RAY McGOVERN: Can Burns Change the CIA?

The hope is that diplomat William Burns, tapped for CIA director by Joe Biden, will be able to change the culture at Langley and not be subsumed by it.

Aerial view of CIA headquarters.in Langley, Virginia. (Carol M. Highsmith, Wikimedia Commons)

By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News

In nominating former Deputy Secretary of State William Burns to be CIA director, President-elect Joe Biden has chosen a highly experienced diplomat to lead a hydra-headed agency.

But, if past is precedent, the highest hydras who head calcified fiefdoms at CIA can be expected to resist any real control from the top. They are more likely to try to co-opt top management or make end runs around it. This is not new.

Most senior CIA operations officers, in particular, have never been comfortable with meaningful supervision, lest it lead to reining them in or impinging on their ample budgets. With secrecy always in play (including strict application of the “need-to-know” principle), Burns will need a good deputy — preferably a strong outsider — to avoid being blind-sided — or diddled.

Burns lacks proven experience managing organizations as large and variegated as the agency, so the jury is out on whether he will be able to do it.

One endemic challenge is to ensure that substantive intelligence analysis is not tainted by CIA’s operations. In recent years, analysts have been thrown together with operations officers, making it very difficult for analysts to maintain the distance needed to evaluate objectively the efficacy of policies and actions in which operations colleagues close by are fully engaged.

A Far Cry From Truman’s Vision

Truman’s Washington Post op-ed.

President Harry S. Truman wanted a CIA to which he could turn to get unbiased reporting — “without treatment” is the way he put it. He became very critical of what he saw the CIA become.

Exactly one month after John Kennedy was assassinated, The Washington Post published an op-ed titled “Limit CIA Role to Intelligence.” The first sentence of that op-ed on Dec. 22, 1963, read, “I think it has become necessary to take another look at the purpose and operations of our Central Intelligence Agency.” 

The op-ed author was Truman himself, who spearheaded the establishment of the CIA right after World War II to better coordinate U.S. intelligence gathering. [Full text of Truman piece.] 

But the spy agency had lurched off in what Truman thought were troubling directions. And not only Truman. Sadly, the concerns expressed in that op-ed — namely that he had inadvertently helped create a Frankenstein monster — are as valid today as they were in late 1963, if not more so.

CIA’s focus had by then become a far cry, in Truman’s words, from “the original reason why I thought it necessary to organize this Agency … and what I expected it to do.” It was “charged with the collection of all intelligence reports from every available source, and to have those reports reach me as President without Department ‘treatment’ or interpretations.”

Full text of Truman op-ed in The Capital Times. (Click to enlarge)

As the agency’s operational side accumulates more and more funding and is more and more drawn into paramilitary operations, drone targeting and the like, Burns faces a formidable challenge to gain control of it.

He will need to pry CIA analysts away from their roles supporting (and instinctively rooting for) those operations, and create enough distance for them to objectively weigh the efficacy and the wider fallout and implications. This would help move the agency back on track after decades of politicization — and at times, prevarication.


Burns can be counted on to help Biden resuscitate the Iran nuclear deal — the more so, since Burns played a key role in getting the negotiations with Iran started. He has argued that the nuclear deal from which President Donald Trump withdrew makes the whole region safer, including Israel.

Burns knows better than most that he has an important National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear posture to cite as a model of the kind of painstaking, serious analysis that can help prevent unnecessary war.

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney bemoaned the fact that that particular NIE, published in November 2007, did much to spike their plans for an attack on Iran during their last year in office. The Estimate stated unanimously, with high confidence, that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon at the end of 2003 and had not resumed it. That judgment has been reasserted in the years since.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with Hossein Fereydoun, the brother of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, during nuclear deal negotiations on July 14, 2015. (State Department)

Intelligence Without Fear or Favor

Biden said Monday that Burns “shares my profound belief that intelligence must be apolitical …”. There are some early hints that Burns has the substantive depth, skill, and courage to ensure that this happens in the ranks of agency analysts.

What we know of Burns’s performance — particularly as ambassador to Russia (2005-2008) — suggests that he will shy away from fudging things and, in turn, encourage substantive analysts to follow his example and speak candidly to superiors. Former senior State Department officials I contacted on Monday share this view.

From Moscow With Candor: Burns a Straight Shooter

Despite then Secretary of State James Baker’s promise to Mikhail Gorbachev in early Feb. 1990 that NATO would not move “one inch” east from the borders of a reunited Germany, by early 2008, NATO had already added ten new members: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. NATO relations with Russia plummeted and there was no sign Washington policymakers gave a damn.

