McGovern Protests Brennan’s Speech

After learning that U.S. national security official John Brennan would address Jesuit-run Fordham’s graduating class, ex-CIA analyst (and Fordham alum) Ray McGovern protested in a letter to the Fordham Ram. McGovern cited Jesuit principles of truth and justice — and Brennan’s role in the “dark side” of the “war on terror.”

From Ray McGovern

Dear Editor:

I write to express shock and sadness that Fordham’s trustees would think it consonant with Jesuit values to have Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan give this year’s commencement address.

Today is the ninth anniversary of the attack on Iraq “under false pretenses.” That is the phrase used by the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 5, 2008, announcing the bipartisan findings of a five-year investigation. He explained that the intelligence used to justify the war was “uncorroborated, contradicted or even non-existent.”

Deputy national security adviser John Brennan

Former CIA colleagues serving with Brennan before and during the war assure me that, since he worked so closely with then-CIA director George Tenet, there is absolutely no possibility that Brennan could have been unaware of the deliberate corruption of the intelligence analysis profession to which I was proud to devote 27 years.

In the early 1980s, when I was conducting the morning briefings at the White House, I knew Brennan as a junior CIA analyst.  It remains hard for me to believe that, 20 years later, he would give full support to Tenet in providing fraudulent intelligence in an attempt to “justify” a war of aggression.

Four years ago, Brennan became an advisor to candidate Barack Obama. After Obama won the election, it quickly became common knowledge that he planned to nominate Brennan for one of the highest intelligence posts, probably as director of the CIA.

When suddenly all hell broke loose, Obama’s top political advisers began to dread what was bound to be a very ugly confirmation hearing in the Senate. Brennan, you see, had been an ardent, public supporter of the kidnapping/rendering of suspected terrorists to “friendly” Arab intelligence services for interrogation.  He also defended the use of U.S. secret prisons abroad, as well as “enhanced interrogation techniques” (also known as torture).

Opposition to Brennan built to a crescendo just weeks after the election and included condemnation of using psychologists willing to violate their professional ethic of “Do No Harm” to assist in harsh interrogation.

Nov. 24, 2008 saw the publication of a letter to President-Elect Obama, signed by 200 psychologists, urging him not to select John Brennan to head the CIA because of his open support of “dark-side” policies (Brennan’s, as well as Dick Cheney’s, adjective). Brennan withdrew his name the next day, and The New York Times explained the move as a reaction to “concerns he was intimately linked to controversial CIA programs authorized by President Bush.”

Brennan is now the administration’s strongest advocate of extrajudicial killing of U.S. citizens by drones. As for civilian deaths from CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, Brennan made the preposterous claim last June that, over the previous year, “there hasn’t been a single collateral death” from CIA drone strikes there.

Two years ago another alumnus, Michael Sulick, who was then head of all CIA covert operations including the drone attacks in Pakistan, came to lecture at Fordham. This was too much for Dean Brackley, S.J., a former Fordham professor with a social conscience, who had gone to El Salvador 20 years before to replace one of the Jesuits murdered there.

Fr. Brackley sent an email in which he commented: “It seems someone has a misbegotten case of the prestige virus at Fordham. Pretty sad. Is this what we stand for?”

From his new vantage point, the recently deceased Dean Brackley will need to have his wits about him, when Ignatius of Loyola asks him to explain this persistent viral disease at Fordham and other Jesuit universities. Fr. Brackley’s response is likely to echo the prophetic words of Daniel Berrigan, S.J., 25 years ago.

In his autobiography, To Dwell in Peace, Berrigan wrote of “the fall of a great enterprise”, the Jesuit university. He recorded his “hunch” that the university would end up “among those structures whose moral decline and political servitude signalize a larger falling away of the culture itself.” Berrigan lamented “highly placed” churchmen and their approval of war, “uttered with sublime confidence, from on high, from highly placed friendships, and White House connections.”

“Thus compromised,” warned Berrigan, “the Christian tradition of nonviolence, as well as the secular boast of disinterested pursuit of truth, these are reduced to bombast, hauled out for formal occasions, believed by no one, practiced by no one.”

A mutual colleague of Brennan and mine, a Catholic who also worked at very senior levels at the White House as well as the CIA, had an immediate, visceral reaction to the news of Fordham’s invitation to Brennan: “Oh my gosh. Disgusting. Obviously the Jesuits don’t get it.”

