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[casi] Now It's Your Turn

Now It's Your Turn

    Intelligence Veterans Challenge Colleagues to Speak Out
     t r u t h o u t | Memorandum
     Saturday 23 August 2003

     MEMORANDUM FOR: Colleagues in Intelligence

     FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

     SUBJECT: Now It's Your Turn

     Sixty-four summers ago, when Hitler fabricated Polish provocations in
his attempt to justify Germany's invasion of Poland, there was not a peep
out of senior German officials. Happily, in today's Germany the imperative
of truth telling no longer takes a back seat to ingrained docility and
knee-jerk deference to the perceived dictates of "homeland security." The
most telling recent sign of this comes in today's edition of Die Zeit,
Germany's highly respected weekly. The story, by Jochen Bittner holds
lessons for us all.

     Die Zeit's report leaves in tatters the "evidence" cited by Secretary
of State Colin Powell and other administration spokesmen as the strongest
proof that Iraq was using mobile trailers as laboratories to produce
material for biological weapons.

     German Intelligence on Powell's "Solid" Sources

     Bittner notes that, like their American counterparts, German
intelligence officials had to hold their noses as Powell on February 5 at
the UN played fast and loose with intelligence he insisted came from "solid
sources." Powell's specific claims concerning the mobile laboratories, it
turns out, depended heavily-perhaps entirely-on a source of the
Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany's equivalent to the CIA. But the BND,
it turns out, considered the source in no way "solid." A "senior German
security official" told Die Zeit that, in passing the report to US
officials, the Germans made a point of noting "various problems with the
source." In more diplomatic language, Die Zeit's informant indicated that
the BND's "evaluation of the source was not altogether positive."

     German officials remain in some confusion regarding the "four different
sources" cited by Powell in presenting his case regarding the "biological
laboratories." Berlin has not been told who the other three sources are. In
this context, a German intelligence officer mentioned that there is always
the danger of false confirmation, suggesting it is possible that the various
reports can be traced back to the same original source, theirs-that is, the
one with which the Germans had "various problems."

     Even if there are in fact multiple sources, the Germans wonder what
reason there is to believe that the others are more "solid" than their own.
Powell indicated that some of the sources he cited were Iraqi émigrés. While
the BND would not give Die Zeit an official comment, Bittner notes pointedly
that German intelligence "proceeds on the assumption that émigrés do not
always tell the truth and that the picture they draw can be colored by
political motives."

     Despite all that, in an apparent bid to avoid taking the heat for
appearing the constant naysayer on an issue of such neuralgic import in
Washington, German intelligence officials say that, the dubious sourcing
notwithstanding, they considered the information on the mobile biological
laboratories "plausible."

     In recent weeks, any "plausibility" has all but evaporated. Many
biological warfare specialists in the US and elsewhere were skeptical from
the start. Now Defense Intelligence Agency specialists have joined their
counterparts at the State Department and elsewhere in concluding that the
two trailer/laboratories discovered in Iraq in early May are
hydrogen-producing facilities for weather balloons to calibrate Iraqi
artillery, as the Iraqis have said.

     Perhaps it was this DIA report that emboldened the BND official to go
public about the misgivings the BND had about the source.

     Insult to Intelligence
     What do intelligence analysts do when their professional ethic-to tell
the truth without fear or favor-is prostituted for political expedience?
Usually, they hold their peace, as we've already noted was the case in
Germany in 1939 before the invasion of Poland. The good news is that some
intelligence officials are now able to recognize a higher duty-particularly
when the issue involves war and peace. Clearly, some BND officials are fed
up with the abuse of intelligence they have witnessed-and especially the
trifling with the intelligence that they have shared with the US from their
own sources. At least one such official appears to have seen it as a
patriotic duty to expose what appears to be a deliberate distortion.

     This is a hopeful sign. There are indications that British intelligence
officials, too, are beginning to see more distinctly their obligation to
speak truth to power, especially in light of the treatment their government
accorded Ministry of Defense biologist Dr. David Kelly, who became
despondent to the point of suicide.

     Even more commendable was the courageous move by senior Australian
intelligence analyst Andrew Wilkie when it became clear to him that the
government he was serving had decided to take part in launching an
unprovoked war based on "intelligence" information he knew to be specious.
Wilkie resigned and promptly spoke his piece-not only to his fellow citizens
but, after the war, at Parliament in London and Congress in Washington.
Andrew Wilkie was not naïve enough to believe he could stop the war when he
resigned in early March. What was clear to him, however, was that he had a
moral duty to expose the deliberate deception in which his government, in
cooperation with the US and UK, had become engaged. And he knew
instinctively that, in so doing, he could with much clearer conscience look
at himself in the mirror each morning.

     What About Us?
     Do you not find it ironic that State Department foreign service
officers, whom we intelligence professionals have (quite unfairly) tended to
write off as highly articulate but unthinking apologists for whatever
administration happens to be in power, are the only ones so far to resign on
principle over the war on Iraq? Three of them have-all three with very
moving explanations that their consciences would no longer allow them to
promote "intelligence" and policies tinged with deceit.

     What about you? It is clear that you have been battered, buffeted,
besmirched. And you are painfully aware that you can expect no help at this
point from Director George Tenet. Recall the painful morning when you
watched him at the UN sitting squarely behind Powell, as if to say the
Intelligence Community endorses the deceitful tapestry he wove. No need to
remind you that his speech boasted not only the bogus biological trailers
but also assertions of a "sinister nexus" between Iraq and al-Qaeda, despite
the fact that your intense, year-and-a-half analytical effort had turned up
no credible evidence to support that claim. To make matters worse, Tenet is
himself under fire for acquiescing in a key National Intelligence Estimate
on "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq that included several paragraphs
based on a known forgery. That is the same estimate from which the infamous
16 words were drawn for the president's state-of-the-union address on
January 28.

     And not only that. In a dramatic departure from customary practice,
Tenet has let the moneychangers into the temple-welcoming the most senior
policymakers into the inner sanctum where all-source analysis is performed
at CIA headquarters, wining and dining Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary
of State Colin Powell, National Security Assistant Condoleezza Rice, and
even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (now representing the Pentagon) on
their various visits to make sure you didn't miss anything! You have every
right to expect to be protected from that kind of indignity. Small wonder
that Gingrich, in a recent unguarded moment on TV, conceded that Tenet "is
so grateful to President Bush that he will do anything for him." CIA
directors have no business being so integral a "part of the team."

     Powell, who points proudly to his four day-and-night cram course at the
CIA in the days immediately prior to his February 5 UN speech, seems
oblivious to the fact that personal visitations of that frequency and
duration-and for that purpose-are unprecedented in the history of the CIA.
Equally unprecedented are Cheney's "multiple visits." When George H. W. Bush
was vice president, not once did he go out to CIA headquarters for a working
visit. We brought our analysis to him. As you are well aware, once the
subjects uppermost in policymakers' minds are clear to analysts, the
analysis itself must be conducted in an unfettered, sequestered way-and
certainly without the direct involvement of officials with policy axes to
grind. Until now, that is the way it has been done; the analysis and
estimates were brought downtown to the policymakers-not the other way

     What Happens When You Remain Silent?
     There is no more telling example than Vietnam. CIA analysts were
prohibited from reporting accurately on the non-incident in the Tonkin Gulf
on August 4, 1964 until the White House had time to use the "furious
fire-fight" to win the Tonkin Gulf resolution from Congress-and eleven more
years of war for the rest of us.

     And we kept quiet.
     In November 1967 as the war gathered steam, CIA management gave
President Lyndon Johnson a very important National Intelligence Estimate
known to be fraudulent. Painstaking research by a CIA analyst, the late Sam
Adams, had revealed that the Vietnamese Communists under arms numbered
500,000. But Gen. William Westmoreland in Saigon, eager to project an image
of progress in the US "war of attrition," had imposed a very low artificial
ceiling on estimates of enemy strength.

     Analysts were aghast when management caved in and signed an NIE
enshrining Westmoreland's count of between 188,000 and 208,000. The Tet
offensive just two months later exploded that myth-at great human cost. And
the war dragged on for seven more years.

     Then, as now, morale among analysts plummeted. A senior CIA official
made the mistake of jocularly asking Adams if he thought the Agency had
"gone beyond the bounds of reasonable dishonesty." Sam, who had not only a
keen sense of integrity but first-hand experience of what our troops were
experiencing in the jungles of Vietnam, had to be restrained. He would be
equally outraged at the casualties being taken now by US forces fighting
another unnecessary war, this time in the desert. Kipling's verse applies
equally well to jungle or desert:

     If they question why we died, tell them because our fathers lied.

     Adams himself became, in a very real sense, a casualty of Vietnam. He
died of a heart attack at 55, with remorse he was unable to shake. You see,
he decided to "go through channels," pursuing redress by seeking help from
imbedded CIA and the Defense Department Inspectors General. Thus, he allowed
himself to be diddled for so many years that by the time he went public the
war was mostly over-and the damage done.

     Sam had lived painfully with the thought that, had he gone public when
the CIA's leaders caved in to the military in 1967, the entire left half of
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial would not have had to be built. There would
have been 25-30,000 fewer names for the granite to accommodate.

     So too with Daniel Ellsberg, who made the courageous decision to give
the Pentagon Papers on Vietnam to the New York Times and Washington Post for
publication in 1971. Dan has been asked whether he has any regrets. Yes, one
big one, he says. If he had made the papers available in 1964 or 65, this
tragically unnecessary war might have been stopped in its tracks. Why did he
not? Dan's response is quite telling; he says the thought never occurred to
him at the time.

     Let the thought occur to you, now.

     But Isn't It Too Late?
     No. While it is too late to prevent the misadventure in Iraq, the war
is hardly over, and analogous "evidence" is being assembled against Iran,
Syria, and North Korea. Yes, US forces will have their hands full for a long
time in Iraq, but this hardly rules out further adventures based on
"intelligence" as spurious as that used to argue the case for attacking

     The best deterrent is the truth. Telling the truth about the abuse of
intelligence on Iraq could conceivably give pause to those about to do a
reprise. It is, in any case, essential that the American people acquire a
more accurate understanding of the use and abuse of intelligence. Only then
can there be any hope that they can experience enough healing from the
trauma of 9/11 to be able to make informed judgments regarding the policies
pursued by this administration-thus far with the timid acquiescence of their
elected representatives.

     History is littered with the guilty consciences of those who chose to
remain silent. It is time to speak out.

     Signed by:
     Gene Betit, Arlington, VA
     Pat Lang, Alexandria, VA
     David MacMichael, Linden, VA
     Ray McGovern, Arlington, VA

     Steering Group
     Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity


     Ray McGovern (, a CIA analyst from 1964 to 1990,
regularly reported to the vice president and senior policy-makers on the
President's Daily Brief from 1981 to 1985. He now is co-director of the
Servant Leadership School, an inner-city outreach ministry in Washington.

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