My Briefing with Ray McGovern: George Tenet
I ask Ray McGovern if the findings of President Bush’s commission
on intelligence failures in Iraq will be insightful, he has a one
word answer: “No.”
a measured man with a steady voice. For 27 years — from JFK
to George H. W. Bush — he worked as a CIA analyst, chairing
National Intelligence Estimates and preparing the President’s
he's speaking with me on Weekly
Signals, a KUCI radio show hosted by Mike Kaspar, I take
McGovern’s thumbs down on Bush’s commission to be part
of my daily intelligence briefing.
I need next is a run down on the current Director of the CIA George
Tenet. After all, Tenet is to intelligence what Mel Gibson is to
think that Tenet will be around at least through the election," McGovern
says. "There are two reasons for this. They're the same two
reasons that kept him around after September 11, 2001."
say trying to sound presidential.
would have thought that the raison d’être for
the Central Intelligence Agency was to prevent another Pearl Harbor," McGovern
says. "One would have thought that the person most responsible
for this would have been cashiered on September 12. Not so. So the
question is: Why not so?
why not?" I interject.
of all, George Tenet warned the President of the United States about
the threat of terrorism almost ad nauseam during the entire spring
and summer of 2001. In the final analysis, the president had been
warned often enough and long enough. He should have done something
didn’t he?” I wonder.
didn’t know what to do,” McGovern says. “And Condoleezza
Rice, his advisor on such things, didn’t know a thing about
terrorism. By her own admission she hadn’t opened the file
that [Clinton’s National Security Advisor] Sandy Berger left
behind that said ‘Read This File First.’ She knew a lot
about the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, but nothing about terrorism.
The charitable explanation for why nothing was done is gross ineptitude
and gross malfeasance."
Tenet no doubt has a little computer disc with the 27 or so warnings
that he gave the president starting in spring and going right up
until September 2001," says McGovern. "The president and
his advisors in the White House, knowing this, didn’t dismiss
Tenet after 911 because it was too much of a risk. Were they to have
dismissed Tenet on September 12, they could not have been sure that
he wouldn’t have said, ‘Wait a second. Let me print off
some of these warnings. Let me show you what I told the president
in the president’s daily brief on August 6, 2001.’ So
that’s reason number one.
number two is that Tenet is simply too useful of a guy to have around.
He does what he’s told. If he’s told to do an estimate
and told to make sure the conclusions come out the same as a Dick
Cheney speech from the month before, he’ll do it.”
is referring to the National Intelligence Estimate (pdf
file here) that Tenet cranked out after Cheney’s August
2002 WMD pep rally. It was a cart before the horse exercise in policy
making. The politician, Cheney, makes unsubstantiated claims. The
intelligence agency fashions a report to cover his backside.
to an article penned by McGovern for TomPaine.com, “The
conclusions of that estimate have now been proven — pure and
simple — wrong.”
real reasons for the Iraq War, he says, are to be found online at
the neo-conservative website The
Project for a New American Century. "And
I would simply add, not as an afterthought, but as a core part of
this whole calculus, that this war was fought as much for Israeli
strategic objectives as it was for American strategic objectives.
As a matter of fact, the people running our policy toward Iraq have
great difficulty distinguishing between the two."
McGovern is speaking, I notice a slight rise in the pitch of his
voice — an almost imperceptible quarter step jump.
I’m sounding a little angry here,” he says, “there’s
no word to describe it."
is just too pale of a word to describe how we intelligence officials
feel about George Tenet being so willing to prostitute our intelligence
product — to cook it up to the recipe of high policy. That
is the unpardonable sin of intelligence and he’s still doing
image of George Tenet pandering outside the Capitol in a bustier,
fishnet stockings and spiked heals interrupts my train of thought.
The big eyebrows have got to go.
erases the image. Apparently, he experienced this type of intelligence
whoring first hand.
saw it in Vietnam,” he says. “And usually it was the
President himself or the White House that was responsible in the
final analysis. Think Gulf
is referring to the non-event that
became the rationale for the escalation of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
knew that there was no incident that night," McGovern says. "McGeorge
Bundy [Lyndon Johnson's National Security Advisor] knew that there
was no incident that night. And yet LBJ with his towering presence,
his total power — corrupting totally — leaned over and
said ‘McGeorge, are you going up to the hill to sell this resolution?’ Bundy
admitted on McNeil Lehrer Newshour, one painful show: ‘So,
I went. I went up and I lied to Congress.’
it’s happened before. What’s different this time is that
we have a situation where, over a two-year period, an incredibly
clever orchestrated campaign was waged to exploit the trauma of the
American people — the trauma of 911. To exploit it in such
a way as to achieve the aims of the…“
stops to find the word.
don’t call them neo-conservatives," he says, "because
I’m conservative. I call them neo-fascists, because that’s
what they are. And what these neo-fascists did was see 911 as a golden
Benito! Neo-fascists? I ask McGovern if he's using Mussolini’s
definition of fascism. As Il Duce said, "Fascism should more
properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and
corporate power." Think Halliburton U.S.A.
agrees, but adds more.“I’m
also talking about the measures that were taken in Nazi Germany after
the fire that burned
down the Reichstag, Germany’s parliament building, in 1933.
It was that fire that allowed Hitler to institute his own legislation."
draws a parallel between 911 and the Reichstag fire. After claiming
that the Communists committed arson, Hitler used the incident to
declare a state of emergency and suspend some of the constitutionally
protected personal freedoms of German citizens. These rights included
freedom of speech and assembly.
much like post-911 legislation instituted here in this country to
curtail civil liberties,” McGovern says, "to make people
feel that if they
speak out against what is happening, they are unpatriotic."
briefing is almost over. One final question: How does the Arab world
really remarkable," McGovern says. "People like Donald
Rumsfeld are intelligent and it’s embarrassing how they scratch
their heads and they say ‘I don’t know what makes a suicide
bomber. I don’t know what makes people do that.’
if he watched Al
Jazeera for a couple of nights. If he watched Israeli bulldozers
knocking down Palestinians homes and he saw Israelis shooting up
Palestinians in the occupied territories, then maybe he would get
some sense as to why people of Palestinian or Arab or Islamic heritage – why
they might look askance at the one country that they know makes this
all possible. That’s the United States of America.”
— Nathan Callahan,
February 11, 2004