Former CIA analysts Ray McGovern and David MacMichael accuse President Bush of waging the Iraq war based on a series of lies, discuss the unprecedented pressure that VP Dick Cheney put on the CIA before the invasion and call on CIA analysts and agents to come forward with information that will reveal the lies of the Bush administration. [Includes transcript]
- Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst.
- David MacMichael, former CIA analyst.
AMY GOODMAN: A number of senators including New York Senator Charles Schumer, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Congress Member Harry Waxman and others have called for an investigation into who outed Joseph Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame as a CIA operative, who blew her cover. We called the White House to see if they were conducting an investigation. They said to call the FBI. We called the FBI. They said they’re looking into it but that they would not yet classify it as an investigation. Well today we turn to an interview that I did with two former CIA analysts to talk about just what it means for an analyst or agent to have their cover blown. While we had them in the studio, we talked about many other issues as well to shed some light on the way intelligence or lack of it has been used over the years. We began with former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, who worked closely with George Bush senior when he was Director of Central Intelligence right through his presidency. And the law was passed under Bush’s watch that made the blowing of a covert operative a felony. We’re going to turn now to that interview.
Let’s go back in time to something former President Bush, this is George Bush senior, said. Langley, Virginia, he is at the Central Intelligence Agency — I’m reading from an Associated Press report:
“Former President Bush, helping the CIA celebrate its 50th birthday, called agency critics "nuts". He singled out for criticism Philip Agee, a former CIA agent and later critic of the agency. "Remember Philip Agee, who I consider a traitor to our country?'’ Bush asked, referring to Agee's efforts to expose CIA operations and identify spies. Bush said some of the criticism of the Directorate of Operations ruined secret U.S. clandestine operations in foreign countries and, in one instance, blew the cover of CIA station chief in Greece, Richard Welch, who was assassinated outside his residence in Greece in the mid-1970s. Bush was careful not to directly link Agee to Welch’s death. Agee dropped a defamation suit against former first lady Barbara Bush earlier this year after Mrs. Bush acknowledged that the first edition of her memoir was erroneous in saying that Agee had exposed Welch’s identity.’’ David MacMichael, explain this.
DAVID MACMICHAEL: Well after the Mrs. Bush’s memoir came out with that statement which charged Phillip Agee effectively with commission of a felony, that is, violation of exposing this–exposing Richard Welch — ok, that’s a libel per se, as they say in law. Phillip Agee filed a suit some months after the book came out in Washington DC charging libel and seeking damages for that. He did not drop the suit. The case was dismissed by the presiding judge on grounds that Phillip’s place of residence at the time did not give him standing to sue in US courts on this, and the case went away. The subsequent, as I think the article indicates and you said, the subsequent additions of Mrs. Bush’s book did not contain this erroneous charge, but it serves to indicate that this is a very serious matter. If former President Bush could define Philip Agee as a traitor for exposing the identities of serving intelligence officers, if his son’s political advisor has done the same, while it has not come under the heading of treason, believe me, it is a very serious felony under the current Act.
AMY GOODMAN:Ray McGovern you worked for George Bush in the CIA when he was director of Central Intelligence. It was right at the time of the Richard Welch assassination. Were you at this 50th anniversary party?
RAY MCGOVERN: I was. They invited a whole bunch of alumni and alumnae back, so I was witness to those events. I would like to add that I do not condone what Phillip Agee did, nor does Dave. However, I think that ..
AMY GOODMAN: Though he says he did not expose Richard Welch as a CIA man.
RAY MCGOVERN: Well not Richard Welch, but he did expose many operations and many identities and that is really unconscionable. But what I would say is that the law came in, if I’m not mistaken, Dave, in direct reaction to what Agee had done. This was the Intelligence Identities law and it was made draconian, it was made very, very specific, automatic penalties that would accrue to both officials and non-officials–anyone who knowingly disclosed the identity of a CIA agent or officer under cover. And so with that kind of background, you get an idea of for how critical it was, it was judged to be, that agency operations which depend on concealed identities needed to be protected and needed to be protected in such a way that those violating those confidences would be prosecuted and extremely penalized.
