FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Bolton Nomination Would Shatter Intelligence Analysts’ Morale

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.

More articles by:

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.  

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
August 19, 2019
John Davis
The Isle of White: a Tale of the Have-Lots Versus the Have-Nots
John O'Kane
Supreme Nihilism: the El Paso Shooter’s Manifesto
Robert Fisk
If Chinese Tanks Take Hong Kong, Who’ll be Surprised?
Ipek S. Burnett
White Terror: Toni Morrison on the Construct of Racism
Arshad Khan
India’s Mangled Economy
Howard Lisnoff
The Proud Boys Take Over the Streets of Portland, Oregon
Steven Krichbaum
Put an End to the Endless War Inflicted Upon Our National Forests
Cal Winslow
A Brief History of Harlan County, USA
Jim Goodman
Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue is Just Part of a Loathsome Administration
Brian Horejsi
Bears’ Lives Undervalued
Thomas Knapp
Lung Disease Outbreak: First Casualties of the War on Vaping?
Susie Day
Dear Guys Who Got Arrested for Throwing Water on NYPD Cops
Weekend Edition
August 16, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Uncle Sam was Born Lethal
Jennifer Matsui
La Danse Mossad: Robert Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein
Rob Urie
Neoliberalism and Environmental Calamity
Stuart A. Newman
The Biotech-Industrial Complex Gets Ready to Define What is Human
Nick Alexandrov
Prevention Through Deterrence: The Strategy Shared by the El Paso Shooter and the U.S. Border Patrol
Jeffrey St. Clair
The First Dambuster: a Coyote Tale
Eric Draitser
“Bernie is Trump” (and other Corporate Media Bullsh*t)
Nick Pemberton
Is White Supremacism a Mental Illness?
Jim Kavanagh
Dead Man’s Hand: The Impeachment Gambit
Andrew Levine
Have They No Decency?
David Yearsley
Kind of Blue at 60
Ramzy Baroud
Manifestos of Hate: What White Terrorists Have in Common
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The War on Nature
Martha Rosenberg
Catch and Hang Live Chickens for Slaughter: $11 an Hour Possible!
Yoav Litvin
Israel Fears a Visit by Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib
Neve Gordon
It’s No Wonder the Military likes Violent Video Games, They Can Help Train Civilians to Become Warriors
Susan Miller
That Debacle at the Border is Genocide
Ralph Nader
With the Boeing 737 MAX Grounded, Top Boeing Bosses Must Testify Before Congress Now
Victor Grossman
Warnings, Ancient and Modern
Meena Miriam Yust - Arshad Khan
The Microplastic Threat
Kavitha Muralidharan
‘Today We Seek Those Fish in Discovery Channel’
Louis Proyect
The Vanity Cinema of Quentin Tarantino
Bob Scofield
Tit For Tat: Baltimore Takes Another Hit, This Time From Uruguay
Nozomi Hayase
The Prosecution of Julian Assange Affects Us All
Ron Jacobs
People’s Music for the Soul
John Feffer
Is America Crazy?
Jonathan Power
Russia and China are Growing Closer Again
John W. Whitehead
Who Inflicts the Most Gun Violence in America? The U.S. Government and Its Police Forces
Justin Vest
ICE: You’re Not Welcome in the South
Jill Richardson
Race is a Social Construct, But It Still Matters
Dean Baker
The NYT Gets the Story on Automation and Inequality Completely Wrong
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Retains Political Control After New US Coercive Measures
Gary Leupp
MSNBC and the Next Election: Racism is the Issue (and Don’t Talk about Socialism)
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail