This piece was reprinted by OpEdNews with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.After a week lecturing at Kansas State University and in Kansas City, Missouri, and environs, I could not shake the feeling that what Kansas and Missouri need most is the equivalent of Radio Free Europe, which was so effective in spreading truth around inside Eastern Europe during the Cold War. (Truth in advertising: during the late Sixties, I served for two years as substantive liaison officer between the RFE and Washington.)
So I was amused while still in Kansas to get a call from Mike Caddell of "Radio Free Kansas" asking me for an interview. Broadcasting from rural northeastern Kansas, Caddell does his own part in spreading truth around and has garnered quite a respectable audience.
Most of his fellow Kansans are malnourished on the right-wing media gruel that helps re-elect enablers like see-no-evil Republican Sen. Pat Roberts. As chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Roberts did President George W. Bush’s bidding by hiding the fact that the attack on Iraq was based on "false pretences." That’s the phrase used by current chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WVA) to describe the bogus intelligence used to "justify" the war, when he announced the bipartisan findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Caddell called me on Friday, expressing excitement at the beginning of daily intelligence briefings of President-Elect Barack Obama by the CIA. Aware that I helped prepare the President’s Daily Brief for Presidents Nixon and Ford, and that I conducted one-on-one PDB briefings of Reagan’s most senior advisers during the latter’s administration, Caddell asked me to tape a telephone interview to run on his show this weekend. He suggested that I focus on what I would tell President-Elect Barack Obama if I were Mike Morell, CIA’s Director of Intelligence, whom CIA Director Michael Hayden has assigned to brief Obama daily.
What fun, I thought. On more sober reflection, it seemed more useful to prepare questions of the kind President-Elect Obama might wish to ask Morell, since the briefings are supposed to be a two-way street. Obama is no shrinking violet. Just the same, it may be useful to warn him not to succumb to the particular brand of "shock and awe" that can be induced by ostensibly sexy intelligence and color the reactions of briefees—even presidents. I have seen it happen.
The president-elect needs to start asking hard questions. Now.
Here are some he might want to select from for the next briefing:
1—The lead story in Friday’s New York Times undercuts the claims of Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili that he was acting in self-defense when he ordered his troops to fire artillery and rockets at the city of Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia on the night of August 7-8. The Times’ information comes from international monitors of the highly respected Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and, oddly, is much closer to the Russian version of what happened.
Task: A two page memo on who started the fighting and why
Deadline: Nov 12
2—As you are aware, a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) produced last November concluded that Iran’s work on the nuclear-weapons part of its nuclear development program was suspended in mid-2003. National Intelligence Council director, Thomas Fingar repeated that judgment publicly on Sept. 4, 2008.
I want to know how that squares—or doesn’t—with the claim by Norman Podhoretz, just hours after the NIE’s key judgments were made public, that Iran is "hell-bent on developing nuclear weapons," and why Podhoretz would go on to charge that the intelligence community was trying to "undermine George W. Bush." I notice, incidentally, that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has parroted Podhoretz’ "hell-bent" phraseology, and that your boss, Michael Hayden, has also publicly volunteered his "personal opinion" that this is so.
Task: A memo updating the judgments of the Nov. 07 NIE, as necessary
Deadline: Nov. 14
3—My aides have been telling me that, when speaking of the recent decrease in violence in Iraq, I have been mis-overestimating, so to speak, the success of the "surge" while mis-underestimating factors like the sectarian cleansing in Baghdad, the decision to pay Sunnis not to shoot at U.S. forces, and the decision by Muqtada al-Sadr to hold Shia fire pending the withdrawal of U.S. forces, which the Shia see as just a matter of time.
Task: A memo ranking the reasons for the downturn in violence in order of relative importance. It should address all these factors; it should also explain why the U.S. has several thousand more troops in Iraq now than were there before the insertion and subsequent withdrawal of our "surged" troops.
Deadline: Nov. 19