What this indicates, I mean, this is all sort of in the weeds until you step back and you say why is all this happening? It is all happening because there are lies upon lies, deceit upon deceit that have been used to justify this illegal war on against an unprovoked enemy, or an enemy that does not provoke us. Once the lies start unraveling, and people see they can speak out, that is going to be real trouble for the administration, and so what do you do? You do all you can to intimidate them. And how you intimidate them is to try to hurt them in a personal way. Going after somebody’s wife, I mean, not even Richard Nixon stooped to that.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Ray McGovern and David MacMichael, two former CIA analysts with the agency for more than a quarter of a century. We’ll be right back with that in a minute. (MUSIC BREAK) You are listening to Democracy Now! Ray McGovern, our guest, former CIA analyst. You were with the CIA for…
RAY MCGOVERN: 27 years.
AMY GOODMAN: And you worked directly under George Bush
RAY MCGOVERN: I did when he was director for CIA and later I saw him every other morning for a couple of years in the 80’s when he was Vice President.
AMY GOODMAN: Doing what?
RAY MCGOVERN: I was one of the briefers who prepared the President’s daily brief and delivered it and briefed people one on one with the senior officials downtown.
AMY GOODMAN:Now one of the things we are talking about a lot and seeing a lot is that the same people that were there during the Reagan-Bush years and even before, the Wolfowitzes the Rumsfelds, Cheneys were there then. What was George Bush’s view of these people then?
RAY MCGOVERN: Well, you know it’s really interesting. When we saw these people coming back in town, all of us said who were around in those days said, oh my god, 'the crazies' are back — 'the crazies' — that’s how we referred to these people.
AMY GOODMAN: Did George Bush refer to them that way?
RAY MCGOVERN: That’s the way everyone referred to them.
AMY GOODMAN: Including George Bush?
RAY MCGOVERN: Well, when Wolfowitz prepared that defense posture statement in 1991, where he elucidated the strategic vision that has now been implemented, Jim Baker, Secretary of State, Brent Scowcroft, security advisor to George Bush, and George Bush said hey, that thing goes right into the circular file. Suppress that thing, get rid of it. Somebody had the presence of mind to leak it and so that was suppressed. But now to see that arise out of the ashes and be implemented. while we start a war against Iraq, I wonder what Bush the first is really thinking. Because these were the same guys that all of us referred to as 'the crazies'.
AMY GOODMAN: Including George Bush
RAY MCGOVERN: I don’t want to…There is a certain delicacy to all this. The last thing I want to do is to do anything to impede the access of honest analysts who are willing to speak truth to power on these mornings briefings, and so I am not going to quote anything the Vice President said to me directly.
AMY GOODMAN: But on that issue, when you say when Wolfowitz for example, brought forward the defense posture, explain what that was, what he was promoting.
RAY MCGOVERN: Well he was promoting the idea that has now been implemented that we are the single superpower in the world and that we should act like it. We’ve got a lot of weight to throw around, we should throw it around. We should assert ourselves in critical areas, like the Middle East and over the next few years the Project for New American Century documents very much elucidate this kind of strategic vision and strategic plan. It’s very much like Mein Kampf. It’s the ideological strategic justification for what has been happening here. It’s empire, it’s how to increase our influence and not coincidentally, it dovetails expressly with the strategic objectives of Israel in the Middle East. We mean to be the sole superpower, dominant superpower in the world and Israel is determined to remain the superpower in the Middle East. And of course if you talk about weapons of mass destruction, well, check out how many Israel has. And ask yourself when was the last national intelligence estimate on Israeli weapons of mass destruction?
AMY GOODMAN: Are these views common, David MacMichael, in the the intelligence agency, in the CIA for years among analysts?
DAVID MACMICHAEL:I can only speak to those two years that I served on the National Intelligence Council as a Senior Estimates Officer.
AMY GOODMAN:Those years were…?
DAVID MACMICHAEL:Those were 1981-1983 under Reagan and under William Casey. In fact I embarked on that job the day Casey came in. I can assure you that the way in which the National Intelligence Council and the National Intelligence officers, the directing officers in there were stacked during the Casey years, meant that intelligence was designed, and I focused principally on Central America, the whole Iran Contra thing later, truthful analysis was not the highest priority there. The determination was to produce analyses that would support the previously decided upon policy so for me, getting back involved with Ray McGovern here and VIPS dealing with this current situation, its kind of like déjà vu all over again. It’s a familiar process.
