polite queries about his role helping to create and sustain Dick Cheney’s “dark side.”

During the upcoming confirmation hearings of these two nominees for President Barack Obama’s national security team, we all may get a revealing look into the upside-down world of Washington’s moral and geopolitical priorities, where too much skepticism about rushing to war is disqualifying and complicity in war crimes is okay, maybe even expected.

Still, there is at least a hope that Brennan’s confirmation hearing might provide an opening for the Senate Intelligence Committee to force out the secret legal justifications and the operational procedures for the lethal drone program that has expanded under Obama, including successfully targeting for death U.S. citizen and al-Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen.


The Larger Question of Chuck Hagel

Ray McGovern

The Israel Lobby is hell bent on sabotaging President Barack Obama’s tentative plan to appoint former Sen. Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense. And – with Obama now dithering about this selection – the Lobby and its neocon allies sense another impending victory.

Perhaps The New Yorker’s Connie Bruck described Hagel’s predicament best in assessing why the Israel Lobby is so determined to destroy the Nebraska Republican though he is “a committed supporter of Israel.”

But, as Bruck explained, “Hagel did not make the obeisance to the lobby that the overwhelming majority of his Congressional colleagues do. And he further violated a taboo by talking about the lobby, and its power.” Hagel had the audacity, in an interview for a 2008 book, to say something that you are not supposed to say in Official Washington, that the Israel Lobby pulls the strings on many members of Congress.

In Aaron Miller’s book, The Much Too Promised Land, Hagel is quoted as saying that Congress “is an institution that does not inherently bring out a great deal of courage.” He added that when the American Israel Public Affairs Committee comes knocking with a pro-Israel letter, “you’ll get eighty or ninety senators on it. I don’t think I’ve ever signed one of the letters” — because, he added, they were “stupid.”


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