JOHN KIRIAKOU: Info-Warrior Malcolm Nance

Has the former MSNBC analyst dropped his media gig and really gone off to battle the Russians in Ukraine? 

By John Kiriakou
Special to Consortium News

Malcolm Nance, the MSNBC talking head who bills himself as an “intelligence professional,” recently quit his media gig, signed on to the so-called International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine and left to battle the Russians.  At least that’s what he wants all of us to think.  There are so many things wrong with this story that I don’t know where to begin.  So, I guess the best place to begin is at the beginning. 

I met Malcolm Nance in the spring of 2001.  I had returned from an overseas assignment as a C.I.A. counterterrorism officer to take a course called “advanced counterterrorism operations.”  As part of the class, the participants were given about a dozen books related to the latest thinking on terrorism and how to combat it. 

I knew myself pretty well.  I wasn’t going to read those books.  And I wasn’t going to haul them back overseas in a suitcase.  So, I put them on eBay for $50.  They sold a week later, and I got an email from the high bidder saying that he wanted to send me a check.  (These were the days before the now-dreaded PayPal.)  I told him that I lived in Arlington, Virginia, and he responded that he did, too.  It would be better for us just to meet up. 

A few days later, I met the high bidder, Malcolm Nance, at a bar in Arlington. I gave him the books; he gave me the check and we started talking.  He immediately began bragging that he was an “intelligence officer.” 

That’s interesting, I said.  I never told him what I did for a living.  I was a C.I.A. counterterrorism officer under cover, and so I told him that I was a federal employee active in trade and economic issues.  It was so boring that he never asked me a single question about myself.  But he went on at length about his life in “intelligence.”  


The truth is that Nance spent 20 years in the Navy.  “Intelligence” has a broad definition.  Nance was involved in cryptology, the coding and decoding of messages. His CV says he also specializes in “counter-terrorism, intelligence and information warfare.” None of that necessarily means he is a career intelligence professional, however.  And certainly nothing about his resumé qualifies him to pontificate on national television about everything from Al-Qaeda to Chinese foreign policy to Ukraine. 

Based on my interactions with him, and what I have heard about him, Nance should be taken with a grain of salt.  When he was still in an active-duty status in the military, he appeared to be less than popular with his colleagues.  One recently wrote in a military publication,

“As a retired Senior Chief (E-8), Airborne Mission Supervisor, Cryptologist, and SPECWAR operative, I have given (as most of the naval cryptologic community has) retired Senior Chief Malcolm Nance a wide berth.  Bottom line: He left the Naval Security Group in disgrace and we, our professional communities and associations, generally have a good laugh at his self-promotion, exaggeration of performance and associations, and his pretense of expertise.  The proverbial ‘eye roll’ precedes any response we give when asked about his exploits.  He has been declared persona non grata from his profession…”

Nance has often wrongfully attacked people.

Over the years, he has said bombastically on MSNBC that Green Party presidential nominee Dr. Jill Stein, “has a show on Russia Today,” the Russian government’s television network.  Not true.  Jill Stein has never had a show on RT. 

He accused award-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald of being “an agent of Moscow” and “deep in the Kremlin’s pocket.” Those are fighting words.  Legally, they have a very specific meaning.  That meaning is that Glenn Greenwald takes money from Russian intelligence to perform a task or to provide information.  The accusation is clearly and obviously a lie. 

And Nance said that “(Edward) Snowden defected to Moscow.”  That is utterly disingenuous.  Snowden never “defected” to Russia.  He was in the Moscow Airport transit lounge on his way to Ecuador when Secretary of State John Kerry revoked his passport and stranded him there.

A person who stretches his credentials (and I’ve seen this countless times over the course of my career) has to continually improve on what he claims to have done in the past.  He can’t just rest on his exaggerated laurels. 

Malcolm Nance is 60 years old.  How does he cap off such a career?  He does it by going to Ukraine to “fight for democracy.”  But is he really?  

Nance joined the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine.  That’s supposed to be a unit of the Ukrainian Army made of up international volunteers fighting the Russians.  According to The New York Times, Malcolm Nance has become the “face” of that unit, which includes somewhere between 800 and 2,000 “fighters.”  Three, including one American, have reportedly been killed since the start of the war. 

