FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

More Lies From Spies: the Tall Tales of Robert Gates

by

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 6.47.18 PM

“A leader, or those who aspire to that role, regardless of whether in the public or the private sector, must have integrity.”

Robert M. Gates, 2016.

Former CIA director and secretary of defense Robert M. Gates, who served both Bush administrations as well as the Obama administration, has produced his third self-aggrandizing memoir.  His most recent effort, “A Passion for Leadership,” is in the form of lessons learned, but there is no acknowledgement of any flaw or stumble, let alone mistake.  In view of Gates’ emphasis on “integrity,” it’s useful to review his CIA career, particularly his relationship with CIA director William Casey.

First, there is virtually no discussion of the fact that President Ronald Reagan nominated Gates to be the director of central intelligence in 1987, but his duplicity on Iran-Contra meant he could not be confirmed.  After his appearance before the Senate intelligence committee, Senator David Boren, the chairman of the committee, called Gates at home to report that too many members of the committee simply didn’t believe his denials of prior knowledge of the illegal covert action known as Iran-Contra.  Senator Boren even called Lawrence Walsh, the independent counsel investigating Iran-Contra, to ascertain whether Gates would be indicted.  Walsh “doubted Gates’ veracity,” but said he would “probably not” be indicted.  He warned Boren, however, that there were still troubling areas indicating that Gates falsely denied knowledge of Colonel Oliver North’s Contra-support activities.  North was Bill Casey’s “case officer” for Iran-Contra.

Walsh knew that Gates had been informed of the illegal “arms-for-profit deal,” but Gates continues to claim that he had been “kept in the dark” and doesn’t remember any conversations that gave him advance knowledge. Walsh’s report included ten pages on Gates, concluding that there was “insufficient evidence to warrant charging Robert Gates with a crime.  The report noted that the “statements of Gates often seemed scripted and less than candid.”

In fact, it was Gates’ deputy, Dick Kerr, as well as a senior intelligence officer, Charlie Allen, who had access to sensitive documents and briefed Gates on the sale of missiles to Iran and the diversion of profits to the Contras.  North even briefed Gates on the Swiss bank accounts where the money for the Contras was kept.  A veteran CIA operative, Tom Polgar, wrote many members of the committee to remind them about Gates’ role in Iran-Contra, and the “slanting of intelligence under the leadership of Casey and Gates.”  Nevertheless, Gates still pretends to be an innocent bystander in the Iran-Contra crisis, although he was on center stage at an important decision-making juncture.

In his book, Gates contends that he “was no lawyer and didn’t even know if laws had been broken.”  It was well known at the CIA that the sale of surface-to-air missiles to Iran was a violation of congressional law and that, in any event, the profits of covert sales had to be turned back to the U.S. treasury.  Actually, Gates played a key role in developing a national intelligence estimate in 1985 that provided the intelligence justification for selling arms to Iran, and referred to the congressional investigations of Iran-Contra as “bureaucratic bullshit” that Casey was determined to evade.

Three decades later, Gates acknowledges that Casey “orchestrated” Iran-Contra “in league with the national security adviser.”  During the hearings in 1991 and in his first memoir in 1996, Gates defended Casey throughout.

Even worse, Gates makes no mention of the fact that his confirmation as CIA director in 1991, when he was nominated for a second time, produced the most contentious and tumultuous vote on an intelligence official in the agency’s history.  Gates dismissed the committee hearings as a “food fight,” but more than 30 Senators voted against Gates, which was far greater than all votes for all previous directors. In his memoir, Gates takes credit for his “self-discipline” in front of senators who “love to hear themselves talk,” and for “keeping silent in the face of outrageous speeches.”  He goes on the attack only against the late Senator Howard Metzenbaum, who not only voted against Gates, but read into the congressional record some of the more than 50 statements from CIA analysts who opposed Gates’ confirmation.

 “The analytic product improved substantially” during my “four years” as deputy director of intelligence.”  Robert M. Gates, 2016.

This may be the most ludicrous aspect of Gates’ memoir.  As Senator Bill Bradley remarked in explaining his vote against Gates, the director of intelligence was wrong about every major intelligence issue that marked the 1980s and President Reagan’s two terms in office.  Former CIA director Stansfield Turner wrote in Foreign Affairs that the “corporate view” of the CIA under Gates “missed by a mile” and that the United States should not “gloss over the enormity of this failure to forecast the magnitude of the Soviet crisis.”

There is no mention of Secretary of State George Shultz in the Gates’ memoir, presumably because Shultz’s memoir charged Gates with “manipulating” him and being “usually wrong” about the Soviet Union.  The former secretary of state emphasized that he had been “misled, lied to, and cut out” by Casey and Gates.  I would only add that Gates was entirely wrong about Moscow and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, and he made sure that the CIA was wrong as well.