AMY GOODMAN: VIPS being Veterans Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.
AMY GOODMAN: And you have put out a call now?
RAY MCGOVERN: We have indeed. There have been a few courageous people who have stood on principle at some personal cost. Ironically, we intelligence professionals, we, unfairly, we tend to dismiss foreign service officers as knee-jerk mouthpieces for the administration. Well, three such foreign service officers have stood on principle and have quit, some of them before the war ever started, and they have issued eloquent statements as to how their conscience would not permit them to have to tell these lies to folks, to try to rally support for an unjust US policy. There is Andrew Wilke in Australia, an incredible person whom Veterans Intelligence Professionals for Sanity had to this country. We all chipped in and paid for his fare. He spoke in Congress at one of the congressional hearings. Andrew quit the Office of National Assessments in Australia, which is the CIA counterpart, eight days before the war, because he could no longer countenance his country going into a war on the basis of intelligence that he saw to be bogus. And he spoke out immediately, and over the last few weeks, although you won’t see it in the US press, he and Prime Minister Howard in Australia have been having a personal argument in the press as to how the intelligence was over-egged as the British say, exaggerated, sexed-up, as some of the other British and Australians say. So there is precedent for people speaking out.
I guess the most prominent American example of that is Daniel Ellsberg. And the interesting thing there is, you know, I asked Daniel Ellsberg, do you have any regrets about outing the Pentagon Papers, which he gave to the NY Times and the Washington Post about Vietnam which showed all the lies and deceit about that policy. He said yes, Ray, I do have one major regret. I said, what’s that? He said I did it in 1971, and I should have done it in 1964 or '65 where it could have prevented this war or at least retarded it. And I said Dan, why didn't you do it? And he said, Ray, it’s hard to believe but it never occurred to me. You know how it is when you get immeshed in this culture and your loyalties get a little perverted, and they become the loyalty to the little group, and it’s beyond the pale to rise above that and to release information that you know the public should have. Well, that was my mind frame, so it never occurred to me.
And so our latest appeal to intelligence professionals still working on the inside is, well let it occur to you now. There are more important things. And we are not suggesting that they release classified information. All they have to do is tell what happened in months before this war. Tell how bogus information was used, like forgeries, to deceive Congress. This is a constitutional crisis to deceive the other branch of government.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain the forgeries.
RAY MCGOVERN: Well, the forgery we referred to before with respect to alleged Iraqi attempts to seek uranium in Niger.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, we always refer to that, but most people don’t know what the fraud was that was perpetrated. Explain what actually happened.
RAY MCGOVERN: What happened was this: in early 2002, Vice President Cheney learned that there was a report floating around that the government of Iraq was seeking uranium for nuclear weapons in the African country of Niger. He was so interested in that for obvious reasons, that he and his staff went to the Central Intelligence Agency and said tell me more about this. The CIA in response found out the best person to send down there, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, who knew Africa like the palm of his hand, who had served in Niger as ambassador to other countries.
DAVID MACMICHAEL:Just to intrude here. Joe Wilson was particularly important for that. He had been the Deputy Chief of Mission in Baghdad just prior to the 1991 Iraq war and actually had been serving as effectively the US ambassador there, so he knew Iraq and he knew Africa.
AMY GOODMAN: He was Bush’s ambassador to Iraq at that time.
RAY MCGOVERN: Exactly, with high commendations from President Bush the first. So Joe went down there, spent eight days down there checking it out, with the ambassador down there and everybody else who knew this situation. He came back and said it was 'highly dubious'. Number one: The government of Niger cannot, even if it wanted to, give uranium or sell uranium to Iraq. Why? Because it doesn’t control it. Who controls it? An international consortium led by the French. Every ounce of the uranium is accounted for. There is no way they could do that. Number 2: Iraq already has several, 50 tons of this yellow cake uranium it doesn’t know what to do with.
DAVID MACMICHAEL:And again, to intrude, all of which was under control of the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency
AMY GOODMAN: The yellow cake uranium that Saddam Hussein had.
DAVID MACMICHAEL:The existing uranium ore that they had.
