RAY McGOVERN: Powell & Iraq—The Uses and Abuses of National Intelligence Estimates

A NYT Magazine piece on Colin Powell and the case to invade Iraq highlights an NIE that was prepared not to determine the truth, but rather to “justify” preemptive war on Iraq, where there was nothing to preempt.

By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News

The New York Times Magazine on Friday posted “Colin Powell Still Wants Answers,” a long article by Robert Draper to appear in Sunday’s edition. The article is based on Draper’s upcoming book, To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America Into Iraq.

Google Books calls it “the definitive, revelatory reckoning with arguably the most consequential decision in the history of American foreign policy.” I can hardly wait.

Meanwhile, Draper’s article focuses on then Secretary of State Powell and his UN speech of Feb. 5, 2003 and the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) upon which it is largely based. A lot of the detail will be new to most readers, not very much new to Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, which had been established a month before. VIPS watched the speech, dissected it, and sent their verdict to President George W. Bush before close of business that same afternoon

We gave Powell a charitable grade of “C”, faulting him for, inter alia, not providing needed context and perspective. We should have flunked him outright.

Draper describes how, despite CIA’s strong effort to please, the “case” the agency made for war on Iraq, using such evidence as there was on weapons of mass destruction, was deemed not alarmist enough for Vice President Dick Cheney and other administration hawks.

McLaughlin. (Wikimedia Commons)

Specifically, the hawks were dissatisfied with the evidence-light, but-alarmist (term of art used was “leaning forward”) Pentagon and White House briefings by CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin in late Dec. 2002 on WMD in Iraq. The hawks started to look elsewhere, since not all senior officials (including Powell) appeared to be “with the program.”

Draper reports that Powell ordered Carl Ford, director of the widely respected State Department Intelligence Unit (INR), to review the bidding regarding biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. Ford’s analysts strongly disputed many of the key assertions from the usual suspects — particularly those coming from non-intelligence, war-friendly bureaucrats enlisted to support the war-lust proclivities of Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Powell’s chief of staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, was also spending an inordinate amount of time batting away unsourced and dubious-sourced assertions from Cheney-ites, so Powell finally told Wilkerson to start drafting from scratch.

Here’s where it gets interesting; here is where a little history and inside-baseball intelligence experience comes in handy. Draper quotes Powell: “It was George Tenet who came to the rescue.”

CIA Director Tenet suggested basing a new draft on the National Intelligence Estimate of Oct. 1, 2002, “Iraq’s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction.” That had immense appeal to Tenet and others who had been co-opted into “leaning forward” to facilitate a Bush/Cheney war on Iraq. Indeed, one can assume it had appeal to most of those involved in Powell’s speech preparation, given that the Security Council briefing was but a handful of days away.

I have been referring to that NIE, advisedly, as The Whore of Babylon, wrong on every major accusation about WMD in Iraq. I speak from experience at the CIA as a former chair of National Intelligence Estimates. This one was prepared not to determine the truth, but rather to “justify” a preemptive war on Iraq, where there was nothing to preempt.

To their credit, State/INR analysts had expressed formal dissent from some of its main conclusions back in September 2002.

No, it is not possible that Powell could have been unaware of that. And it is not difficult to explain why Powell chose to spurn his own intelligence analysts, despite their relatively solid reputation. I will resist the temptation to guess at Powell’s motivation, even though I have had some considerable experience with him. Back in the day, we used to spend a few minutes comparing notes before my one-on-one morning briefings of his boss, Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger, with The President’s Daily Brief.

I am not surprised, though, as Draper quotes Powell explaining his decision to stay in place as secretary of state and to do what he was told: “I knew I didn’t have any choice. He’s the President.” Draper adds that, “although Powell would not admit it, Bush’s request that he be the one to make the case against Hussein to the U.N. was enormously flattering. Cheney took a more direct approach: ‘The Vice President said to me: “You’re the most popular man in America. Do something with that popularity.””

The All-Purpose NIE on Iraqi WMD

Tenet on left with Powell and UN ambassador John Negroponte at Security Council, Feb. 5, 2003. (Wikimedia))

Draper describes INR’s Director Ford as “heartsick” watching Powell on TV before the UN Security Council. Ford’s chagrin was widely shared among serious intelligence analysts — as well as by us alumni watching the prostitution of what had been our tell-it-like-it-is intelligence analysis profession. But there the National Intelligence Estimate was for plucking — an intelligence community-endorsed consensus already “on the books” — and with drafting time running out.

Admittedly, this would be a far cry from starting “from scratch.” Rather, it became a case of “garbage in, garbage out.” Draper names the intelligence garbagemen: CIA Director Tenet, his deputy McLaughlin, the chair of the NIE Robert Walpole, for example. They were out and out guilty of fixing the NIE in the first place and then its derivative that Powell briefed in open session to Security Council. No, these were not innocent mistakes. The intelligence was fraudulent from the get-go.

I am not making this up. Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity were able to see what was coming, and warned Bush on the afternoon of Powell’s speech to be wary 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.” VIPS followed up with two more Memos before the March 2003 U.S./UK attack on Iraq.

The leaked Downing Street Minutes, published by The Times of London on May 1, 2005, provided the “smoking gun.” The minutes, from a July 23, 2002 briefing of Prime Minister Tony Blair by the chief of British intelligence, just back from consultations with Tenet in Langley, showed that the White House had already decided to attack Iraq for regime change and that the “intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy”. [Emphasis added.]

This and additional detail is covered in a chapter I wrote in 2005, for the book Neo-CONNED Again!, which I titled “Sham Dunk: Cooking Intelligence for the President.”

Sadly, not one of the many intelligence functionaries aware of what was going on went to the media or resigned. In contrast, before the attack on Iraq, three senior Foreign Service Officers, looking on from Athens, Ulaanbaatar, and Washington, summarily quit on principle — so clear had it become that the U.S. was embarked on a so-called “war of choice.”

“War of choice” is more formally known as “war of aggression” — defined at the post WWII Nuremberg Tribunal as “the supreme international crime differing from other war crimes only in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” (Think torture, for example, as part of that accumulation.)

Equally sad, none of the perpetrators of the crime have been held to account for this crime, nor even for torture and other accumulated evils. No one held to account. Col. Pat Lang and I addressed this issue in an op-ed in 2007; we argued that the U.S. could ill afford letting the Iraq War-liars off lightly, even if that meant taking a hard look back over previous years.

What is the inevitable result when no one is held to account?

Putting a coda on all this several years later, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee announced on June 5, 2008 the bipartisan conclusions of a five-year study by his committee that the attack on Iraq was launched “under false pretenses.” He described the intelligence conjured up to “justify” war on Iraq as “uncorroborated, contradicted, or even non-existent.”

“Non-existent” intelligence?

Finally, for those who may continue to believe that Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice (of “mushroom cloud” fame”), for example, were mistaken, rather than lying about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, let me suggest watching this very short video.


Then, please ask yourself if Iraq could go from zero weapons of mass destruction before 9/11 to a formidable array of WMD a short year later.

NIEs: a Big Deal

Ever since the CIA was established, the NIE has been the supreme genre of intelligence analysis and has included input from other intelligence agencies — in recent years, 17 of them. The NIE’s record for accuracy is spotty. One completed in September 1962, for example, said the Soviets would never try to put missiles in Cuba, as the missiles were en route.

A thoroughly professional one on Iran in 2007, managed by a former director of State/INR, concluded unanimously “with high confidence” that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon in late 2003. That one demonstrably played a huge role in thwarting Cheney/Bush planning for a strike on Iran in 2008, their last year in office. (Bush actually says as much in the part of his memoir that he wrote himself.)

It would be a mistake, however, to put the “Whore of Babylon” NIE of Oct. 1, 2002 about all those Iraqi WMD in the category of the unfortunate 1962 Estimate on Cuba. The conclusions in the Iraq Estimate were not mistaken, they were fraudulent. The conclusions were fixed to “justify” an unprovoked attack on Iraq.

Here’s what happened and why it is relevant today. Throughout 2002, Tenet, who as director of Central Intelligence was in charge of the entire intelligence community as well as the CIA, had been deftly avoiding doing an Estimate on WMD in Iraq because he knew the evidence was paper-thin. As the public campaign to justify an attack on Iraq heated up in September 2002, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Bob Graham (D-FL) asked Tenet to please prepare such an Estimate. The answer came back: Can’t do; too busy.

Under pressure from Committee member Dick Durbin (D-IL) Graham called Tenet back and told him, in essence: No NIE, no vote to authorize war.

After informing the White House, Tenet got permission to go ahead and have an NIE prepared — with two conditions. It had to conform with the extreme accusations about Iraqi WMD that Cheney made during a speech at a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Nashville on Aug. 26, 2002; and the NIE had to be formally issued before the first week of October when the White House wanted a House and Senate vote to give Bush permission to make war.

No problem for Tenet, who found himself the ultimate beneficiary of former CIA Director Robert Gates’ finely tuned Geiger counter for careerists and corruptibility in selecting top managers. The malleable managers promoted originally by Gates were happy to conjure up in record time a formal estimate written to the specifications of their frequent visitor: Vice President Cheney. This is the NIE on Iraq’s weapons capability that Draper describes as having “been thrown together in less than three weeks” in September 2002.

Tenet speaks to Cheney, with Bush and his chief of staff Andy Card in Oval Office, March 20, 2003, the day after the attack on Iraq began. (Wikimedia Commons)

Corrupt Holdovers: ‘So Eager to Help’

James Clapper, whom President Barack Obama appointed director of National Intelligence overseeing the entire intelligence community, was in charge of satellite imagery analysis at the time, leading up to the attack on Iraq. Did he tell anyone that no WMD had been discovered in imagery — the primary source for such intelligence? Well, no. Rather, he was “leaning forward.”

At the Carnegie Foundation in November 2018, Clapper was hawking his memoir Facts and Fears: Hard Truths From a Life in Intelligence. In the book Clapper places the blame for the consequential fraud (he calls it “the failure”) to find the (non-existent) WMD, in his words, “where it belongs — squarely on the shoulders of the administration members who were pushing a narrative of a rogue WMD program in Iraq and on the intelligence officers, including me, who were so eager to help that we found what wasn’t really there.” (Emphasis added) .

Clapper explained:

“… we heard that Vice President Cheney was pushing the Pentagon for intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, and then the order came down [to Clapper as director of NIMA, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency] to find the WMD sites. We set to work, analyzing imagery to eventually identify, with varying degrees of confidence, more than 950 sites where we assessed there might be WMDs or a WMD connection. We drew on all of NIMA’s skill sets … and it was all wrong.”

During the Q and A I commented on Clapper’s eagerness to please whatever superiors he was working for at the time, and give them the information they lusted for to “justify” things like war — to the point of finding “what wasn’t really there.”?

I noted that exactly two years earlier, the Obamas and Clintons were desperate to blame Donald Trump’s victory on Russian interference. And so, I asked, was this a repeat performance? Had Clapper snapped to and again “found what really wasn’t there?” This, I emphasized, was the conclusion of VIPS, including two former technical directors at NSA who had done the forensic research on how DNC emails ended up at WikiLeaks — the work the FBI decided not to do.

Why Not an NIE on Russian Interference?

Here’s the rub. In December 2016, Clapper rejected a request from House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) to provide a briefing to members on Russia’s alleged meddling in the November election.

The denial prompted Nunes to cast doubt on recent claims coming out of the CIA, including whether or not there really is an agency assessment that Moscow was aiming to help Trump win the presidency. “We want to clarify press reports that the CIA has a new assessment that it has not shared with us,” he added.

Nunes was more pointed in a letter to Director of National Intelligence Clapper. He claimed he was “dismayed” that the committee had not been informed about reports that the CIA had revised information that it previously reported to members. Nunes noted that during an open hearing in November, Clapper said the evidence connecting the government of Russia to WikiLeaks was “not as strong,” and that the intel community didn’t have “good insight into” the issue.

McGovern questions Clapper at Carnegie Endowment in Washington. (Alli McCracken)

At about the same time, several Democratic senators, including Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), wrote a letter to Clapper requesting an NIE on “Russian efforts to manipulate the recent US presidential election.”

“Given the serious nature of these matters, with unprecedented national security implications, we believe that our intelligence community must prioritize a conclusive, public NIE to lay out the facts of this serious matter for the American people,” the senators urged in their letter.

Oops. Lame duck Clapper and his bosses suddenly developed a Tenet-like allergy to preparing a full blown NIE. The White House opted instead to commission Clapper to do a study for Obama. The Democrats in Congress may well have been warned about the thinness of the evidence (now thoroughly debunked) that Russia hacked the DNC emails published by WikiLeaks. In any event, they acquiesced in what Clapper misnamed an “Intelligence Community Assessment” titled “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections.”

An NIE, of course, would have required the participation of all 17 intelligence agencies, some of whom, like State/INR, might ask troublesome questions about the evidence as well as the conclusions. Clapper’s lame excuse that there was not enough time to do a full NIE does not pass the smell test.

After several months of advertising the “Intelligence Community Assessment” as the product of all 17 intelligence agencies, Clapper was forced to admit to Congress that, well, actually only the CIA, FBI, and NSA were involved; and, well, actually only “handpicked analysts” from those three. Notably shut out of the process were that pesky INR (with its substantial expertise on Russia) and the Defense Intelligence Agency, which has charter responsibility for keeping tabs on the GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency alleged to have done the hacking.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jack Matlock asked a former colleague why State/INR was frozen out of the process. His friend explained simply that INR did not agree with the analysis — and not for the first time.

In other words, the Jan. 6, 2017 “Intelligence Community Assessment” was deliberately organized as a rump effort to come up with the answers Clapper’s White House bosses wanted — a reprise of his performance with imagery analysis on WMD in Iraq.

And off and running went Russiagate.

This escapade actually may have been easier for Clapper who may believe what he said during an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd on May 28, 2017; namely that the Russians are “almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique.” Certainly, Clapper would not want any State Department pin-stripers messing with his firm handle on the make-up of Russian chromosomes.

Clapper and his colleagues are no longer in office and, by some estimates, may be lucky to stay out of jail. The coming months should see some kind of denouement for all this — or maybe not. “We’ll see what happens.”

In any case, the stakes are very high. Meanwhile, why not an NIE on Russian hacking of the DNC. With all the work that has already been done, it should not take very long to prepare — assuming that work can bear close scrutiny.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. During his 27-year career as a CIA analyst, he briefed The President’s Daily Brief, led the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch, and chaired National Intelligence Estimates. He is still on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

25 comments for “RAY McGOVERN: Powell & Iraq—The Uses and Abuses of National Intelligence Estimates

  1. robert e williamson jr
    July 21, 2020 at 13:18

    On Ray McGovern’s response to DW Bartoo’s comment.

    SEE: Justin King of the Fifth Column News, his utube name is Beau.

    Why? I’ll tell you why, he has 385k subscribers, and the video I’m listening to is two hours old and he has 51,800 views.

    Now I’m and old guy who doesn’t tweet, do ass face or any of those other anti-social platforms. I refer to them as anti-social because their billionaire creators designed them to appeal to the lesser beings out there in la la land. I’m positive they ran the algorithms during their marketing research and the bastards never miss a trick.

    BUT, I know a winner when see one and I have watched this fella teach on his videos now for months and Ray i think you might agree he was made for what he is doing, smart guy, well spoken, anti-bully spokesperson for all those who appeal to him. Does great work for safe house for the abused etc.

    For a guy who generally hates telephones, mine never rings unless it’s a wrong number, spam, a sales person or bad news, I see a bona fide use for them helping spread the word.

    We all need to join together, my youngest son I talk to often about the state of affairs or the state, I send the guys who are friends and know me emails, all 30-ish with children and they listen. They talk to their friends and they all tune in to Beau because he is what I seldom find in individuals, he is the real “McCoy”.

    And yes he does all that other phone stuff and that is my point he is easy to contact.

    As Beau would say, ” it’s just a thought”!

    • July 21, 2020 at 21:41

      Many thanks, Robert. I’ll look into it. Any and all suggestions like Robert’s are much appreciated. I’ve given my PR team the summer off. :)) Ray

    • robert e williamson jr
      July 22, 2020 at 17:24

      I intend to have my son contact Justin King about this story, especially your comment below.

  2. robert e williamson jr
    July 21, 2020 at 12:23

    SHAME ON ME, again for rushing. In that rush I failed miserably to mention the high death toll that is being taken on the medical professionals, doctors, nurses, health care workers in general and last but not least the EMS service workers.

    Something our insurance driven medical industry can ill afford , poor broke babies.

    And who is at the top of the list of people we have to thank for this B.S. horrid situation, one Donald J Trump.

    Anyone who thinks this guy is worth a “tinkers damn”, simply must share his demented raving attitudes.

    They also “own” his ill will toward others and share in the damage he is doing to the country, the MSM included.

  3. DW Bartoo
    July 21, 2020 at 07:27

    Ray, thank you for responding and making clear how very important is the “word”, the act of daring to think critically, with informed imagination, beyond the comfort zone of mere self-interest.

    Our concerns are mutual and likely shared by many others.

    You and I are talking about how difficult it is to share that “word”, ideas and calls to both awareness and action which, let us be very clear about this, is/are, an actual threat to those who covet power and engage in unfettered wealth “accumulation”.

    The question of how unpopular (but necessary and important) ideas and perspectives may reach larger audiences, may penetrate the awareness of society, is fundamental to whatever success we may realize.

    I have mentions Snowden and Assange before, yet we have all seen what happened to Corbyn and Sanders both of whom posed far less a threat to the Powers That Be than do many who write or comment here.

    One on one, as you say and I concur, is not enough.

    So far, nothing has been enough.

    Indeed, it requires the collective imagination, and we both agree, I am certain, that courageous imagination is fundamental to understanding both the systemic change required and what must needs be the “nature” of the sane, humane, and sustainable society which must replace the crazed, power-hungry, rapacious, and indifferent structure which is currently amok in our names.

    Let us consider (a word meaning “putting together stars”) that we need an actual place, a forum, to encourage the imaginative discussion, a site, if you will, that periodically speaks to the reason why communication, now effectively controlled by corporate M$M and corporate Academia, must be expanded to an effective ability of being heard.

    “Freedom of Speech” has little meaning if only the powerful or famous have platforms from which to be heard.

    How might we build platforms from which suppressed ideas may be heard?

    Suppose CN, for example, might encourage you to write a piece specifically addressing what we are talking about, might we reasonably imagine that the comment section of that article would be popular, would set the stage for ongoing discussion and regular “meetings” of minds to discuss and expand upon the means of getting the “word” out among people, out from under restriction and enforced indifference?

    We know that the media and academia are not at all interested in doing such a thing, as to do so would be inimical to their bottom line “interests”, which are pushing myth and enforcing conformity, polishing up the old Wurlitzer, “fixing policy” to desired “ends” and generally ignoring the destruction of civil society and the environment, beyond the “symbolic” little vials of “concern”.

    Further, as we both agree about so very many things, time is of supreme essence.

    Yet, so too is common consideration even regarding subjects uncommon to the ken and concern of many, simply because they have never encountered such thoughts, such understandings.

    Courage is a companion to imagination, as are tolerance and understanding.

    Engaging imagination could well be the first step toward emboldening the others.

    All are vitally necessary to the task we all have aligned ourselves with, and all are, always, the essence of both individual and collective “character”, especially for those bearding angry lions of the status quo.

    Again, Ray, my deep appreciation, as you are steadfast example of such spiritual presence.


    • July 21, 2020 at 16:20

      Here’s a stray idea. For all who share the Consortium News Comments:

      Are you, or have you ever been, a constituent of Mike Conaway, R, 11th Congressional District, TX?

      Here’s why I ask: When CrowdStrike chief Shawn Henry was testifying to the House Intelligence Committee on Dec. 5, 2017, Conaway was chair (Devin Nunes having been given a short sabbatical). Someone apparently gave Conaway one of our VIPS memos AND told him he might wish to mention it, but to be careful to debunk it immediately as a “conspiracy theory”.

      Here’s the way that part of the testimony went:


      MR. CONAWAY: Okay. And I apologize for not having the article with me. There is this conspiracy theorist group out there that will argue that you guys are just totally wrong and that it was an insider job, and they walk through this analysis using, quote/unquote,”experts,” et cetera, et cetera. And the genesis of what they’re arguing is that there’s not a datalink out there fast enough to download what was believed to be downloaded without it being onto a thumb drive directly off the machine. Have you seen that line of logic, or have you heard anybody talking about that?

      MR. HENRY: I have seen it.

      MR. CONAWAY: Okay. Do you find it plausible or implausible? What’s going on with that conspiracy theory?

      MR. HENRY: I’ve talked to the technical experts in my organization who say it’s not plausible at all, what they’re saying, that their argument is not plausible.

      MR’ CONAWAY: All right. And I’m skeptical of the article, as well, just because of all the other things that are going on that kind of back up what CrowdStrike did. The mechanics of download speeds, all the other things they talked about, which sounds very credible to the uninitiated, to someone who’s looking at it without any kind of background, does it fall apart there? Where does it all apart when you talk to your guys?

      MR. HENRY: I don’t know that I can tell you the specifics about it, other than l’ve spoken to my team about it, who are true experts in this area’ and they say that the argument is just not plausible’

      MR. CONAWAY: Okay. He names some of the — well, he doesn’t either’ …


      If we could find someone in Conaway’s district to ask him about this, particularly in view of Shawn Henry’s sworn testimony that same day, that might conceivably help in some way.


  4. Jeff Harrison
    July 19, 2020 at 13:25

    I honestly don’t know where anyone gets the idea that you can legitimately attack another country based solely on “intelligence”.

    • robert e williamson jr
      July 20, 2020 at 17:03

      Jeff thanks for adding that thought!

      Now lets take this one step further, they didn’t didn’t based their rush to war on intelligence they based their rush to war on LIES. Lies that once enforced became a pox cast on our country, they made their money and still are at the expense of most things American.

      I refer below to how congress bends to every whim of the defense / intelligence as they “fleece” American tax payers enabled by the overused overworked phrase “what is in the best interest of Americas Security’.

      What has happened to our security now is a direct result of the actions taken by the intelligence officials who lied their way into a misguided, unwise war.

      Instead what we see is an abuse of power and the misuse of the intelligence apparatus for private gain and little dogdamned else, it is what it is.

      A major overhaul of how the U.S. intelligence community operates and is managed is of paramount importance and it need to happen now.

      The first place to start is to break the cycle of former intelligence manager and officers entering into government as elected officials, political advisors, appointed positions such as being head or high up in any of the other branches of government. Especially the department of so called “JUSTICE” . These practices are corrupt on their face because of the way they are manipulated influencing governance.

      The intelligence community has repeatedly acted out, including the matter of the murder of JFK, Vietnam, and what I will refer to as Charlie Wilson war, which if you read the book which tells a tale of just how the CIA finds money and abandons causes when the cash flow stop. A sickening display being held unaccountable by anyone.

      The 2001 911 attack is a direct result of what happens when you do not finish what you start. Then the public lies by a president, head of CIA. Colin Powell and the remaining right wing generals, confederates of the Cabal st the top. All liars in one sense or another also.

      Look at just where this has gotten us. We now have an unresponsive “NATIONAL SECURITY STATE” apparatus that has the entire government gridlocked because the parties in power want it that way.

      Why, are they all terrified of what will come out if they challenge that apparatus? I’m sure of it, they fear being black balled by the big money established political machinery.

      Yup that’s right the “PARTIES” in power apparently are ok with this BS. Naturally they will not admit anything of the sort but they do nothing to oversee what they have created. Not a good thing. If they are not busy looking and watching to correct what is wrong they are not doing your job.

      Then again when they do the are put up against the SCOTUS and the entire DOJ and lose their fight almost every time because of three little words, “sources and methods”.

      Three words that imply by their use, that the security of the nation is more important that the truth and have been used to manipulate the law to prevent oversight. Those at the top of this demon have avoided TOTALLY AVOIDED ACCOUNTABILITY. I see it VIPS see it as do millions of others.

      It is time to revolt politically in a manner never before seen, time to call out DOJ, SCOTUS and demand action against an out of control national security apparatus that seem incapable of collecting adequate data to support foreign policy. That and clean house and rebuild FBI so it will work to monitor CIA activities in this country.

      Truth is everything from the Kennedy murder to Trump being president are things that could have been prevented by having good intelligence instead of intelligence directed to facilitate secret agenda to create the national security state we live in now.

      A state, which has at the nation wide level here at home has failed us time and again. Current proof the condition of the state security. SEE BELOW:

      All the while a genocide, hopefully caused by sheer incompetence and neglect and not design runs rampant across out country visiting death and suffering on millions, many the weakest among us. Cops are still killing unarmed Americans at will and the so called leader of the free world advises his followers to drink bleach.

      But what do I know?

    • DW Bartoo
      July 21, 2020 at 18:57

      Jeff Harrison, the “right” of the U$ to attack other nations is not based solely on “intelligence”.

      The sacred history suggests that the head of state, the commander in chief, the president also, and from the beginning has always sought divine guidance, which has never failed to be forthcoming.

      No doubt this reflects the covenant which the Calvinist Brits (and Huguenot) whom we now celebrate as “the Puritans” had already negotiated with the Almighty.

      We are told, for example, regarding more recent “humanitarian adventires, that Bill Clinton’s splendid little war in Serbia and Kosovo resulted from a wee chat that Bill had with the deity, WHO, Bill claims, gave him the “okay”.

      And “W” is famous for his attentive dialogues with the Supreme Being.

      One does, out of curiosity, wonder if the voice of W’s “Creator” (as Jefferson termed HIM) sounded at all like Dick Cheney’s?

      You will note that all U$ Presidents not only have invoked the indulgence of the Lord, but also always assured the rest of us that Gawd most enthusiastically approved.

      Indeed, both the Monroe Doctrine and Manifest Destiny boastfully include The Deity’s approval as beyond question.

      If ya can’t trust the Lord, then the motto on our coinage is merely empty rhetoric designed to lend a veneer of respectability to a consistently nasty undertaking, that the people are never supposed to understand, especially when they traipse off to some new killing field for the benefit of the few who always know best, that being, as Gore Vidal pointed out, “…the ‘democratic’ way in the United States.”

  5. robert e williamson jr
    July 19, 2020 at 02:27

    Oh my gosh, how could it be, a corrupt intelligence community? Cripes!

    SEE: John Chuckman’s comment about power and being corrupt.

    When Alan Dulles and Robert Blum hijacked the CIA and created it in the image they desired that image of corrupt power is what drove them and it manifest itself in their creation of the “Sources and Methods ruse.

    They were playing chess while everyone else was playing checkers. Lowly scoundrels who knew that if they could have their way with the U.S. Department of Justice with regard to their sources and methods B.S. they could control the DOJ. SEE: Present state of affairs.

    They classify everything. We know this and now the practice has spilled over into law enforcement because it is so effective in preventing everyone from CIA to the local yokel cop from being held accountable for their actions. Hell, we have video phones, cop cams and cops are still getting away with murder.

    We all know there is a problem with the snails pace of justice in D.C., the problem is with the potus having a four year term, from the start the governments lawyers can now holdup court proceeding infinite amounts of time. And in the case of BCCI, a plant at DOJ can advise an incoming president to not pursue case x, y, or z because of what ever. They play the game that way constantly in DC. SEE: Clinton and his handling of the BCCI case.

    But I digress.

    Massive authority, plus massive black budgets , coupled to a total lack of accountability has created the National Security State / Deep State Monster of gigantic proportions. One that congress does not over see with relevant authority because DOJ is sitting squarely in the middle of the chess board allowing the intelligence community to write the rules as the game is played using the Sources and Methods ruse. SEE: Recent US History 1947 – especially 2015 – 2020.

    This should be child’s play for congress who must vote on agency budgets, but it’s not and I have yet to hear a legitimate reason why their money is always rubber stamped “APPROVED”.

    Congress is supposed to represent the American people and they are not. Why? Maybe because they are cowards. You know how it is with chicken hawks or maybe they are terrified of the electronic image.


    Utterly Unfriggin’ believable !

    As for POWELL, Congress, if it were a viable institution, would send his name to the World Court for prosecution. He lied to them and pressured them, only slightly , to go to war, while backing up 43’s lies.

    May be if Colin Powell rolled on his confederates, he could get us all some answers.

    His prostituting himself for the likes of “the Village Idiot from Crawford Texas” and the “Tin Man”
    by using “all that popularity” to back up 43’s lies about Iraq, would seem to be reason for an express ticket to the Hague, exactly where he needs to be with George Tenant, Chenney and Shrub, just to mention a few.

    These guys are out walking around and Julian Assange is in prison. Nothing “just” about this, it’s just corruption, plain and simple, not rocket science, simply illegal deception of the congress by high government officials.

    Thanks CN and special thanks to Ray McGovern for his keen analysis.

  6. Ray Peterson
    July 18, 2020 at 20:55

    And it might be added that Julian Assange is being tortured to continue
    the CIA’s intelligence ruse

    • Rob Roy
      July 19, 2020 at 17:32

      Yes they are trying to torture him to death. The PTB can’t have him speaking to the press about the DNC leaking (not the Russians hacking) the emails to Wikileaks, nor do they want to see and hear their war crimes discussed in the media.
      Julian Assange must not be allowed to speak.

  7. July 18, 2020 at 17:56

    Remember General Wesley Clark’s anecdote about seeing a secret memo after 9/11 that had a list of Middle Eastern countries that were to be toppled?

    Iraq was of course on it.

    Syria too.

    And Iran.

    I still think Lord Acton’s Dictum one of the truest things ever said of human behavior

    “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    The United States has been characterized for a great many years by the last part of the Dictum.

    • Rob Roy
      July 18, 2020 at 23:54

      I’ve always thought power doesn’t corrupt. The corrupt seek power. That’s why we rarely have good presidents and never have a good secretary of state.

    • AnneR
      July 19, 2020 at 11:18


      And also I subscribe to Rob Roy’s view as well: The system is Corrupt, through and through (albeit “legalized,” “legitimized” corruption) and at the same time those who are profoundly corruptible tend to be those who seek political, especially national, office, be it in the WH or in Congress. Avarice certainly rules DC, OK. And where there is avarice, there will be the accessible, the willing, the amenable, the purchasable.

    • David Otness
      July 20, 2020 at 16:49

      @ Rob Roy—Try ‘psychopaths’ and ‘sociopaths’ rather than just ‘corrupt,’ and I think (sincerely) that you will be closer to the truth of the matter. There is no coherent nor practiced means-testing available nor on the horizon to prevent them from acquiring power over all of us. Others have varying delusions of grandeur that they are able to make manifest—all within our legal code and far from addressed by it, our U.S. Constitution, nor any other meaningful document calling for a given code of normative psychological conduct. We’re screwed. We are governed by a different and disadvantaged OS.
      The psychopaths have ALL of the advantages and NONE of the hindrances of a non-psychopathic individual or group. And power over others is a natural magnet to them in their amorality. The merely corrupt are but a dime a dozen distraction in light of this. Humanity has a seemingly built-in potential mass self-destruction switch as a result.

  8. Pablo diablo
    July 18, 2020 at 15:51

    I believe Col. Wilkerson has said Powell knew this was a lie.
    Why has no one paid for this colossal mistake?
    Most importantly, why has the War in Iraq not ended??????

  9. Frank Munley
    July 18, 2020 at 15:43

    Once again, Ray McGovern has enlightened us on the uses and misuses of intelligence, in this article from Iraq to Russia-gate. A minor addendum: Bob Graham, mentioned as insisting on an NIE, voted against the war resolution. Graham had a good deal of experience with intelligence, and he explained later (on NPR if not elsewhere too) that he voted against it because he read the NIE carefully, particularly the caveats the intelligence analysts included.

  10. evelync
    July 18, 2020 at 15:33

    I’m just a mere mortal w/o inside info but the sham was crystal clear to me at the time:
    George Tenet during congressional testimony some time prior to Powell’s speech, having been asked about WMD said this – “we don’t know whether or not Saddam Hussein has WMD but we believe he (Saddam Hussein) is ‘well contained’ and he would not use ’em if he had ’em UNLESS we invade and then he’ll used what he has against our soldiers”.
    That plus the front page NYT Judith Miller bullshit aluminum tubes propaganda – it was written like propaganda not honest journalism – plus the DOG and PONY shows ordered for town halls by members of Congress around the country selling the war. So transparent. It was an hysterical drum beat pre-determined to take the country to war….
    You could see it rolling out when the most ambitious Dems – Kerry, Clinton, Edwards, Biden allowed themselves to be used (although they couldn’t or wouldn’t see it coming) to give their acquiescence to an invasion – I tried to call them to beg them not to vote for it and what would happen – they didn’t care and after some delay announced in lock step their decision to vote aye.

    My congressman John Culberson screamed at me to sit down and shut up when during his war selling town hall I asked if the CIA director would know what GWB knows (that Culberson had said he couldn’t share with us) and I sprung on him what Tenet had testified about WMD.

    And finally Tenet and John Negroponte were sitting behind Powell. Tenet was rolling his dark sunken eyes and Negroponte was there for extra measure.

    I honestly don’t understand how I could see through it but Powell couldn’t…..something happens to people when they get entrapped in the DC fog. They’re weak. They’re scared. They are terrorized by the drum beat of war mongering and cold war fear mongering.

    I’m grateful to VIPS and all our whistle blowers.

    • LarcoMarco
      July 19, 2020 at 03:05

      Weak-Sister, four-star general, Colon (sic) Powell claims he was just following orders??!!?? He finished his Army career as both a BOLO and a FUBAR.

  11. July 18, 2020 at 15:32

    Why did you fail to identify real reason war Iraq oil and Halliburton mega war-profiteering corporation started 1946 George Bush. What boomed economy world war spending GOP war hawks and DNC Clinton war hawks dire need purged party as “war a racket”. Enter the title and read the free PDF.

    • DW Bartoo
      July 19, 2020 at 13:07

      Ray, you responded to a comment of mine on the comment thread of your June 29, 2020 article, “Russiagates’s Last Gasp.”

      Your response to my statement;

      If Russiagate is not completely exposed, for all that it is and was intended to be, then quaint little discussions about elite behavior will be banished from general awareness, and those who persist in questioning will be rather severely dealt with.

      To which you replied;

      “HOW DO WE GET THE WORD OUT. I cannot help feeling that if most of the very intelligent people commenting here were to find ways to get the message out…….well, that this would be a very good start.”

      I have been pondering that question for a very long, decades before you posed it, to me, in precisely the same emphasized fashion.


      How do we encourage people to think?

      Clearly the M$M and academia (which I am so very appreciative that you include in MICCI MATT) have every intention, of being good little soldiers, quite like Powell in many ways, of not jeopardizing their own personal careers and financial well being, any more than do the corporate-owned institutions of which the order followers are simply a willing part.

      Recently, I have heard the suggestion that corporations ought be seen more as mercenary warlords than as mere engines of profit, as kasiticratic actord intent on bending government policy to profitable “ends”, the people be damned.

      Obviously, war is such a highly profitable undertaking, not just in terms of the weapons, careers, and political “capital”. but also damned profitable in the resulting confusions, the “fog” of war and its aftermath, where even further financial killings are to be made, and intelligence agency funding streams to be diverted to bring about even more wars and efforts to destabilize “regimes” disliked by the pilots of the killing machine of military empire and economic hegemony.

      So, how DO we get any aspect of the truth out? How do we reach people who believe whatever someone like Powell says?

      Of course, the stellar efforts of Consortium News, for two decades, has encouraged many to dare question, to oppose the killing machine.

      Certainly, the occasional oped, in newspapers that permit their readership some latitude of question, may reach those already willing to question the official propaganda (since Obama, now “legally” directed at the U$ public).

      And, then there is the internet.

      And, finally, there is the old, slow, slog of simply speaking with others, one on one.

      This last has been my practice of some sixty years.

      Honestly, I cannot claim much success, personally, though I suspect that this method, unrewarding (and unrewarded) as it is, is, very likely, the principle means by which most of the commenters here, very intelligent or otherwise, have had, of necessity, to make use of for however long they have grasped the destructive absurdity of a “me first”, “looking out for number one”, society.

      As it is precisely the “looking out for number one”, that rationalizes the behavior of the “ambitious”, as well as “normalizing” such behavior as “acceptable” to the many.

      Now, some heartily claim that “looking out for number one” is simply “human nature”.

      But is it?

      When I encounter folks who say, “People are not nice, most people are bullies.”

      I ask them if they, themselves, are bullies.

      Virtually every person says that they are not.

      Are your family members bullies?

      Rarely, but sometimes, this gets a “yes”.

      Are your friends bullies?


      Is your boss a bully?

      Very often this gets a “yes”.

      Have most people you have met in your life been bullies?


      Do you think that most people have been bullied?


      So, most people are not bullies?

      I guess not.

      Then I suggest that most “average” human beings are not only not bullies, but also are very much more alike than different, even peoplein countries we are encouraged to hate, to “go to war” with, are more like us than those who bully, who frighten, and who lie to the many as they try to create an atmosphere of fear that can be used to manipulate the many.

      I vividly remember Powell holding up that vial and insinuating that Sadam had tons of the stuff.

      So, when I talked to people about that “speech” (if we may dignify blatant propaganda, and cunning lies intended to scare the public out of their mind and ability to make use of common sense, as a “speech”) I asked them if they believed that there was anthrax in that vial.

      Most said, “Yes”.

      Then, I asked them if they really believed that the Secretary of State of the U$ would actually take a vial of REAL anthrax to a meeting of the UN Security Council?

      Upon reflection, some then said, “No”,

      Of this group, I then asked them if any of the other “props” were more likely to be any more real.

      More than half of those asked that question said that they could not imagine that General Powell would lie about such things.

      Of course, as we now, most all of us, must know, Powell and many others, DID, in fact, lie the nation into war.

      However, most primary and secondary schools, in the U$, to this day, do not share this reality with their young students because it is “considered controversial”.

      And now, Robert Draper, offers cover to Powell by encouraging people to think that Powell believed what he was told.

      Powell falls back on “I was just following orders”, doing what the president wanted done.

      Well, as the president put it, his administration ” … does not do nuance”.

      This was the same president who said, “You are either with us or against us”, specifically in terms of the intended are against Iraq.

      Which is the classic line, known to both the Greeks and Romans as the classic assertion of the Fallacious Argument known to the Romans as “argument with
      a big stick”.

      It is a thinly veiled threat.

      Which I pointed out to everyone with
      whom I spoke.

      However, not one learned dean of a law school nor one head of a university English Department, not one well-paid pundit, nor one editorial writer at any paper of “record” bothered to point out that fact.

      We may claim to be an “educated” society, but we permit the “ambitious” to rhetorically abuse us with fallacious argument, false equivalencies (the federal budget is just like your family budget), and appallingly transparent appeals to ignorance, to fear, and to predjudice, which are rarely questioned or denounced simply because “looking out for number one” is the way to easy and ready success.

      Consider the fates of Edward Snowden and Julian Assange.

      Then consider the attitude of the many toward these two.

      That “attitude”, of negativity and disdain. has been carefully inculcated quite as successfully as the cultural inculcation of “looking out for number one”, of “going along to get along” has been the “hard sell”, in the U$, since WWI, and Edward Bernays turned propaganda into “public relations”.

      Perhaps, mass “brainwashing” can only be dealt with one brain at a time?

      My appreciation to all those who have made the effort, on their own, to understand and, then, to share.

      “Mass” media, from Hollywood to The NY Times, from Fox to MSNBC to CNN can cajole, flatter, or frighten the many into embracing elite insanity, as we have all witnessed, time and again.

      Nonetheless, I do consider that there are more of “us” everyday.

      One open mind at a time,

      Going along is easy.

      Not going along is not easy, but conscience and actual principle demand the price.

      If there is a future, it will only be because enough were willing to pay that price.

      Example must matter, as well as being always willing to listen and to share.

      Otherwise, who will care?

    • July 20, 2020 at 19:16

      Thanks, DW.

      One on one is good, of course. I don’t think it will be enough.

      I think the fault (lack of imagination) may be not in our stars, but in ourselves.

      There HAS to be a way TO GET THE WORD OUT. (I confess to not being imaginative enough to figure it out; but surely, if we had some way of putting our heads — and imaginations — together, we might be able to come up with effective ways to educate, enlist, and act, before it is too late.


  12. Dennis Rice
    July 18, 2020 at 13:33

    Powell, Condoleezza Rice, GWB, the whole bunch are USA war criminals and nothing is going to happen to them.
    Hundreds of problems in the Middle East stem unnecessarily from that self-centered “go to war” group.

  13. Bob Van Noy
    July 18, 2020 at 12:42

    “We should have flunked him outright.”

    Exactly Ray, but even beyond that, Colin Powell’s misdeeds going back to Vietnam should have become public knowledge long ago…
    Still, it will go a long way toward moving us forward to debate it now.

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