Worse still, maybe they do.


Ray McGovern

Fordham College, B.A. summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, 1961 Retired CIA officer turned political activist.

4 comments for “McGovern Protests Brennan’s Speech

  1. Michael
    March 24, 2012 at 11:44

    As the word itself suggest, we are here concerned with particular cases. When the moral law or the principles of ethics are applied, they are applied to particular cases, each one unique in the circumstances and factors that are operative in the here and now.

    Aristotle in Book V of his Ethics, on justice, points out that general rules do not apply perfectly to particular cases; and so an equitable dispensation from the general rule is required to do justice in the particular case.

    In the tradition of the Anglo-American common law, the separation of courts of law from courts of equity, which were the province of the Chancellor, provided an institution that enabled justice to be done in the particular case, justice that departed from the general rule.

    One way of saying what is sheer dogmatism in the ethics of Immanuel Kant is to point out that his moral law — his so-called categorical imperative — completely ignores the circumstance of particular cases. According to Kant, there are no exceptions whatsoever to the general rule that lying violates one’s moral duty to tell the truth.

    We are to imagine the following case. A man is standing at his fence on the roadside. He sees an individual breathless and haggard with fear running down the road, as if pursued. A little beyond his house, the road branches into two forks, one to the left and one to the right. The individual running away pauses for a moment and then decides to take the fork to the left.

    A moment later, two villainous-looking individuals brandishing big clubs appear and ask the man who is still standing at his fence whether the man they are pursuing with deadly intent came by and, if so, which fork in the road beyond the house he took.

    Should the onlooker tell them the truth though he can be almost certain that if the pursuers catch the man who is fleeing, they will do him in with their clubs and fists?

    Without knowing whether the individual who is fleeing from his pursuers is guilty or innocent of some crime, and without knowing anything about the motivation of the pursuers. Kant answers the question of whether the onlooker should tell the truth flatly in the affirmative. Kant does not allow for any casuistry whatsoever. No moral philosophy that does not provide casuistry for finding exceptions to general rules can be sound.

    There are many other reasons for finding fault with the moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant, but the dismissal of casuistry is sufficient in itself to challenge the validity of Kantian ethics.

    Fundamental Errors in Moral Philosophy
    Desires, Right & Wrong (1991), Chapter 5
    Critique of Immanuel Kant’s Moral Philosophy
    Desires, Right & Wrong (1991), Appendix 1, Note 9
    John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism and Immanuel Kant’s Rationalism
    Desires, Right & Wrong (1991), Appendix 1, Note 10
    Adapted from
    Adler’s Philosophical Dictionary (1995)

    God bless the Jesuits, most, that is.

  2. incontinent reader
    March 22, 2012 at 16:34

    To: John Francis – Doug Feith’s (and George Tenet’s and Madeleine Albright’s) hiring at Georgetown notwithstanding, don’t forget that Paul Pillar is Director of Graduate Studies and core faculty member of the Security Studies Program, Center for Peace and Security Studies (CPASS). So, there is some hope. Anyway, Feith, apparently, is no longer there, and he seems to have gotten a chilly reception while he was.

  3. March 22, 2012 at 14:51

    “Mysterious ways …” that’s a hoot! Unlike Kansas where I write from, war criminals like John Bolton, retired JCS Chief Richard Meyers, George Bush and others parade through the flyover zone to sell books and “lecture” to the ditto-head faithful Ray McGovern at least needles the crap out of them, even by long distance.

    A letter to his alum, from a Phi Betta Kapa no less (hey that’s my wife’s club)… long distant needling (and teaching) to boot! Now that’s a hoot!

    Thank you Ray McGovern, dig that “mysterious way” and I’m still saving up for a crate of books from Consortium News for the Spring fundraiser. It’s tough out here, but Ray and Bob make me tougher.

  4. March 22, 2012 at 10:44

    The Jesuits are a corrupt organization. Georgetown hired Douglas Feith to ‘educate’ their graduate students… fer krissakes. Their mission is to serve power.

    To appeal to these Cassuists as Priests… come on Ray… obviously you just don’t get it.

    I’m sure yo udo get it, and know the score better than I yet are trying some media pressure to force them do what’s right… they will never as an organization do what’s right on their own.

    I’m still a fan Ray… but sometimes you work in mysterious ways.

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