FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bolton Nomination Would Shatter Intelligence Analysts’ Morale

by RAY McGOVERN

Former CIA Analyst

Few have more at stake in the expected Senate approval of John Bolton to be U.S. representative at the UN than the remnant of demoralized intelligence analysts trained and still willing to speak truth to power. What would be the point in continuing, they ask, when ­ like so many other policymakers ­ Bolton reserves the right to “state his own reading of the intelligence” (as he wrote to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee)?

Given his well-earned reputation for stretching intelligence beyond the breaking point to “justify” his own policy preferences, Bolton’s confirmation would loose a hemorrhage of honest analysts, while the kind of malleable careerists who cooked intelligence to “justify” the administration’s prior decision for war on Iraq will prosper. I refer to those who saluted obediently when former CIA director George Tenet told them, as he told his British counterpart in July 2002, that the facts needed to be “fixed around the policy” of regime change in Iraq.
It Has All Happened Before

Bolton’s confirmation hearings provide an eerie flashback to the challenge that Robert Gates encountered in 1991 during his Senate hearings in late 1991, after President George H. W. Bush nominated him to be CIA director. The parallels are striking. The nomination of Gates, who as head of CIA analysis had earned a reputation among the analysts for cooking intelligence to the recipe of high policy and promoting those who cooperated, brought a revolt among the most experienced intelligence professionals.

Playing the role discharged so well last month by former State Department intelligence director Carl Ford in exposing Bolton’s heavy-handed attempts to politicize intelligence, former senior Soviet analyst and CIA division chief Mel Goodman stepped forward and gave the Senate Intelligence Committee chapter and verse on how Gates had shaped intelligence analysis to satisfy his masters and advance his career. Goodman was joined at once by other CIA analysts who put their own careers at risk by testifying against Gates’ nomination. They were so many and so persuasive that, for a time, it appeared they had won the day. But the fix was in.

With a powerful assist from former CIA chief George Tenet, then staff director of the Senate Intelligence Committee, members approved the nomination. Even so, 31 Senators found the evidence against Gates so persuasive that, in an unprecedented move, they voted “No” when the nomination came to the floor.
The First Exodus and Those Who Stayed

After Gates was confirmed, many bright analysts who scored high on integrity quit rather than take part in cooking “intelligence-to-go.” In contrast, those inspired by Gates’ example and his meteoric career followed suit and saw their careers flourish. This explains why, in Sept. 2002 when the White House asked Tenet and his senior managers to prepare a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) parroting what Vice President Dick Cheney had been saying about the weapons-of-mass-destruction threat from Iraq, these malleable careerists caved in and did the administration’s bidding. Most of the key players in 2002 had been protégés of Gates.

These include Tenet’s deputy, John McLaughlin, who became acting director when Tenet left in July 2004 to spend more time with his family. Like his former boss, McLaughlin cannot now recall being told that one of the key sources of information highlighted in Colin Powell’s unfortunate speech at the UN on Feb. 5, 2003, was an alcoholic who had been championed by advocates of war on Iraq for his peddling of “intelligence” on phantom “mobile biological warfare laboratories.” Also included among the players in 2002 are the obedient national intelligence officer who blessed the insertion of the biological warfare drivel and other nonsense into the NIE, and the manager who supervised misbegotten analytical efforts regarding the non-nuclear-related aluminum tubes headed for Iraq, as well as the reports on Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium from Niger ­ reports based on crude forgeries.

Also included: folks like the CIA inspector general, who bowed to pressure from the White House and from McLaughlin last summer to suppress the exhaustive IG report on 9/11. (Release of that report before the election would have been an extreme embarrassment, since it is a gold mine of names ­ of both intelligence officials and policymakers ­ who bungled the many warnings that such attacks were coming.) And folks like the intelligence manager of more recent vintage who recently tried to explain it all to me: “We were not politicized; we just thought it appropriate to ‘lean forward,’ given White House concern over Iraq.”
Politicization Prospers

The cancer of politicization spreads quickly, runs deep, and ­ as we have seen on Iraq ­ can help bring catastrophe.

Thanks to an official British government document leaked to the Sunday Times of London, we now know that ­ well before the infamous NIE of Oct. 1, 2002, on Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” ­ the White House told senior British officials that the U.S. had decided to remove Saddam Hussein by military force. On July 23, 2002, the head of the UK’s foreign intelligence service, fresh back from talks in Washington with CIA counterpart George Tenet, told Prime Minister Tony Blair, “Intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” It is quite rare to have documentary proof of this kind of an intelligence-fixing-and-disinformation campaign.

Barring the unexpected, and despite continuing efforts by Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) to prevent Bolton from being confirmed, the Republican-dominated Senate seems sure to confirm him, even though the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after looking so carefully into his qualifications could not endorse him.

