On The Monitor this week:
- Ray McGovern on CIA Director Brennan’s reorganization plan and “Obama going to school.”
- Jim Lobe on Tom Cotton (R-AR), Bill Kristol and the Corker Bill
More about this week’s guests:
Ray McGovern was a CIA analyst for 27 years, whose duties included preparing the President’s Daily Brief and chairing National Intelligence Estimates. He now works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.
On Friday March 6th (Fridays are the best days to release news and avoid scrutiny) a plan by CIA head John Brennan to restructure the agency was made public. Much of the major media portrayed it as a reform to make Americans safer: The New York Times headline read: “CIA to Be Overhauled to Fight Modern Threats.” However, many CIA veterans argue that it is a step toward further politicization of intelligence
McGovern is among the signers to a just released, posted at ConsortiumNews.com: “U.S. Intel Vets Oppose Brennan’s Plan to Restructure CIA,” which takes the form of a memo to the President: “Mr. President, The CIA reorganization plan announced by Director John Brennan on Friday is a potentially deadly blow to the objective, fact-based intelligence needed to support fully informed decisions on foreign policy. We suggest turning this danger into an opportunity to create an independent entity for CIA intelligence analysis immune from the operational demands of the ‘war on terror.’
“On Feb. 5, 2003, immediately after Colin Powell’s address to the UN, members of VIPS sent our first VIPS memorandum, urging President George W. Bush to widen the policy debate ‘beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.’
“The ‘former senior officers’ whom Brennan asked for input on the restructuring plan are a similar closed, blinkered circle, as is the ‘outstanding group of officers from across the Agency’ picked by Brennan to look at the Agency’s mission and future. He did not include any of the intelligence community dissidents and alumni who fought against the disastrous politicization of intelligence before the attack on Iraq. Nor does Brennan’s plan reflect the lessons learned from that debacle. …
“President Harry Truman wanted an agency structure able to meet a president’s need for ‘the most accurate … information on what’s going on everywhere in the world, and particularly of the trends and developments in all the danger spots.’ In an op-ed appearing in the Washington Post exactly one month after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Truman added, ‘I have been disturbed by … the way CIA has been diverted from its original assignment … and has become an operational and at times policy-making arm of the Government.’ …
“You are fully aware, we trust, that our analysts’ vaunted ethos of speaking unvarnished truth to power was corrupted by Director George Tenet and Deputy Director John McLaughlin, who outdid themselves in carrying out the instructions of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. The new ethos boiled down to this: If the President wants to paint Iraq as a strategic threat, it is our job to come up with the ‘evidence’ — even if it needs to be manufactured out of whole cloth (or forged, as in ‘yellowcake uranium from Africa’ caper). …
“There is hope to be drawn from those occasions where senior intelligence officials with integrity can step in, show courageous example, and — despite multiple indignities and pitfalls in the system — can force the truth to the surface. We hope that you have been made aware that, after the no-WMD-anywhere debacle on Iraq, Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence Thomas Fingar did precisely that during 2007, supervising a watershed National Intelligence Estimate on Iran that concluded unanimously, ‘with high confidence,’ that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon in 2003.
“President Bush concedes in his memoir that this put the kibosh on his and Dick Cheney’s earlier plan to attack Iran during their last year in office. So, character (as in Fingar) counts, and people of integrity can make a difference — and even help thwart plans for war — even in the most politicized of circumstances.”
Jim Lobe is The Washington Bureau Chief of the international news agency, Inter Press Service, Jim Lobe is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy.
“If Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) wasn’t the face of GOP Iran hawks, he is now. His letter making common cause with Iran’s hardliners to scuttle a nuclear deal puts Cotton, along with his 46 Republican co-signatories, in uncharted territory. …
“Cotton’s rise to prominence didn’t come cheap and required friends with very deep pockets. His Senate campaign cost $13.9 million, and some of his biggest campaign contributions came from far outside his home state of Arkansas. That doesn’t include the nearly $1 million contribution in supportive political advertising made by Bill Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel in the closing days of Cotton’s Senate campaign, as has already been reported here. …
“Paul Singer’s New York-based Elliot Management hedge fund … went on to become the second biggest source of direct contributions to Cotton’s Senate campaign after the pro-business Club for Growth.
“Singer, Sheldon Adelson, and Dan Senor are recurring characters in efforts to blow up diplomacy with Iran.
“Both Singer and Adelson, who famously recommended a first-strike nuclear attack on Iran to send the message that the U.S. is serious about dismantling the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, are huge donors to a series of hawkish think tanks.
“Between 2008 and 2011, the two billionaires made combined contributions of $5.1 million to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies—a hard-line neoconservative think tank some of whose associates have advocated bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities in addition to waging ‘economic warfare’ against the regime.”
For further background, see Lobe’s piece “Republicans Overreach: Part Deux.”