Amid rumors that Ukraine and Georgia would soon be in queue for NATO membership, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Feb. 1, 2008 called in Ambassador Burns to read him the riot act. 

The subject line of Burns’s CONFIDENTIAL cable #182 of Feb. 1, in which he reported Lavrov’s remarks to Washington, shows that Burns played it straight, choosing not to mince his own or Lavrov’s words: “Nyet means nyet: Russia’s NATO enlargement redlines,” he wrote. (This embassy Moscow cable is among those leaked by Chelsea Manning to WikiLeaks. It has been largely ignored in Western media.)

Burns wrote:

Following a muted first reaction to Ukraine’s intent to seek a NATO Membership Action Plan at the [upcoming] Bucharest summit, Foreign Minister Lavrov and other senior officials have reiterated strong opposition, stressing that Russia would view further eastward expansion as a potential military threat. NATO enlargement, particularly to Ukraine, remains an emotional and neuralgic issue for Russia, but strategic policy considerations also underlie strong opposition to NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia. In Ukraine, these include fears that the issue could potentially split the country in two, leading to violence or even, some claim, civil war, which would force Russia to decide whether to intervene. …” [Emphasis added.]

It took some courage to tell then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that Russia is entitled to have “strategic policy considerations” and that Moscow might have to decide to intervene.

So, it is not as though Secretary Rice and other U.S. policymakers were not warned, in very specific terms, of Russia’s redline on Ukrainian membership in NATO.

Nevertheless, on April 3, 2008, the final declaration at a NATO summit in Bucharest asserted: “NATO welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO.”

Shortly before Lavrov called Burns onto the carpet, former Sen. Bill Bradley, a longtime expert on Russia and a sober-minded policy analyst, said he was deeply troubled at the relentless expansion of NATO.

In a Jan. 23, 2008 talk before the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, he sounded a disconsolate note, describing NATO expansion a “terribly sad thing … a blunder of monumental proportions… .“ As tensions increased with Russia, Bradley added, “Right now we are confronted with something that could have easily been avoided.”


It’s a safe bet that Burns was similarly troubled. That he expressed this clearly — however diplomatically — sets him off from mealy-mouthed ambassadors.

The Ukraine Coup

Six years later, on Feb. 22, 2014, the U.S.-pushed a putsch in Ukraine.

Russia’s reaction was predictable – actually pretty much predicted (if anyone read Burns’s cable) by the Russians themselves — and should have come as no surprise to Washington.

But for Western media the Ukrainian story begins on Feb. 23, 2014, when Putin and his advisers decided to move quickly to thwart NATO’s designs on Ukraine and take back Crimea where Russia’s only warm-water naval base has been located since the days of Catherine the Great.

U.S. officials (and The New York Times) have made it a practice to white-out the coup d’etat in Kiev and to begin recent European history with Russia’s immediate reaction, thus the relentless presentation of these events as simply “Russian aggression,” as if Russia instigated the crisis, not the U.S.

F___ the EU” (and Russia too)

Thus far the words of then Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland seemed intent on giving a new dimension to the proverbial “cookie-pushing” role of U.S. diplomats.

Recall the photo showing Nuland, in a metaphor of over-reach, as she reached deep into a large plastic bag to give anti-government demonstrators on the square cookies before the putsch.

More important, recall her amateurish, boorish use of an open telephone to plot regime change in Ukraine with a fellow neocon, then U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt. Crass U.S. interference in Ukrainian affairs can be heard) in an intercepted conversation posted on YouTube on Feb. 4, 2014 — 18 days before the coup, in which she says Biden would play a central role in installing the coup government.


Nuland is reportedly Biden’s choice for undersecretary of state for political affairs. Her foul tongue is not likely to derail her nomination; neither will her role in orchestrating the coup. If she is confirmed, it is a safe bet she will seek other capitals in which to peddle cookies. How will Burns respond when she asks for the support of his people to help nail things down — as in Kiev in 2014?

A Good Listener

My State Department alumni contacts tell me the soft-spoken Burns has a good reputation and is an intent listener. I had a chance to observe that up close when I took part in a Carnegie Endowment-sponsored briefing by James Clapper, during the Q and A which Burns moderated. Burns is the president of the endowment. Clapper was hawking his memoir.