RAY MCGOVERN: So on the strength of that, the ambassadors report was that, forget it, this is really bogus, this report. It just can’t…the first thing you do as an intelligence analyst or any kind of analyst is look at the substance of the report. If it makes no sense, it hardly matters what kind of source was behind it. But in this case it really did matter because later, it was discovered, that this report came from deliberate forgeries, and crude forgeries at that. And so, what I am reminded of is…
AMY GOODMAN: By whom?
RAY MCGOVERN: Well, it’s not clear. One asks themselves, Qui bono? Who would profit from this kind of thing? And a lot of people suggest it was the Israeli service, Mussad.
AMY GOODMAN: What evidence was there for that?
RAY MCGOVERN: As I say, just speculation on who would profit from this.
DAVID MACMICHAEL:And it I may again intrude, because you are interested in the detail of this, the apparent conduit was through Italian intelligence service. Ray is referring to the forgeries here, the documents that were passed forward. They may have been passed forward by agents, of one or another intelligence agency, who are under pressure to provide information to their control officers. The crude forgeries were purported to be Niger government documents. They were signed by a foreign minister, who had been out of office for many years. They referred to constitutional provisions, which no longer existed in Niger. And this is the reason I would tend to excuse Mussad because they are too good to put forward such blatantly and easily detectable pieces of paper trash. But, go on, Ray.
RAY MCGOVERN: The real conspiratorial thing would be, of course that Mussad would do it in a sloppy way precisely so that folks like David MacMichael would rule them out as the author of that.
AMY GOODMAN: But at this point you don’t know the evidence?
RAY MCGOVERN: Well we don’t know and it doesn’t matter, because the information was false on its face. Why this is important is the following: this time last year, the decision had already been made to go to war. Dick Cheney led off the charge on the 26th of August of last year, when he said among other things that Iraq was starting to reconstitute its nuclear program. Now the next thing they needed to do was persuade Congress that the situation was serious enough so that Congress would cede its war making powers to the executive. What evidence did they have? Well, they looked around. Zippo. Well we have the aluminum tubes. The aluminum tubes had already been discounted by all nuclear scientists and engineers.
AMY GOODMAN: The story that was on the front page of the NY Times the Sunday of Labor Day last year when they rolled out their new product, Judith Miller’s piece.
RAY MCGOVERN: Exactly right, these were tubes that were alleged to be essential to nuclear processing, the thing that would produce nuclear weapons material. If they checked with the Department of Energy specialists, they would have known right off the bat that these were not suitable for that purpose. And now everybody accepts that that was bogus, but it worked. For those months, it was used in Congress as evidence they were pursuing a nuclear program.
But since there was a lot of controversy there, they looked for what else was around. And somebody said, well, how about those reports that Iraq was seeking uranium in Niger? We can use that for sure. And they said, well, the CIA has poured cold water on that. Yeah, but who is going to know about these doubts? Well, nobody unless we tell them. Do we have to tell anyone about this? The UN wants to know about these reports because they’ve got word of them, and we have been putting them off. Well how long can we put them off? Oh, probably, another couple of months. What’s the problem? We use this, we raise the prospect of a mushroom cloud, our first evidence that Saddam has his hands on nuclear weapons might be a mushroom cloud, used by the President on the 7th of October, used by Condeleezza Rice on the 8th of October, used by Victoria Clarke, the Pentagon spokesman on the 9th of October, on the 11th of October, Congress votes to give its war making power to the President.
This was effectively used, and I’m sure they said, what if people find out that people find out that this was bogus information and indeed based on a forgery? And the answer had to have been, well look, we’ll get Congress to approve it, we’ll have our war, well win it handly, the people in Baghdad will welcome us with open arms, and then who is going to care at that point? Who is going to care if the case was built on a forgery?
AMY GOODMAN: Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern as well as former CIA analyst David MacMichael. We’ll come back to their interview. They are two former CIA analysts, who are calling on others to come forward to speak out about what is happening today in the United States. You are listening to Democracy Now! Back with them, in a minute.
Hum Bomb! — Allen Ginsburg, here on Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, as we return to the interview with two former CIA analysts, Ray McGovern, who worked under George Bush as Director of Central Intelligence and then was part of his daily briefing as President of the United States, this is President Bush senior, as well as David MacMichael, former CIA analyst as well.
You talk about October, and this was before the war. George Tenet has the suggestion taken out of George Bush’s speech, a major address he gave at that time. But then the famous 16-word statement in the State of the Union address, which brings us to one of the people who is leaving Intelligence. Can you talk about him and the role that he played?
RAY MCGOVERN: Alan Foley? Alan announced just three days ago that he was leaving, and he was head of the analytic section that had purview over weapons of mass destruction. It was he who suggested that those sixteen offending words not be included in the president’s State of the Union address. He was finally arm twisted into condoning that, with the assurance that it would be blamed on the British.
AMY GOODMAN: Well explain that. He says, and he testifies before Congress…
RAY MCGOVERN: Yes, he testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that in discussions with a Mr. Joseph of the NSC, he suggested that since the agency didn’t vouch for the business about Iraq seeking uranium from Niger, that it ought not to be used in the President’s Sate of the Union address, and indeed they had managed to get it out of previous presidential speeches. So why did they want to put it back in there? Well, finally he was persuaded that well, let’s blame it on the British. Let’s say, according to a British report. And Foley said, I suppose that would be alright to blame it on the British. Now, they didn’t even say 'according to a British report'. What the President said was 'the British have learned'. That’s a lot different. We are pretty careful with words in the intelligence community, but that is what the President said, ’the British have learned that Iraq was seeking uranium from an African country..
Now, Foley took the fall with that, along with Tenet, but it was really sort of Tenet saying 'I confess, she did it'. Because Tenet doesn’t write these speeches. Condeleezza Rice is responsible for that. So what is Tenet was confessing? He’s confessing to being a lousy proofreader. He didn’t read the final draft, and there it was.
AMY GOODMAN: But Alan Foley said 'we know this not to be true'. And they said well, why don’t we just leave that part out and say that the British say it’s true?
RAY MCGOVERN: We’ll use it anyway and we’ll pin it on the British report. I watched the speech. We all watched the speech. When the President says the British have learned something, the presumption is the President is telling the truth. But the President was not telling the truth and everyone knew that.
AMY GOODMAN: So Alan Foley is leaving. How significant is that, David MacMichael?
DAVID MACMICHAEL:I think it’s significant. The man cannot continue to identified, whether he supports the policy or not, as an intelligence professional. He can’ continue to be identified with a process that had been and is being corrupted. I don’t like to use these terms but this is an ethical dilemma that officers in these institutions frequently face. You may recall the official state dept report following Iran-Contra on El Salvador. The language is indicative. State Department officers were torn between their desire to tell the truth and their need to support the policy. So these things do come up, and it’s very difficult for people pursuing careers in these bureaucracies to stand up and be counted at the cost of their careers. And that is just a fact of life.
AMY GOODMAN: Which brings us to Cheney’s visits to the CIA. When people hear that they might say, well, he’s the Vice President, he can go to the agencies that are under him.
RAY MCGOVERN: Well, people have asked me in my 27 years, has this had happened before, whether it was unusual? And I tell them, this is not unusual, this is unprecedented. The Vice President of the United States never during those 27 years came out to the CIA headquarters for a working visit. Not even George Bush the first came out under those circumstances. He did come out once to supervise or to be in attendance at an awards ceremony, but never on a working visit. That is not how it works.
How it works is we go down in the early morning, and we brief these senior officials, five of them: Vice President, Secretaries of State and Defense, the Assistant to the President for the Security of National Affairs and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. That is how we did business. If there were questions, and they needed more expertise, we would bring down the specialists. But we wouldn’t invite them to down to headquarters. This is like inviting money-changers into the temple. It’s the inner sanctum, you don’t have policy makers sitting at the table as you are, Amy, helping us come up with the correct conclusions, and that is the only explanation as to why Dick Cheney would be making multiple visits out there. 'Are you sure you thought about this? What about this uranium? Send somebody down there to find all this stuff out.' It’s very clear. You’re a mid-level official, and you’re trying to be a professional, and your boss is sitting behind you. There is a lot of pressure there.