Check out the photo of Nance in this article, from a U.S. military publication.  Notice that the big, bad gun Nance is carrying doesn’t have a clip of bullets in it.  

So, what is Nance’s response to those of us who criticize him, or who wonder about his reasons for going to Ukraine?  This is what he told The Daily Beast

“If anybody gives me any fucking flak, just tell them to shut the fuck up since they’re obviously pussies who have never been in combat.” 

That’s Malcolm Nance.

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act — a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

36 comments for “JOHN KIRIAKOU: Info-Warrior Malcolm Nance

  1. LeoSun
    May 15, 2022 at 10:29

    “First impressions are lasting. If, it’s less than great—it takes a long time to change it.” If, ever….

    The take-away, “a calabash with holes cannot be filled.”

    • LeoSun
      May 15, 2022 at 10:49

      ..p.s. , “If anybody gives me any ……” (full context, above)

      Translation, “Keep Calm and Return.” NOT camouflaged but visible, on his vest, for all to read & heed.

  2. Vincent ANDERSON
    May 13, 2022 at 14:59

    Great article, great thread! An apt footnote on a gaggle of related ‘experts’ who at least have by now dropped the pretense of holding actual guns. (Cf. Aleksander Gerschonkron’s quip, ‘When I hear the word “gun” I reach for my culture.’) This just in, from WAPO:

    “Ukraine is now the top recipient of U.S. military aid. Here’s how it surpassed even Israel and Egypt.” A closer look at the WAPO Explainers’ ideological superstructure here. The Foundation for the Defense of Democracy. Check. Clearly a CIA cutout – both 501(c)(3) status and a registered foreign lobbying org. (I don’t have the dollars to click their ‘Invest’ link.) Even wikipedia gets all this:


    Just one wiki cite sums up their slant, if not their record of strategic failure: Lawrence Wilkerson has criticized FDD for “pushing falsehood in support of waging wars.” He ought to know, having drafted Powell’s WMD speech.

    Then there is Center for Strategic and International Studies. Another ‘cutout.’ A trenchant summary of Mark Cancian’s ‘hardware’ expertise can be found under a youtube search for ‘Brian Berletic’ – among the many ‘disappeared’ voices of the recent Twitter sweep.

    Now to the substructure. A plausible explanation here, the latest edition of ‘The Debate’ (5.4.22) with Francois Picard, a France 24 panel on the Ukrainian war:


    Panelist Vladislav Davidzon, of the Atlantic Council (which enjoys the longest donor list), shocked even his co-panelists, all anti-RUS, with this quip: ‘Ukraine is run by a bunch of Russian speaking Jewish elites.’ Oops. I guess he divorced his Little Russia roots in NYC.

  3. Julia Swan
    May 13, 2022 at 10:38

    In 2001 John Kiriakou returned from an overseas assignment as a C.I.A. counter terrorism officer to take a course called “advanced counter terrorism operations.” He, a so called expert on counter terrorism, was so uncommitted to his job he couldn’t be bothered to read the books so sold them to a stranger for $50. Twenty one years later he writes this piece in Consortium News bad mouthing that stranger because he feels the world should be warned the man is a fraud. Looks like a petty vendetta to me.

  4. Hey Man
    May 12, 2022 at 08:19

    Okay, here’s what’s going on with the gun
    There is a magazine inserted, but there’s no bullets in it. This is how you know: Notice that running lengthwise along the left side of the magazine there’s a clear strip. Through that strip you can see into that portion of the magazine. This is a handy feature that allows the gun’s user to see at a glance how many bullets he has left in the magazine that’s currently inserted.
    In Nance’s magazine what you can see through the clear strip is the spring that’s fixed inside to push bullets up into the rifle’s receiver after the round before it fired. The spring looks fully extended in that pic, and no bullet tips are visible. So that particular magazine, while inserted into the rifle’s port, has no bullets in it.

  5. Thomas
    May 11, 2022 at 17:50

    Nance just personifies the complete fraud that is the essence of America these days; with the retired generals pontificating about what they know of Putin’s plans, to congress with pelosi, macarthy/mcconnell, to the msm, to biden/harris, to the 50 “intell” (sic) professionals on hunter’s laptop, it is difficult to find anything remarkable or noticeable about the fraud that is nance.

    He is just another example. Done talking, indeed!

  6. teresa smith
    May 11, 2022 at 16:34

    There are few, if any, people I loathe more than Malcolm Nance. You validated my gut. Thanks, John.

  7. CharlesLutherThanos
    May 11, 2022 at 14:59

    A quick Google shows several pictures of Nance with a firearm. Some show a magazine, some don’t because his arms cover the magazine’s location. So the jury is out on that. And it’s irrelevant anyway unless the picture is intended to show him actually entering combat – which, of course, is highly unlikely. When not in combat, many times the magazine may not be inserted.

    John should also get his lingo correct. “Clips” are not magazines, and vice versa. Of course, most non-gun-interested people are influenced by Hollywood, which uses incorrect terminology.. But John is a CIA counter-terrorism officer. Presumably he went through CIA firearm training in that capacity, so he should know better.

    A “clip” is a “stripper clip” which is a device for loading ammunition into a magazine, whether detached from the firearm or (in older weapons) part of the firearm, quicker than loading single cartridges. A “magazine” is a container for cartridges which is inserted into a firearm as a single unit.

    As for the rest of John’s article, I have no way of confirming any of it, although I don’t doubt John’s word on the subject. Not that it matters. Nance is obviously an idiot for fighting for Ukraine in any event. Many of the so-called “mercenaries” who went over there rushed back home once they got a taste of modern combined arms warfare with Russia – which is no joke. We see reports from all over where the hapless “mercenary” tried to fire a Javelin at an oncoming Russian tank only to see the Javelin fail to launch, or falling short after launch, or hitting the Russian tank and having next to no effect due to reactive armor. That’s assuming the “mercenary” wasn’t blown to bits by Russian artillery in the first place.

    Ukraine has the second largest army in Europe after Turkey, and has more experience than any European army in actual combat, again, other than Turkey. And Russia is grinding them down with ten percent of its available military capability. The so-called “mercs” need to think about that.

    • JGarbo
      May 12, 2022 at 02:41

      Have I missed Nance’s frontline videos or is he too modest to brag about his Ruskie kills?

  8. David Otness
    May 11, 2022 at 14:35

    Thank you, John. I recall a previous dressing down of Nance that you did on-air, this fills in the picture nicely, especially with his ex-co-sailors giving him his rightful due.
    I know it’s probably a lot to ask, and I understand in advance a considered reluctance to do so—but raking John Brennan over the coals of his own smoldering garbage dump fire would be another act of public service, a whittling down to size considering the ‘kismet’ involved in his strange, backstabbing way to the top, especially in how he and Obama ended up in having such a profoundly negative effect on your own life. You remain a gift to We the People, but the price you paid for your integrity was extracted by no other than this brooding and of malicious countenance Mr Brennan. Never has the definition of ‘creep’ as a noun been so fulfilled.

    Considering his corporate-sponsored and no doubt highly paid ongoing propaganda career, I think it would be poetic justice to tell the real story of his CIA career as you experienced it, and how his vindictive actions tell the truth as well about a lowbrow little man who just happens to reside in a hulking body. That said, he ‘owes’ you. Bigly.

  9. Damian C
    May 11, 2022 at 14:11

    Thank you Mr. Kiriakou for your expose, although a lot more could be said about this mountebank. It’s a fair bet that Nance has never been anywhere near combat. And he may not be so stupid as to seek it in Ukraine, but it does give him credibility among the credulous. Check out his on-line degree in Arabic from a nursing college in NY that doesn’t offer Arabic curriculum. He speaks Russian and Chinese, too, because he had a few weekend sessions of instruction while in high school. On 9/11 he claims to have been driving near enough to the Pentagon to see the plane crash into it. Then he went to the bombsite and (he implies) that because of his military training he took charge (of whom and where he doesn’t say). Reminds me of that other phony counter-terrorism expert a few years back who was finally quietly dismissed as a fraud, but not before countless appearances on MSM promoting himself and war in general. He should have applied at Bellingcat to lend them some professionalism. The struggle in Ukraine needs fat old armchair warriors to complement the Azov brigades. Done talkin’, hah!

  10. RootBier
    May 11, 2022 at 13:22

    I can’t wait for Nance to get into action with his new pals Right Sector or Azov.

  11. May 11, 2022 at 12:16

    I am confused about two of Mr. Kiriakou’s statements. Those being: “Check out the photo of Nance in this article, from a U.S. military publication. Notice that the big, bad gun Nance is carrying doesn’t have a clip of bullets in it.” I am no gun expert but, the photo does not display the clip intake location. From that photo, I could not tell if the gun had a clip inserted or not. Am I looking at the wrong photo? Just askin’.

    No offense to Mr. Kiriakou. I have read and enjoyed many of his articles.

    • Tobysgirl
      May 11, 2022 at 16:25

      Look at the hole above Nance’s right hand; I think that’s where the clip would go. What a ridiculous photo! I compare that to the weary-looking Russian soldiers bringing food and medical care to people in Mariupol. How did Americans ever become such raging assholes?

  12. JTMcPhee
    May 11, 2022 at 12:03

    Sir, you are no doubt right about Vance and his beer muscles. I’d suggest, however, that you take a closer look at the picture of Vance used in the article. It does appear that there is a magazine (“clip”) in the rifle. Don’t give doubters a reason to disbelieve your important observations.

  13. Philip Reed
    May 11, 2022 at 11:51

    Good luck Malcolm. I guess you know better than “ Wali” the Canadian sniper with combat experience in Afghanistan. He just arrived back in Quebec from his dispiriting tour of the frontlines in Donbass. His comments in La Presse concerning the atrocious conditions and disarray within the Ukrainian command and control structure should make noteworthy reference material that you should peruse before going off on your testosterone adventure tour.
    And if you actually think you’re going there to fight “ for freedom”, you’re actually more of an idiotic moron than John gave you credit for. Perhaps you might want to check in with the SBU or have a chat with opposition leader Medvedchuk about the thriving state of democracy that exists in Zelensky’s Ukraine. Back articles on this site should give you a very clear picture with advice from Ukrainians who have lived through this “democratic “ paradise.

  14. torture this
    May 11, 2022 at 11:11

    I knew there was something missing. Send Rachel and Velshi and I just might consider watching MSNBC, again. prolly not

  15. bluedogg
    May 11, 2022 at 10:26

    Like any sewer, the turds always float to the top.

  16. Detroit Dan
    May 11, 2022 at 10:11

    Thanks John. Sounds like Malcolm will fit right in!

  17. May 11, 2022 at 09:23

    Opportunist? Phony? Sounds like Mister Vance fits the bill. I guess John Kiriakou is one of those unwelcome truth tellers who mess up the media narrative. Like the pandemic, the recap on what really happened in Ukraine in 2022 will take a while. People like Mister Kiriakou will be an important part of that process.

    • Andrew Nichols
      May 11, 2022 at 18:08

      No. Its Shakespeare. This man is Falstaffe the drunk fat clown who talks up his battles.

  18. susan
    May 11, 2022 at 09:20

    Malcom Nance – what a tool!

  19. mgr
    May 11, 2022 at 03:20

    The Ukrainian cause is certainly attracting miscreants from around the world. Says a lot about the cause. The banality of evil.

    • HubrisisNotstrained
      May 11, 2022 at 09:23

      “The banality of..”

      Perhaps self-culling would be more appropriate given recent trends ?

  20. Realist
    May 11, 2022 at 01:11

    Since you worked in the field, Mr. Kiriakou, perhaps you can tell me the purpose of “intelligence” activities by our government. Is it invariably supposed to be opposing the leadership and impeding all goals of a predetermined “enemy,” or is it meant to better understand the values, policies and plans of the “other side?” Is the desired outcome supposed to be harmonious co-existence allowing both sides to prosper, or the utter destruction of those demonic enemies regardless of the cost to your own people who foot the bill?

    Does it make sense that we can flip on a moment’s notice about such things? I recall how happy and pleased everyone suddenly was when Ronald Reagan ended the Cold War with Mikail Gorbachev making us co-operative “partners” and enemies no more, and I counted myself among them. Now, starting with Barack Obama and only worsening with both Trump and especially Biden, we are expected to treat Russia and Russians as the biggest pariahs in the history of the human race. I think I can surmise Mr. Nance’s definition of intelligence work from his ostentatious pronouncements on the unfortunate skirmish provoked by our own government in the Ukraine. How do you stand on the dichotomy I discern ? Or, perhaps there is no dichotomy and 99% of those working for the company are genuinely not nice people?

  21. May 11, 2022 at 00:23

    You have described someone with a textbook case of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

    • Dawn
      May 11, 2022 at 12:26


  22. rgl
    May 10, 2022 at 23:18

    “If anybody gives me any fucking flak, just tell them to shut the fuck up since they’re obviously pussies who have never been in combat.”

    That’s about as American as apple pie.

  23. Ralph Deabble
    May 10, 2022 at 21:17

    “Notice that the big, bad gun Nance is carrying doesn’t have a clip of bullets in it.”

    That “clip” is called a magazine and “bullets” are the projectile portion of the cartridges that a magazine contains. Big bad guns are often not loaded with a magazine of cartridges when not being used. That is called gun safety. I don’t know a thing about Mr. Nance but I do know it is common for a person of sixty years to have people who don’t like them so the anonymous quote provided from someone who dislikes Mr Vance is meaningless. This article provides little more than information that Mr Kiriakou, and one other person, doesn’t like Mr. Vance. It is simply gossip and conjecture.

    • Philip Reed
      May 11, 2022 at 12:11

      Fair comment. But as you say you know nothing about him until this article. But for those of us you have seen him in action on network television it’s not difficult to presume the characterizations that John provides is strikingly spot on.
      He comes across as a pompous braggart who totally lacks self awareness. I saw him once on Bill Maher when Jordan Peterson was a guest and he was on the panel. Jordan tore him to shreds ,instantly recognizing that he was the purest of charlatans. If he ever makes it into the Donbass I confidently predict he’ll be back within a couple of days, sincerely hoping not in a body bag. If “ Wali” thinks its a mess and returned to Quebec pronto, I think he’ll quickly discover that for himself.
      P.S Your needlessly pedantic condescension around the weapon wasn’t at all necessary.

      • Larry Webb
        May 12, 2022 at 22:42

        “Pedantic condescension.” Poor Ralph! The writer ridicules Vance for appearing in a photo with a “big bad gun” that doesn’t have a “clip of bullets” in it so can we call that condescension? And, by the way, in the photo there is a “clip of bullets” in the “big bad gun.” Don’t CIA officers get weapons training. My expertise on weapons comes from two long years as a conscripted enlisted man in Uncle Sam’s army and we did not call magazines “clips.” Or call “guns” guns. We called them weapons. Maybe Vance is a jerk but, like Ralph, what I see in this article is a man insulting a man he doesn’t like using anonymous gossip to support his view.

        The writer criticizes Vance as unqualified to pontificate on TV. Go turn on your TV right now, scroll through the channels and you’ll find plenty of people unqualified to pontificate on whatever subject they are pontificating on. Perhaps the writer is jealous he isn’t cashing in as Vance has. But – that’s just conjecture.

    • Tom_Q_Collins
      May 11, 2022 at 13:57

      Total nonsense. Did you not follow the links? Nance has a history of lying about people including Glenn Greenwald, Jill Stein and the author of this article. Would you care to try refuting this completely irrefutable fact?

  24. Lois Gagnon
    May 10, 2022 at 20:09

    It seems the entire establishment from government to the military to the press is littered with these types of total frauds. No one with any integrity wants to be associated with what is clearly the last faze of the US imperial project.

  25. Aaron
    May 10, 2022 at 18:52

    I wonder if Sean Penn has joined that Legion yet? He talks tough about war on t.v. all the time. And Joy Reid should also join the Legion, she is rabid about winning the war against Russia. So many celebrities are acting all macho and sound ready to fight, well it’s time for them to walk their talk and go join Nance in the Legion and hit the front lines.

    • Tobysgirl
      May 11, 2022 at 16:31

      Totally agree with you! All people who are willing to impose something on other people need to be willing to undergo it themselves. I would include Biden, Blinken, Psaki, the entire Congress, etc, etc, etc, in this group, as well as all the meat puppets on TV.

  26. Jay
    May 10, 2022 at 16:39

    Interesting story, not really a surprise that Nance is misrepresenting his credentials.

    However PayPal existed in 2001; it may have already been part of eBay. So that Nance couldn’t use the technology calls into question his computer experience — back then at least.

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