Clapper had been in charge of satellite imagery analysis before the March 2003 attack on Iraq so I asked him how it could be that no weapons of mass destruction were found. The answer was right there in his book. Clapper wrote: “The blame is due to intelligence officers, including me, who were so eager to help [the administration make war on Iraq] that we found what wasn’t really there.” [Emphasis added.]

Burns did not use his position as moderator to rise to the rescue of Clapper and cut off the dialogue, but rather allowed the two of us to debate for several minutes.



Those who remember the optimism I expressed 12 years ago when Leon Panetta was nominated to head the CIA can add a pinch of salt to my positive, but guarded expectations for William Burns as CIA director.

I wrote:

In choosing Leon Panetta to take charge of the CIA, President-elect Barak Obama has shown he is determined to put an abrupt end to the lawlessness and deceit with which the administration of George W. Bush has corrupted intelligence operations and analysis.”

By all appearances, Panetta fell in with the prevailing culture and became the agency’s lawyer rather than its leader. The hope is that William Burns will change the culture at CIA, and not be changed by it.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. During his 27 years as a CIA analyst, he headed the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch, prepared/briefed The President’s Daily Brief for three presidents, and worked under nine CIA directors. In retirement he co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

42 comments for “RAY McGOVERN: Can Burns Change the CIA?

  1. BPerry
    January 13, 2021 at 18:01

    Thanks for this excellent article on the CIA’s history and its running amok. Kennedy issued an order to restrict the CIA to intelligence sythesis and analysis (as Truman originally intended and recommended after JFK’s assassination), and move all the CIA’s paramilitary operations over to the military. JFK’s order was rescinded when Johnson became president. When Obama appointed Brennan to head the CIA he ordered all the drone operations moved from the CIA to the military. I remember Brennan telling the Senate confirmation committee he would do this. But then Brennan never did it.

    Col. L. Fletcher Prouty has a great book “The Secret Team” on how Dulles secretly built up the paramilitary operations arm into a worldwide operation of immense scope, of which even the top military men were unaware. Prouty was the military’s point man through whom the CIA requisitioned all military men and materials for their clandestine operations, so he had an inside view of what they were doing. His book is available free online.

  2. CNfan
    January 13, 2021 at 17:44

    Excellent article on the CIA’s history and its running amok. Kennedy issued an order to restrict the CIA to intelligence sythesis and analysis (as Truman originally intended and recommended after JFK’s assassination), and move all the CIA’s paramilitary operations over to the military. JFK’s order was rescinded when Johnson became president. When Obama appointed Brennan to head the CIA he ordered all the drone operations moved from the CIA to the military. I remember Brennan telling the Senate confirmation committee he would do this. But then Brennan never did it.

    Col. L. Fletcher Prouty has a great book “The Secret Team” on how Dulles secretly built up the paramilitary operations arm into a worldwide operation of immense scope, of which even the top military men were unaware. Prouty was the military’s point man through whom the CIA requisitioned all military men and materials for their clandestine operations, so he had an inside view of what they were doing. His book is available free online here.

    Dulles came from a career helping mega-bankers hide vast amounts of money, and it’s likely they continued to be his actual bosses throughout his career. They would have had much use for an organization through which they could topple governments, control economies, and foment profitable wars. So those banks may still have many of their men in top positions.

  3. Dr. Hujjathullah M.H.B. Sahib
    January 13, 2021 at 12:20

    Clearly Ray has advanced a cautious assessment on Burns as a potentially corrective helmsman for the CIA. If it is true that the CIA was behind the killing of even President Kennedy, then they are a beast perfectly capable of upending anyone and anything. Not just the CIA but virtually ALL covert polices are mindless beasts condemned to their indoctrainated missions !

    Still, we can’t be hopeless because Burns has a certain latent moral acumen to him and it is possible that he may sincerely want to work for and leave behind a lagacy of being the rightful 21st century heir of the astute George Kennen. So there is the hope, however dim, that the CIA monster can still be tamed !

  4. Piotr Berman
    January 13, 2021 at 11:09

    On the theme of peddling cookies, Ms. Nuland may have stiff competition. There was a number of videos reporting how Ukraine is swamped with Russian candies, even though the importation is forbidden. As large number of Ukrainians work in Russia, closing the border is not practical, small scale contraband adds to large volume, and ubiquitous small stores sell them. One can only guess that police is easily bribed with samples of the same candies.

    With help of the West, the rule of Ukraine is steadfastly anti-Russian, thus banning the import of candies, and many other bans, perhaps most ominously, on education in Russian. But the cultures are damn too close! In response to hard to afford cable prices, Western Ukrainians increasingly watch satellite TV, with more interesting and entertaining programs coming from Russia. One the list of 10 Youtube videos that were most popular in the last year, all were songs, one in English, 7 by Russian singers, and 2 by Ukrainian singers singing in Russian. Interestingly, in a video of an Ukrainian TV station in which the candy problem was discussed, the presenter described the problems, illustrated with the picture of the contraband, and the invited guest commented with sorrow about the shallow patriotism of the public. Presenter spoke in Ukrainian (this is enforced by law), the guest made his jeremiad in Russian. But the next generation of children will lack Russian education — total schizophrenia.

    The construct of anti-Russian Ukrainian is creating a wrecked country and cementing the internal animosities. Economic policies are in part non-sensical, in part, enriching the oligarchs. The anti-corruption authorities seems to serve one purpose: to keep the political class and the plutocrat class obedient, everything is allowed UNLESS the culprit slacks on anti-Russian attitude. These authorities are commendably independent from the political class, but lamentably controlled by USA and allied country (Canadians have traditionally keen interest in Ukraine and in promoting fascist narratives and fascist “activists”.)

  5. January 13, 2021 at 10:46

    “The hope is that William Burns will change the culture at CIA, and not be changed by it.”

    This is sad.
    And a mere pipe dream.

    William Burns is no Hercules.
    Despite the Authors mention of the Hydra, few truly understand the sheer size and power of that Hydra.
    It’s not just Big Tech, or Big Banks, those are just two of the numerous heads of this massive beast.
    Big Defense, Big Med, Big Pharma, Big Surveillance, Bit Media, Big Insurance, Big Oil, Big Ag/Food, Big Chem, Big Bureaucracy, Big Government, etc.
    That Hydra is Big Everything.

    And it’s numerous heads exist to watch over and control most every single aspect of the lives of everyone.
    And there is no one-single person with the power to defeat that Hydra.
    You will either exist to feed that Hydra, or be destroyed by it (ironically, even those existing to feed it will eventually be destroyed by it, only more slowly).

    The same largest investment banks now exist as the largest shareholders of the largest “competing” corporations, in most every single industry.
    The Big Three own & control OVER 37% of all outstanding shares in the entire U.S. markets.
    The Top five own & control close to 60% of all outstanding shares in the entire U.S. markets.
    Add the next handful and you’ll see ~85% of the entire U.S. market owned by a literal Cartel.
    Whom also largely exist as the largest investors/shareholders of each other.

    “Dem” followers may be rejoicing in the symbolic lynching of Trump, but the Hydra continues to live, and thrive.

    Massively growing inequality is affecting most, but few realize the source of this inequality.
    Their “party leaders”, themselves mindless puppets, are merely herding them towards more Divide & Conquer tactics.
    Rallying & distracting them with a constant barrage of banal entertainment.

    In a strange twist, the “Dems” are sounding more & more like the “GOP”.
    The “GOP” are sounding more & more like the “Dems”.
    Whereas the “GOP” were cheering the prospect of “change”, the status quo remained & grew stronger.
    Whereas the “Dems” were charging election fraud, they are now actively defending it.
    Whereas the “GOP” were cheering greater authoritarianism, i.e. ‘law & order”, that authoritarianism is now working against them.
    Whereas the “Dems” were decrying the Fascism of Trump, they are now actively supporting their own Fascist leader.

    A new puppet (cheer)leader will not change the fact that this Hydra is consuming all, only growing larger & more powerful in the process.

    The Revolving Door between powerful Oligarchs, Bureaucrats and Washington, aka the M-I-C, aka the Iron Triangle, is quite real.
    And perhaps never as powerful as before.
    And now offered even more protections via that massive beast, the Hydra.

    Trump supporters would have been wise to use caution in their wishes.
    Biden supporters would be wise to learn from the mistakes of those pro-Trumpers.

    You gotta be careful what you wish for.

    There are no true winners in grudge match politics.

    • CNfan
      January 13, 2021 at 17:51

      The hydra has a controlling center, because they all act in concert. As Deep Throat advised Woodward and Bernstein, “follow the money”. Some good information is in the banking article at
      hXXps://war * profiteer * story.blogspot.com

      (Delete the asterisks and their surrounding spaces to use the link.

  6. Tom Kath
    January 12, 2021 at 22:57

    I repeat my comment from a previous article. –
    Secret services from the German SS to the CIA, FBI, MI6, MOSSAD et al, have always been FEARED, but never RESPECTED. They are the most disgusting manifestation of human conspiracy ever to blight humanity and should be abolished, prohibited, and exposed as the cancerous slime bags that they are. I would pardon whistleblowers for realising this, as long as they do. Nobody needs a mask and a false nose to uphold morality!

  7. January 12, 2021 at 21:09

    Thank you. That sums it all up. Anything less and the CIA will slip comfortably back into Wall St/MIC politics, those for whom it has been the “Steel fist” as David Talbot said in his brilliant book on the subject, The Devil’s Chessboard.

    We will see how well Mr. Burns and the well-experienced Mr. Biden fare in keeping all of those skeletons in the CIA’s closet-files. Remember, the CIA, and to a lesser tune the FBI, have controlled Washington since January, 1989.

  8. John D Zeigler
    January 12, 2021 at 21:09

    The Russian proverb seems apt here: “When you hunt wolves with dogs, remember that the dog is more closely related to the wolf than he is to you.”

  9. DH Fabian
    January 12, 2021 at 19:18

    As a Biden appointee, Mr.Burns will “stay the course.” That’s a certainty.

  10. January 12, 2021 at 19:11

    McGovern doesn’t seem to know that the “Truman” article was actually written by an associate of the former president and was an attempt to whitewash Truman. The article in question was quickly removed from the WaPo after Truman read it.

  11. Jack Siler
    January 12, 2021 at 18:30

    At best, a nice person leaves Anywhere, USA to become a Representative, Senator, the #1, 2, 3, OR 4-5-6 in any significant government bureau or worse, VP or President. Do you really think that anyone of them have done nothing extremely embarrassing by the time they reach those heights? Please…!

    There are people who know exactly what those faults have been ever since they left high school. That’s every person with absolute, total access to all of the files in the skeleton closet and it includes hundreds if not thousands of individuals. But those you can count on are at the top of the Congress, the top of every administration, and every single individual, past or present, at the top of the CIA, FBI, several so-called Intel departments, the National Security and Homeland- and that’s the minimum. There’s a game they play called “If you, I’ll…”

    The Master of that game was J Edgar. He passed it on to the Dulles boys in the late Thirties. That’s what worried Truman who assuredly had a few nuggets in his background. And that’s how the Past Masters of the “If you, I’ll…” game first came to the CIA and spread through DC politics. Poor old Trump thought bullying did it. In the NY world of the real estate Mafia it did. His huge mass of naïve, blinded followers, uneducated in the fine points of how realpolitik functions thought it works that way, too. It did in their towns and cities, but they only knew what the MSM told them about Washington.

    Thus we have a problem. Trump and his closest followers, political or non-political are absolutely immune to embarrassment. Nothing short of a few years in the cooler will change their minds and as long as Trump is free to go to Texas and extol the wall nothing serious will change.

    Those followers of the neofascist mindset are Americans, too. I’ve lived amongst them and few wear fur hats with horns, use body paint or get tattooed. Most are in the working class or in what’s left of the shredded Middle Class. In addition to being economic victims, they’re educational victims. Like the CIA, those systems need a total re-thinking , then a complete overhaul.

    Lotsa luck.

  12. John Drake
    January 12, 2021 at 16:49

    It probably will take more than changing the director to straighten out that agency. Kennedy’s big mistake was that he only fired Dulles and Bissel as they had suckered him into the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion. In convincing him they neglected to tell him it would not work without actual US air support, not just the emigre’s planes. This Kennedy refused, once the invasion started and began failing.

    Anyway with the top two gone, their top loyalists were still there, so the influence and friends of Dulles still remained. For this Jack probably paid with his life; as it is pretty certain his assassination was organized by present and/or former spooks. No doubt with Dulles holding the conductor’s baton. Then Dulles got to head the cover up commission-isn’t Washington great?

    • Consortiumnews.com
      January 12, 2021 at 16:58

      Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren was the head of the commission that investigated
      the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Allen Dulles was on the Commission.

      • michael888
        January 12, 2021 at 17:51

        Earl Warren nominally led the investigation but Dulles dominated and controlled their results, and the CIA was not forthcoming with its evidence (from wikipedia):
        CIA “benign cover-up”
        Main article: CIA Kennedy assassination conspiracy theory
        CIA Director McCone was “complicit” in a Central Intelligence Agency “benign cover-up” by withholding information from the Warren Commission, according to a report by the CIA Chief Historian David Robarge released to the public in 2014.[28] According to this report, CIA officers had been instructed to give only “passive, reactive, and selective” assistance to the commission, to keep the commission focused on “what the Agency believed at the time was the ‘best truth’ — that Lee Harvey Oswald, for as yet undetermined motives, had acted alone in killing John Kennedy.” The CIA may have also covered up evidence of being in communication with Oswald before 1963, according to the 2014 report findings.[28]
        Also withheld were earlier CIA plots, involving CIA links with the Mafia, to assassinate Cuban president Fidel Castro, which might have been considered to provide a motive to assassinate Kennedy. The report concluded, “In the long term, the decision of John McCone and Agency leaders in 1964 not to disclose information about CIA’s anti-Castro schemes might have done more to undermine the credibility of the Commission than anything else that happened while it was conducting its investigation.”[28][29].

        • robert e williamson jr
          January 14, 2021 at 00:25

          Thank you very much!

          As they say the fix was in. Mike if you haven’t read Roger J Mattsons STEALING THE ATOMIC BOMB

          No student I read books. Noted non-fiction only.

          The parallel histories of CIA and USAEC both results of the 1947 National Security Act, which leads to the Nation Security Council and many other significant changes, i.e. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

          Necessary because of “security problems” with the advent of all things nuclear their histories are large in volume and relentlessly intertwined. So are careers. A missing story exists there. A story about many of the same individuals serving in many of the same government entities, sometimes consecutively.

          I believe that when examined closely the movements of personnel , their careers, we can find convenient patterns develop. By now we have learned from the last 70 years experience that is not a good thing at he highest levels of our government.

          Harry Truman speaking out about the CIA is an extremely important point in history.

          So is the present.

          The CIA if expected to continue to exist needs to come clean with everything. NUMEC, the JFK murder and the PROMIS / INSLAW saga of the NSA and DOJ involvement running William Hamilton out of business and then giving Israel his work need to be revealed nationwide. This case and the BCCI case were cases Bill Barr is said to have told Clinton he need not pursue. Wink, Wink!

          Things at this point can only get better as a result.

          Ray McGovern thank you for the reprints this Dulles – Truman story needs to get legs. Great stuff. Be well.

          THANK YOU CN

      • robert e williamson jr
        January 12, 2021 at 18:56

        Like a catfish I’ll take the bait. Why? Because this is all very stinky.

        John Drake I believe your vision into this is 20/20.

        I left this comment on John K’s piece preceding. I think it bears repeating for the sake clarity.

        :Well the way I got it figured if John us okay with this that alone is a start. My take doesn’t make a one damn difference either way. However call me a cynic or what ever but CIA needs to b e rebuild ground the up. Incompetent, compromised, corrupt by it’s failings, who would we ever know, and dragging DOJ with it.

        :That said it would be hard to find any individual worse for this job than Dulles, McCone, Helms, Bush 41 or the counter intelligence JJ Angleton who never caught a spy, who just happened to be CIA desk for Israel during the entire history of the nasty events that happened at NUMEC. The counter intelligence head who for years seemed to have the drop on everyone else at CIA.

        The Ship of State is in waters never known to exist before, very dangerous waters because the incompetence in D.C finally went critical. In the name of the two party system and one King Flu Virus

        With all do respect to Mr. Ray McGovern whom I admire greatly I would like to suggest something most see as unthinkable.

        Now is the opportunity for the CIA to come clean.

        If this agency contends that it must exist then it’s form must change. I’m not sure I see a way possible for the adjustments needed but I have a very good idea of how it needs to start.

        CIA must come clean on the JFK murder, the NUMEC scandal and the Promis / Inslaw / Bill Hamilton saga.

        For the sake of DOG those of us who have looked know the truth can be make whole. The CIA’s history has serious problems. CIA’s relationship with DOJ, in my opinion is one of disgust, CIA over using and abusing it’s sources and methods caveat, stay out of jail and get away with murder and mayhem card. This quite disgusting clearly incestuous relationship.

        Harry Truman knew what he had done and may have been co opted by CIA. When JFK was murdered. I’m pretty sure he regretted his actions.

        Ray you do a great service providing the Truman reprints. This story never got the coverage it should have for it is historically significant. CIA knows how significant. The story is out there that Dulles tried to swing Truman around on his story even writing something to the effect that Harry had recanted. Damned CIA guys

        For now I’ll leave the U.S. Congress out of this, poor babies.

        Be well and safe Ray, and thank you!

        Thanks CN

      • bobzz
        January 12, 2021 at 22:54

        As I understand it, Warren was a figurehead. Dulles hovered over it and ran it.

  13. Nathan Mulcahy
    January 12, 2021 at 14:32

    Change the CIA? I wish I had that kind of hope. But you cannot change Mafia.

  14. Carl Zaisser
    January 12, 2021 at 14:09

    Well, we can add Truman’s CIA “Frankenstein” to his State of Israel “Frankenstein”. Guy was quite the failed scientist. So much for the myth I used to hear about him from my father’s generation: “Give ’em hell, Harry.”

  15. Robert
    January 12, 2021 at 13:59

    It is encouraging to hear that somebody like Burns is going to head the CIA. But one man cannot make a difference. I think he is going to have to fire and retire a lot of the top management. Kennedy had it right when he said it has to be blown into a thousand pieces. As Truman was alarmed in his time just imagine the resistance to change there will be now that its roots run so deep. There has to be a complete tear down. The Dulles brothers did a lot of damage very quickly.

    • Kristine Rael
      January 12, 2021 at 16:10

      Very well said.

    • January 12, 2021 at 17:19

      Thank you. That sums it all up. Anything less and the CIA will slip comfortably back into Wall St/MIC politics, those for whom it has been the “Steel fist” as David Talbot said in his brilliant book on the subject, The Devil’s Chessboard.

      We will see how well Mr. Burns and the well-experienced Mr. Biden fare in keeping all of those skeletons in the CIA’s closet-files. Remember, the CIA hand to a lesser tune the FBI, have controlled Washington since January, 1989.

  16. Guy
    January 12, 2021 at 12:22

    What the US needs desperately are straight shooters vs the bag of snakes ,regurgitated by many appointments by Biden for his administration .i.e. “f..k the EU Nuland ” .The reason the Clinton administration advanced NATO is because of the MIC lobby.Of this there is no doubt but there was no reason for it as Russia had capitulated and Yeltsin was helping the Oligarchs rape Russia bare .
    It could have been so different as the former Senator Bill Bradley stated so very well .
    The bottom line is that the intelligence community in the US has become so politicized that it has become literally impossible to bring back those agencies to what they were created for .So welcome to the new administration and as they say ,meet the new boss ,same as the old boss.
    Very good article today .CN has become one of my go-to sites for geopolitical news .
    Time to donate again .

  17. Antonio Costa
    January 12, 2021 at 12:15

    JFK is said to have wanted to disband this noxious agency. It cannot be reformed. To think otherwise is to provide not much insight. Sorry Ray.

  18. Taras77
    January 12, 2021 at 11:44

    We are still on the caveat of “less worse” than the previous possible nominees.

    I remain skeptical but hopeful. I think McGovern accurately points out the pitfalls as career cia has in the past very skillfully circled the wagons and worked the end arounds.

  19. David Otness
    January 12, 2021 at 11:00

    A particularly exceptional and soberly written piece, Ray. You have done much to advance the layman’s view of the inner workings of not only D.C., but the mailed fist of covert action and how its power has been historically manifested. Bravo, sir.

    On a sidenote, upon Truman’s piece above being published, I have read it only made it into one edition of the WaPo, and then was ‘disappeared’ swiftly from further readership.

    As well, Allen Dulles made it a point to visit the Trumans at their home in order to dissuade Harry from further pointed analysis and indeed to retract what he had said about the CIA in his Post piece. To no avail.

    In further writing I have read Bess Truman loathed Allen Dulles and was deeply troubled by his lone (solo) visit to their retirement enclave. To me, it read almost as if in a screenplay by Ray Bradbury, as in “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”

    Thanks again for all you do, Ray.

  20. TimN
    January 12, 2021 at 10:48

    Sorry, Ray, but I think you’re wrong again. You and John Kiriakou, who is even more sure than you. Burns defended the criminal war against Libya, did he not? There is no way he is going to reform the CIA, which recently ran a job on Trump, remember? They are utterly out of control, and I’m afraid its too late.

  21. evelync
    January 12, 2021 at 10:36

    Thanks, once again, Ray McGovern, for what may be one of your most informative, clearest articles with fascinating evidence from Truman and Bradley. The many strands all tied together into a bright bow of sanity.

    I don’t know Washington protocols but I sure hope William Burns can be reached with suggestions from VIPS on who might serve him best as Deputy and hopefully Joe Biden would understand how that support would help ensure that his director has an opportunity to accomplish much needed reform.

    Is there a glimmer of hope here?
    Or will we be “forever” the victims of the Neocons? – with “forever” being exceedingly short-lived given the doomsday clock is at 2 minutes to midnight.

    typo in Truman’s speech is ironic – “we have GOWN up as a nation”….ain’t that the truth…..and the view underneath has been very ugly indeed as exposed by our courageous whistleblowers…when they are finally honored we’ll have some sorely missing peace of mind…hopefully it won’t be posthumously for us and the planet….

  22. Matt
    January 12, 2021 at 10:02

    Hard to understand Ray and John’s hopiness given that Burns provided US State backing to Al-Sisi, supported the Libya invasion and tried to get Russia to give up Snowden, among other noxious activities in his past. Time will tell. Not holding my breath.

    • Anne
      January 12, 2021 at 14:27

      Quite, Matt, Nowt will change, just the faces (bluer this time) and the locution (nicer patina but same inhumane ugliness)…

  23. penrose32
    January 12, 2021 at 09:57

    Change the CIA? Like Trump was going to drain the swamp? His appointment just allows the Frontman to present a better face to the public. Business will be conducted as usual.

    Or, Burns can immediately pull the plug on the persecution of Julian Assange if he wants to get off to a good start. That will certainly get their attention.

    • evelync
      January 12, 2021 at 12:44

      yes the immediate reversal of the attacks on publisher Julian Assange or the failure to do it will be the evidence/warning of what we’re to expect

  24. Heinz Leitner
    January 12, 2021 at 09:40

    According to the Austrian newspaper Der Standard William Burns said at the European Forum Alpbach in Tyrol (before the invasion of Iraq supported by Biden), NATO needs Austria. Austria is always welcome … Austria should abandon its constitutional, perpetual neutrality and join NATO
    Biden will Ex-Spitzendiplomat Burns zum CIA-Chef machen
    So much for the NATO enlargement, encircling Russia
    H. Leitner, Vienna, Austria

  25. January 12, 2021 at 09:22

    The CIA is not the problem. The real problem is the State Department. The State Department makes the policies, determines who the enemies and friends are and who is to be punished or rewarded. The CIA simply does their dirty work and provides them cover.

    • Anne
      January 12, 2021 at 14:25

      BOTH are the problem. Sorry. And anyone who works for the CIA (or FBI) or in the UK MI5/6 needs to be examined for their barbaric, heinous, abominable perspectives. Their basic inhumanity… Such institutions should NOT exist…

    • bobzz
      January 12, 2021 at 23:03

      Read Douglas Valentine’s works on the CIA. The CIA is indeed a big part of the problem.

  26. January 12, 2021 at 07:47

    Change the CIA?

    Sorry, but that does seem a bit silly.

    Like speaking of changing Dracula’s lifestyle.

    The CIA does what it was designed and long-practiced to do.

    Pure intelligence, from the beginning, was only a part of its mission. One side of the house, so to speak.

    Dark operations and killing are the practices of more than 70 years.

    At least sixty coups, including against a number of democratic states the US doesn’t happen to like. Countless dirty tricks, like Operation Phoenix in Vietnam with about forty thousand village leaders’ throats cut in the night. Many assassinations, including, almost certainly, an American President, John Kennedy. Hideous practices abroad do come home to roost as they become accepted as normal.

    Today it even runs an industrial-scale extrajudicial killing operation. Thousands of legally innocent people, incinerated just by having their names put on a list. A great many bystanders, too. Absolutely no different than the practices of the old Argentine junta in disappearing people by the thousands.

    A good and decent and free society just would not have a CIA. Its very existence is an indictment.

    • Anne
      January 12, 2021 at 14:23

      Thank you John for this statement expressing pretty much everything which I also believe to be true…

    • vinnieoh
      January 12, 2021 at 15:25

      With all due respect I think the citizens of this nation, or any nation, would not be well served by NOT trying to gather information about the other nations around them. It would be wonderful to live in the ideal world you imagine, but that world does not exist. That does not mean to say that eternal hateful mistrust must be the norm. Trust yes, but verify.

      As Ray persistently points out it is the “operations” side that is the problem, not only because of the litany of offenses you post, but because as he points out those operations degrade unbiased and reliable information gathering, analysis, and good neighbor relations with other nations.

    • jo6pac
      January 12, 2021 at 18:32

      “Like speaking of changing Dracula’s lifestyle.”

      LOL John and sadly I don’t think even Buffy could over come at cia hell mouth.

      Ray I hope you’re right but I just don’t see it happening.

    • Tom Kath
      January 12, 2021 at 23:05

      My sentiments also John. Secret services are the most immoral conspirators against human decency ever to exist.

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