This, too, has happened before. In 1983, the committee voted 14 to 3 to reject the nomination of Kenneth Adelman to be director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. He was nonetheless confirmed in the full Republican-controlled Senate by a vote of 57 to 42. Still an influential adviser to Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Adelman was among those arguing most strongly three years ago for attacking Iraq. Like Bolton, he never hesitated to “state his own reading of the intelligence.” It was Adelman who achieved dubious fame by assuring all who would listen that the invasion would be a “cakewalk.”

RAY McGOVERN works for Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour. He began his 27-year career with the CIA as the analyst for Soviet relations with China and Southeast Asia. He is on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and is a contributor to Cockburn and St. Clair’s Imperial Crusades: Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia. He can be reached at: rrmcgovern@aol.com

An earlier version of this article appeared in the Birmingham News.

Ray McGovern was an Army officer and CIA analyst for almost 30 year. He now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). He can be reached at: rrmcgovern@gmail.com. A version of this article first appeared on Consortiumnews.com.  

More articles by:
May 26, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts
The Looting Stage of Capitalism: Germany’s Assault on the IMF
Pepe Escobar
Hillary Clinton: A Major Gold-Digging Liability
Sam Pizzigati
America’s Cosmic Tax Gap
Ramzy Baroud
Time to End the ‘Hasbara’: Palestinian Media and the Search for a Common Story
José L. Flores
Wall Street’s New Man in Brazil: The Forces Behind Dilma Rousseff’s Impeachment
Patrick Cockburn
The Battle of Fallujah: ISIS Unleashes Its Death Squads
John Feffer
The Coming Drone Blowback
Alex Ray
The Death Toll in Syria: What Do the Numbers Really Say?
Richard Pithouse
We Shall be the Prey and the Vulture
Binoy Kampmark
Trump and the Polls of Loathing
Manuel E. Yepe
A Cruise Ship Without Tourists Arrives in Havana
Jack Rasmus
Greek Debt Negotiations: Will the IMF Exit the Troika?
Ajamu Nangwaya
Pan-Africanism, Feminism and Finding Missing Pan-Africanist Women
Howard Lisnoff
Israel, a Palestinian State and Anti-Semitism
May 25, 2016
Eric Draitser
Obama in Hiroshima: A Case Study in Hypocrisy
Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
Does Venezuela’s Crisis Prove Socialism Doesn’t Work?
Dan Arel
The Socialist Revolution Beyond Sanders and the Democratic Party
Marc Estrin
Cocky-Doody Politics and World Affairs
Sam Husseini
Layers of Islamophobia: Do Liberals Care That Hillary Returned “Muslim Money”?
Susan Babbitt
Invisible in Life, Invisible in Death: How Information Becomes Useless
Mel Gurtov
Hillary’s Cowgirl Diplomacy?
Kathy Kelly
Hammering for Peace
Dick Reavis
The Impeachment of Donald Trump
Wahid Azal
Behind the Politics of a Current Brouhaha in Iran: an Ex-President Ayatollah’s Daughter and the Baha’is
Jesse Jackson
Obama Must Recommit to Eliminating Nuclear Arms
Colin Todhunter
From the Green Revolution to GMOs: Living in the Shadow of Global Agribusiness
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey as Terror: the Role of Ankara in the Brexit Referendum
Dave Lindorff
72-Year-Old Fringe Left Candidate Wins Presidency in Austrian Run-Off Election
May 24, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
The Financial Invasion of Greece
Jonathan Cook
Religious Zealots Ready for Takeover of Israeli Army
Ted Rall
Why I Am #NeverHillary
Mari Jo Buhle – Paul Buhle
Television Meets History
Robert Hunziker
Troika Heat-Seeking Missile Destroys Greece
Judy Gumbo
May Day Road Trip: 1968 – 2016
Colin Todhunter
Cheerleader for US Aggression, Pushing the World to the Nuclear Brink
Jeremy Brecher
This is What Insurgency Looks Like
Jonathan Latham
Unsafe at Any Dose: Chemical Safety Failures from DDT to Glyphosate to BPA
Binoy Kampmark
Suing Russia: Litigating over MH17
Dave Lindorff
Europe, the US and the Politics of Pissing and Being Pissed
Matt Peppe
Cashing In at the Race Track While Facing Charges of “Abusive” Lending Practices
Gilbert Mercier
If Bernie Sanders Is Real, He Will Run as an Independent
Peter Bohmer
A Year Later! The Struggle for Justice Continues!
Dave Welsh
Police Chief Fired in Victory for the Frisco 500
May 23, 2016
Conn Hallinan
European Union: a House Divided
Paul Buhle
Labor’s Sell-Out and the Sanders Campaign
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail