Robert Gates, President Bush’s nominee to replace Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense, is facing his Senate confirmation hearings today. We speak with two former CIA analysts who worked with Gates at the agency. Ray McGovern was Gates’ CIA branch chief in the early 1970s, and Jennifer Glaudemans is a former CIA analyst who was asked to testify at the 1991 confirmation hearings for Gates when he had been nominated to be CIA director. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: John Bolton is the second high-profile member of Bush’s national security team to announce his departure since the elections. Defense Secretary Donald Rumseld resigned last month. Bush’s nominee to replace him, Robert Gates, faces his confirmation hearings today in the Senate. Gates served as CIA director during the Bush Sr. administration. He was first nominated to serve under President Reagan, but the nomination had to be withdrawn because of stiff opposition in the Senate. Observers are predicting a swift confirmation, with little opposition expected from Democrats.
But Gates is not without controversy. Questions have swirled around his involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal and his role in the U.S. government’s arming of Saddam Hussein in the '80s. He was also accused of skewing intelligence to suit the Reagan administration's anti-Soviet views. Newly declassified government documents also reveal Gates advocated for President Reagan to bomb Nicaragua in 1984 in an effort to topple the Sandinista government. At the time, Gates was deputy director of the CIA.
Well, today, we’re joined by two former CIA analysts who worked with Robert Gates at the agency. Ray McGovern served in the CIA for 27 years and was Gates’s branch chief at the CIA in the early '70s. Jennifer Glaudemans is a former CIA analyst, who was asked to testify at the ’91 confirmation hearings for Gates, when he had been nominated to be CIA director. She worked in the CIA's Office of Soviet Analysis back when Gates was the agency’s deputy director for intelligence and chair of the National Intelligence Council.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now!, and we begin with Jennifer Glaudemans, former CIA analyst, who testified against Robert Gates when he went up for confirmation as CIA chief for the second time. Now, he did not get that post the first time under Reagan. He did get it under President George H.W. Bush, but the highest number of senators opposed that nomination than all the senators combined in voting for CIA chiefs over the preceding decade. Jennifer Glaudemans, why did you testify against Robert Gates?
JENNIFER GLAUDEMANS: Good morning, Amy. I testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in 1991, because the staff had called me that summer and asked me to come and talk with them about some of the issues I had worked on while I was in the Office of Soviet Analysis, in particular the Third World Activities Division. Prior to Mr. Gates’s nomination, to be DCI, the staff committee had begun looking into the question of politicization of analysis. They had already talked to a large number of senior and mid-level analysts and managers at the agency. At that point, I had already resigned government and was living in Connecticut. I was called because I had been a witness and a participant in some of the intelligence products that had been politicized. And after talking with them several times over the summer, they flew me down, they paid my expenses. I did not contact them. They asked me to testify.
What was clear was that there were a number—I was sort of to represent the analysts, a number of, dozens of analysts, who had talked to the committee over the summer in early fall of 1991. I first gave my testimony in closed hearing. And after that was done, I believe it was Senator Nunn insisted that it go public. We were asked to leave, and there was a several-hour meeting among the senators on the committee. They decided to make it public, and at that point, I was asked, "Mrs. Glaudemans, would you like to voluntarily come testify to this committee, or would you like a subpoena?"
My production folders and records had already been subpoenaed by the staff, and, you know, I do happen to believe that the legislative branch of our government is an equal branch of our government, and when they ask you to inform them about the work you did at taxpayers’ expense, of course, I volunteered. I did not need a subpoena to talk to my government. But it is not something—and I don’t like the perception that I went running to the committee or to anyone else. They had been looking into this prior to me ever talking to them.
AMY GOODMAN: And Russia, the old issue of the Soviet Union at that time, specifically this issue of fixing the facts around the policy to fit the policy of the administration, something people are very concerned about today in the lead-up to the invasion, the whole argument put forward of weapons of mass destruction, when it turned out not to be the case. How did it play out then?
JENNIFER GLAUDEMANS: It was a very tumultuous atmosphere, particularly in the Third World Activities Division, where the Cold War was hot. There were volatile situations throughout the Middle East, as well as Central America, and a few—Africa, even in—the question of, you know, remaining Soviet bases in Cam Ranh Bay. So it was throughout the Third World. The Cold War ideologues had—that’s where the issue was fought out, was, how was Soviet behavior going to play out. That’s where all of the intelligence arguments and battles were.
My problem with that was, I’d love vigorous debate. I had some tremendous mentors in the agency who challenged me all of the time, who made me a better analyst, but it was always about evidence. What happened in the Third World Activities Division was analytical judgments were put out as community view in estimates or as CIA view, for which there was no evidence. The Iran estimate in 1985 is just a classic example of that, and one I was personally involved with. There was no evidence to support the key judgment about the Soviets in that Iranian estimate. There was a ton of evidence that contradicted that. So it’s not a question of a young junior analyst not getting her view taken, it was a question of evidence versus no evidence.
AMY GOODMAN: And Bob Gates’s role in that exactly?
JENNIFER GLAUDEMANS: He was—as the CIA was the drafter of that segment of the estimate, he was our boss as deputy director of intelligence, but he was also simultaneously the chairman of the National Intelligence Committee, which put out the estimate. Now, one of the interesting facts, when you go back and look at these allegations, is that the CIA never took a footnote to an estimate, could not dissent to an estimate, as long as Mr. Gates was also the chairman of the NIC. Now, not since he held that position has anyone ever yet again held a conflict of interest position of holding those two jobs. That alone, I think, speaks of what happened.
Now, in my division, I don’t remember exactly how many people it was, but, you know, we were colleagues. We saw each other’s work. We saw each other every day. I had bosses fired, some come and go. I mean, it was a tumultuous atmosphere. It was so tumultuous that the inspector general did an investigation when Webster became our DCI. And long before Gates’s second nomination to be DCI, there was an inspector general investigation. Many analysts, not just myself, many managers—I think everyone in the Office of Soviet Analysis was interviewed. And one of the judgments of that IG report was that the perception of politicization of analysis was pervasive.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Jennifer Glaudemans. She is talking about the times—DCI, of course, standing for "director of Central Intelligence," head of the Central Intelligence Agency. Ray McGovern, also with us, was with the agency for 27 years. When you look at the senators who are in office today that voted against Robert Gates to be head of Central Intelligence for the second time in 1991, of the 31 senators who voted against, 12 of them are still in the Senate. But I saw Senator Carl Levin interviewed this weekend, who is a key figure here in this decision, who said while he did vote against him in the past, that was something like 15 years ago. Your response, Ray McGovern?
RAY McGOVERN: Well, I am very distraught to see that the Senate appears willing to acquiesce in a witness or a candidate who was very disingenuous the last time he was called before Congress and before the Iran-Contra affair. It’s a very problematic decision. In some ways, the Democrats are facing their first test after the election. They have the power to block this nomination or at least to investigate Gates to look into the evidence that has come to light since the 1991 confirmation proceedings. And it looks like they’re more inclined to give him absolution, so to speak, and say, "Well, let bygones be bygones. Iran-Contra was a terrible thing, but maybe he’s reformed." Daschle, Senator Daschle, back in '91, said, "We can't afford to take the chance that a fellow who has deliberately trimmed intelligence and taken liberties with the truth will reform."
The real question is whether Gates will bring what is called a fresh perspective to policymaking on Iraq, for example. We see in the Post today, Robert Burns saying that the president needs to have people who are strong and who will disagree with him. Now, Bobby Gates is not that kind of person. He never has been, and he never will be. And so, what we have here is just an additional person in this very tightly closed circle around the president, which in intelligence parlance is called a "self-licking ice cream cone." What you have here is a slight change in flavor, less tart, more sugary, with the replacement of Bobby Gates for Dick Cheney. But you don’t have any real change in policy. The recipe for the ice cream is still being dictated by Bush, and even more so by Cheney.
The big question, of course, is whether Cheney has lost influence with the departure of Rumsfeld. The conventional wisdom was, of course, he will have lost that influence. But looking at what the president has been saying about Iraq and looking at the way they are dissing already the Baker-Hamilton report as just one of the inputs into the situation suggests to me that Cheney is still very much in control and that Gates’s modus operandi will be to become Cheney’s best friend and write memos, as he did for Bill Casey. Bill Casey wanted to wage war in Nicaragua. Bobby Gates would give them a reason not only to do the Contra thing, but also to bomb Nicaragua.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain that, Ray McGovern, for people, especially young people, who aren’t familiar with Iran-Contra, and specifically the bombing of the Nicaraguan harbor in 1984. What was Robert Gates’s position?
RAY McGOVERN: Well, his position was whatever Bill Casey’s position was. And that’s, you know, that’s the real problem here.
AMY GOODMAN: Bill Casey, former director of Central Intelligence.
RAY McGOVERN: Yes. He was sort of a creation of Bill Casey. Bill Casey had this bizarre notion that the Soviets were going to come up through Nicaragua and Mexico into Texas. Reagan even said such things. And Bobby Gates sort of played on that kind of shibboleth. And when Casey mined the harbors, well, Gates wrote a memo that said we ought to bomb them, as well, bomb the tanks. So, you know, whether he believed that or not, this was a deliberate sort of pandering to the known proclivities of Bill Casey and, of course, the president.
And, you know, worse still, when the folks in the White House decided to sell arms to Iran so that some of the profits from that arms sales could be given to the Contras in contravention of U.S. law, when all that happened, Gates was right in the middle of all that. Right in the middle. And we have documentary evidence of that now, which has come out since the '91 hearings. And the prospect of our senators not even bothering to look into that evidence, not bothering to honor their constitutional oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, not the president or not the president's nominees, that is really very disappointing.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you take this vote, which they’re hoping to push through very quickly, within a week, to confirm Robert Gates to be a kind of test, a bellwether of what’s to come with a Democratically controlled Senate and Congress?
RAY McGOVERN: I hope not, Amy. You know, there is this one predominant factor, which I call the "ABR factor," anybody but Rumsfeld, and Gates is a supreme beneficiary of that factor. They want Rumsfeld out of there, but it’s unseemly haste, in my view. There is a report that Gates can’t come in until January, in any case, because he has obligations still down there in Texas. If that’s the case, these senators should do their homework. And if they do their homework, they will see more damaging evidence still of Gates’s role in Iran-Contra and in other areas that still have yet to be thoroughly explored.
AMY GOODMAN: Ray McGovern and Jennifer Glaudemans, I want to thank you both very much for being with us, two former longtime CIA analysts.