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Ten years ago...
DATE: March 12, 2003
MEMORANDUM FOR: Confused Americans
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
SUBJECT: Cooking Intelligence for War
Two members of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) appeared on German TV's equivalent of "60 Minutes" on March 6, 2003, to discuss the use/abuse of intelligence to support the U.S. administration's case for attacking Iraq.
Ray McGovern and David MacMichael were among the former CIA officers interviewed by Channel One's "Panorama," whose interviewers were asking questions seldom heard in American media. As a service to confused Americans, we have translated the German portions of the program and append the complete transcript.
Our embarrassment is actually too painful to dwell, at any length, on other recent indignities -- UN inspector ElBaradei's preliminary finding that Iraq has no nuclear weapons program, the gaffes made by Secretary of State Colin Powell in his debut as imagery analyst before the UN Security Council, and his praising as "exquisite" a graduate school paper masquerading as top secret intelligence from the UK -- to name just a few. We would note that the interviews were taped before the latest indignities regarding U.S. intelligence came to light -- the forged letters earlier adduced as proof that Iraq was seeking to obtain uranium from Africa for its nuclear program, for example.
Embarrassments of this kind receive little play among those American TV commentators who are helping the administration beat the drums for war. Such stories usually hit the cutting room floor.
Similarly, no airtime in this country is provided to veterans of the U.S. Intelligence Community, unless some can be ferreted out who march to the same drumbeat. Some of us have had the extraordinary experience of been erased at the last minute from the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal and invited-then-disinvited to/from TV programs like Jim Lehrer and Fox News.
Ordinarily, we would not mind being marginalized; we are used to it. But our country seems to be just days away from a fateful decision to go to war. And many of our former colleagues and successors are facing a dilemma all too familiar to intelligence veterans -- the difficult choices that must be faced when the demands of good conscience butt up against deeply ingrained attitudes concerning secrecy, misguided notions of what is true patriotism, and understandable reluctance to put careers -- and mortgages -- on the line.
In the face of impending catastrophe we feel a responsibility to speak out -- if only to remind the present generation of intelligence officers that they do have choices and that in the longer run their consciences will rest easier if they face squarely into those choices.
As the transcript below indicates, the situation in the media is quite different in Europe, where TV is open and hospitable to various viewpoints, pointed questions, and rigorous analysis. We have no illusions that American TV would host a no-holds-barred discussion of U.S. intelligence performance regarding Iraq -- or regarding September 11, for that matter.
We do sense, however, that there are millions who crave more than the mantras sung by the administration and, sadly, now echoed by the Director of Central Intelligence. It is primarily for them that we make available below the "Panorama" transcript.
We appeal to those still working inside the Intelligence Community to consider turning state's evidence. Daniel Ellsberg, one who knows, recently noted that truth telling, in time, can stop a misguided march to war.