Two years after Shultz told Gates that “you have a big, powerful machine not under good control” and “I distrust what comes out of it,” Secretary of State James Baker had his own confrontation with Gates.  Gates was giving speeches that undermined Baker’s policies, and the secretary threatened to go to the president to stop Gates’ efforts.  National security adviser Brent Scowcroft got the message and turned off Gates’ polemics.  Like Shultz, Baker is not mentioned in the memoir.

“At every level, a leader should strive to make his employees proud to be where they are and doing what they do.”

— Robert M. Gates, 2016.

In my 24 years at the CIA, there was never the kind of toxic atmosphere that existed when Gates served as deputy director for intelligence, deputy director of CIA, and finally director of CIA.  Several Republican senators who supported Gates, including Warren Rudman and vice chairman Frank Murkowski, acknowledged Gates’ imperious manner in their statements.  Chairman Boren believed he had to make a personal commitment and “indeed the commitment of our entire committee” that “no action will be taken against [Gates’ critics] in a way that will disrupt or penalize their career advancement.”

Boren said he would hold Gates “accountable and carefully scrutinize his decisions and actions to ensure that needed changes are made.”  Boren had no ability whatsoever to enforce such a commitment, and his colleagues on both sides of the aisle were nonplussed and chagrined that their chairman had gone out on the limb with a feckless gesture.  Accordingly, nothing was done when some of Gates’ critics suffered professionally as a result of their sworn affidavits, including vindictive polygraph examinations.

Perhaps if the Senate had done its job in 1991 and rejected the Gates’ nomination as it was prepared to do in 1987 and if the Senate intelligence committee had pursued the warnings it received regarding politicization, then perhaps it would have been more difficult to politicize intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq War a decade later.  The Senate intelligence committee gave the benefit of the doubt to Bob Gates when it should have given the benefit to his critics.  Unfortunately, there is no indication in “A Passion for Leadership” that Gates has learned any lessons from any of this.

More articles by:

Melvin A. Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University.  A former CIA analyst, Goodman is the author of Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA and National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism. His latest book is A Whistleblower at the CIA. (City Lights Publishers, 2017).  Goodman is the national security columnist for counterpunch.org.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 27, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
California Scheming: Democrats Betray Single-Payer Again
Jonathan Cook
Hersh’s New Syria Revelations Buried From View
Edward Hunt
Excessive and Avoidable Harm in Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Death of Democracy Both Here and Abroad and All Those Colorful Sneakers
Gary Leupp
Immanuel Kant on Electoral Interference
Kenneth Surin
Theresa May and the Tories are in Freefall
Slavoj Zizek
Get the Left
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia Wants to Reduce Qatar to a Vassal State
Ralph Nader
Driverless Cars: Hype, Hubris and Distractions
Rima Najjar
Palestinians Are Seeking Justice in Jerusalem – Not an Abusive Life-Long Mate
Norman Solomon
Is ‘Russiagate’ Collapsing as a Political Strategy?
Binoy Kampmark
In the Twitter Building: Tech Incubators and Altering Perceptions
Dean Baker
Uber’s Repudiation is the Moment for the U.S. to Finally Start Regulating the So-called Sharing Economy
Rob Seimetz
What I Saw From The Law
George Wuerthner
The Causes of Forest Fires: Climate vs. Logging
June 26, 2017
William Hawes – Jason Holland
Lies That Capitalists Tell Us
Chairman Brandon Sazue
Out of the Shadow of Custer: Zinke Proves He’s No “Champion” of Indian Country With his Grizzly Lies
Patrick Cockburn
Grenfell Tower: the Tragic Price of the Rolled-Back Stat
Joseph Mangano
Tritium: Toxic Tip of the Nuclear Iceberg
Ray McGovern
Hersh’s Big Scoop: Bad Intel Behind Trump’s Syria Attack
Roy Eidelson
Heart of Darkness: Observations on a Torture Notebook
Geoff Beckman
Why Democrats Lose: the Case of Jon Ossoff
Matthew Stevenson
Travels Around Trump’s America
David Macaray
Law Enforcement’s Dirty Little Secret
Colin Todhunter
Future Shock: Imagining India
Yoav Litvin
Animals at the Roger Waters Concert
Binoy Kampmark
Pride in San Francisco
Stansfield Smith
North Koreans in South Korea Face Imprisonment for Wanting to Return Home
Hamid Yazdan Panah
Remembering Native American Civil Rights Pioneer, Lehman Brightman
James Porteous
Seventeen-Year-Old Nabra Hassanen Was Murdered
Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castile’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail