On May 16 and 17, 2016, I interviewed Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst for 27 years, from the administration of John F. Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush. Ray’s duties included chairing National Intelligence Estimates and preparing the President’s Daily Brief.
In January 2003, Ray helped create Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) to expose the way intelligence was being falsified to “justify” war on Iraq. On the afternoon of the day (Feb. 5, 2003) Secretary of State Colin Powell misled the UN Security Council on Iraq, VIPS sent a blunt memorandum to President George W. Bush, in which VIPS gave Powell a C-minus for content. VIPS ended the memo with this:
“No one has a corner on the truth; nor do we harbor illusions that our analysis is irrefutable or undeniable [as Powell had claimed his was]. But after watching Secretary Powell today, we are convinced that you would be well served if you widened the discussion 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.”
As an act of conscience, on March 2, 2006 Ray returned the Intelligence Commendation Medallion given him at retirement for “especially meritorious service,” explaining, “I do not want to be associated, however remotely, with an agency engaged in torture.” He returned the medallion to Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R, Michigan), then-Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
The interview was so intense, covering a wide range of subjects, that I decided to create a series of videos in 10 to 30 minute segments.
In this first of the series (12 minute runtime), Ray talks about the death of the 4th Estate – the media – and gives personal examples about how even the most progressive and intelligent people are convinced that by reading the New York Times and the Washington Post they know what is going on. Ray relates how at his 50th college reunion at Fordham in the Bronx, he called General Jack Keane a liar for insisting that Iran was close to having a nuclear missile. Keane was a consequential player and largely responsible for the “Surge” in Iraq that was not only a total failure, but constructed on the crass and political reason for letting Bush and Cheney “ride off into the sunset” not having lost the war.
Ray is a marvelous storyteller who mixes historical dates, events and “inside” information with a delightful sense of humor.
Some of Ray’s insights will be in my new film, 11:57 – Three Minutes to Midnight.