And let me add just one other thing, and that is, Colin Powell brags to this day, very recently he said, and I quote: 'I spent four days and four nights at CIA headquarters before I made that speech on Feb the 5th, pouring over the evidence, making sure that..' Well, to anyone who knows how the system works, that is bizarre. The Secretary of State shouldn’t be going out to CIA headquarters to analyze the evidence and make sure the… the evidence by that time, by god, should have been well analyzed, should have been presented in a document to which most people agree and footnotes for those who don’t agree, and presented to the Secretary of State in his office on the 7th floor of the State Department, and if he had questions, analysts would come down and see him. The prospect of the Secretary of State and Condeleezza Rice who joined that group, coming out to the agency and saying. OK, where are we at now, five days before his major speech to the UN, is bizarre in the extreme.
Of course we know how that speech came out. All the evidence that was deduced. Where are the 25,000 liters of anthrax? None of that information has been borne out in reality. And soo we have a Secretary of State who picked what he thought was the best evidence, and who said some really interesting things, if you look at that speech.
Let me just say one other thing about that speech. Among the things he said was that we have learned that Qusay, Saddam Hussein’s son has ordered the removal of prohibited weapons from the presidential palaces. OK? Interesting. OK, so we’ve learned, that’s pretty solid information, it sounds like solid information. Well, a couple of months later, we find Qusay, right? Now, if we are interested in finding out where those weapons of mass destruction are, it would seem to me that someone would have thought, for god’s sake, capture this guy. He knows where they are. He ordered their removal. Instead what did they do? They fired ten anti-tank missiles into Qusay and his brother and a nephew of Qusay. Not my idea of how you get to the bottom of the story on weapons of mass destruction.
AMY GOODMAN: We are talking to Ray McGovern and David MacMichael. They are both former CIA analysts. Ray McGovern worked under George Bush when he was Director of Central Intelligence and then briefed him when he was Vice President, for how long?
RAY MCGOVERN: For about 2-1/2 years. I did the briefings for four years, but my account in the first two years was the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to get to two other issues. One is the David Kaye report and then 9/11 and the intelligence commission for both of you. The David Kaye report that is supposed to come out, that is supposed to, they stopped saying whether they found weapons of mass destruction every day, that was looking very bad. But they said they would give a final report on this, David Kaye, the former UN weapons inspector. What is happening?
RAY MCGOVERN: It has hit the fan now. Let me just backtrack a little bit. On the 5th of December, Ari Fleischer, the President’s spokesman was quizzed about all these statement about weapons of mass destruction. He ended up saying, look Secretary of Defense and the President are not going to make statements that there are weapons of mass destruction there unless they have solid evidence to support it.
Later in March after the war had begun, Ari Fleischer said weapons of mass destruction is what this war is about, and we have high confidence that we will find them. So, there is no de-emphasizing the fact that that was the casus belli that the administration introduced. So to suggest now that we are not talking about weapons of mass destruction, but we are talking about papers of mass destruction, let me explain. We don’t say weapons of mass destruction anymore. We say weapons of mass destruction programs. What does that mean? That means, in a very sinister way, as David is inclined to point out, Iraq still has nuclear scientists capable of reconstituting this program. That means that we will find, or that we will fabricate, documents showing that they have these plans to start making these weapons again as soon as the UN inspectors leave.
That is all they have, and to think that the "solid evidence" that Ari Fleischer cited, and the fact that weapons of mass destruction is what this thing was all about, not papers of mass destruction. This is going to come back to haunt them if, and it’s a big if, if the mainstream press still has the guts to say 'hey we were taken in, and we don't like to be lied to and on behalf of the American people, we are going to tell the real story here.’ And the story is that the ostensible justification for this war was bogus, contrived, it was a lie.
DAVID MACMICHAEL: I think one thing that has to be added about David Kaye, who is identified as a former member of UNSCOM, that is the United Nations weapons inspection team, prior to the 1998 bombing and the departure of the weapons inspectors and prior to their reinitiation under UN resolution 1441, David Kaye in fact, and this is not revealing the identity of an intelligence officer was in fact a CIA officer at that time. One of the reasons the initial inspections process broke down was because the United States and other member states of the inspections team began introducing their intelligence officers into this and in fact as it’s been documented, planting listening devices in the places they were going for intelligence purpose