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Ray McGovern

Iraq 20 Years: The Uses and Abuses of National Intelligence Estimates

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A New York Times Magazine article in July 2020 focused on then Secretary of State Powell and his U.N. speech of Feb. 5, 2003 and the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) upon which it is largely based. A lot of the detail in the article may have been new to many readers, but not 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.

Robert Draper’s article describes how, despite C.I.A.’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.

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.”
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Biden Reneged – Now Russian Army Will Talk

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A year ago today (on Dec. 30, 2021) US President Joe Biden, in a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, assured him that "Washington had no intention of deploying offensive strike weapons in Ukraine.”

Against that backdrop, bilateral talks in Geneva to start on January 9, 2022 seemed off to a promising start. The Kremlin clearly thought so. Then Biden changed his mind. The key issue of offensive missiles on Russia’s borders fell off the table.

Glimmer of Hope on Dec. 30

The day after the Dec. 30 Biden-Putin conversation, the Kremlin published this readout:

"The conversation focused on the implementation of the agreement to launch negotiations on providing Russia with legally binding security guarantees, reached during the December 7 [Putin-Biden] videoconference to launch negotiations … Vladimir Putin … stressed that the negotiations needed to produce solid legally binding guarantees ruling out NATO’s eastward expansion and the deployment of weapons that threaten Russia in the immediate vicinity of its borders. …"
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Americans Dumbed Down on Russia

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Five years ago today (Dec. 5th), Congress learned from sworn, horse’s-mouth testimony that there is no technical evidence that Russia (or anyone else) hacked the DNC emails showing how the DNC had stacked the deck against Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton’s rival for the Democratic nomination.

I can almost hear readers new to this website cry out in disbelief: "That cannot be. Official Washington and the media assured us that the Russians hacked those emails in order to help Trump win. And didn’t Obama throw out 35 Russian diplomats in reaction? And what about those 12 Russian intelligence agents indicted for hacking?" Were US officials and media mistaken?

No, not mistaken. They were lying.

"But … but, does this mean Special Counsel Robert Mueller knew there was no concrete evidence of Russian hacking just six months into his 22-month investigation into Trump-Russia collusion?"
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Ukraine: Will US Back Off as Russia Did on Cuba?

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Sixty years ago today (October 28) the US and Russia stepped back from the brink of nuclear war by making a deal. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev would yield to President John F. Kennedy’s demand that Soviet missiles be removed from Cuba; Kennedy pledged not to invade. There is an instructive analogy with Ukraine today.

Soviet documents that were revealed after the USSR imploded show how this all went down – and how we all would have "gone down," literally, were it not for the statesmanlike behavior of both leaders and their acute realization of the stakes involved.

Some of what I include below is drawn from a book by Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali that is based on those documents. They called it One Hell of a Gamble: The Secret History of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The book is one hell of a book. US officials now dealing with the war in Ukraine would profit immensely by reading chapters 12 to 14.

On October 28, 1962, Khrushchev wrote Kennedy:

"I thank you for the sense of proportion you have displayed. … The Soviet Government has given a new order to dismantle the arms which you describe as offensive, and to crate and return them to the Soviet Union."

And so, we all got to live another 60 years – so far.
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Putin: If Finns, Swedes Get NATO ‘Military Infrastructure,’ We’ll Respond

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On May 16, just before I was interviewed for The Critical Hour, Putin addressed Finland’s and Sweden’s plans to join NATO, using words far milder than had most expected:

“Russia has no problems with these states. There is no direct threat to Russia in connection with NATO’s expansion to these countries.”

Then, the kicker:

“But the expansion of NATO’s military infrastructure to these territories will certainly evoke a response on our part. We will see what it will be like based on the threats that are created for us.”

So Who’s Already Got ‘NATO’s Military Infrastructure’?

The interview with The Critical Hour, provided an opportunity to underscore what the Russians seems to fear the most — the emplacement of what they call “offensive strike missiles” in sites near Russia’s border. In other words, THAT kind of “military infrastructure”. For several years Putin has complained that so-called “ABM” sites already completed in Romania and almost complete in Poland can be converted overnight into launchers for “offensive strike missiles” — Tomahawk cruise missiles, for example, and, later, hypersonic ones.
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What the Media Still Isn’t Telling You About Russiagate

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Two years ago last Saturday (May 7, 2020) Adam Schiff (D, California), Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, was forced to perform what Nixon co-conspirator John Ehrlichman famously called a "modified limited hangout."

On that day, Schiff released sworn testimony that there was zero technical evidence that Russia – or anyone else – hacked those DNC emails so prejudicial to Hillary Clinton (later published by WikiLeaks).

Now, please, before you put me in Putin’s or Trump’s pocket, read on: The testifier was Shawn Henry, the head of the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike. For reasons former FBI Director James Comey would never really explain, he deferred to CrowdStrike to do the forensic work on the DNC computers that were supposedly "hacked." Comey told Congress that CrowdStrike "would share with us what they saw."

In June 2019, it was revealed that CrowdStrike never produced an un-redacted or final forensic report for the government because the FBI never required it to, according to the Justice Department.

Are you starting to smell a rat? What about the "modified limited hangout"?
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Old Soldier Mark Milley Should ‘Fade Away’

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A week after President Harry Truman fired WWII war hero Gen. Douglas MacArthur in April 1951, MacArthur addressed a joint session of Congress with some self-pity about being overruled and under-appreciated by that civilian Truman: "Old soldiers never die – they just fade away."

MacArthur had publicly criticized Truman for denying him permission to nuke "Red China" after it sent troops into Korea to fight US troops there. That was in April 1951, 70 years ago. Truman explained: "I fired him because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President…I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was."

Given, comparisons can be invidious, but the most charitable explanation for the behavior of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs 4-star Gen. Gen. Mark Milley – and the explanation most often adduced by those who know him – is that he merits the sobriquet Truman gave to 5-star MacArthur. I tend to be less charitable, seeing Milley as insubordinate and duplicitous, and – most important – trying to illegally insert himself into the sensitive chain of command to authorize the use of nuclear weapons.
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Plenty of Intelligence To Prevent 9/11

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Shortly before 9/11 the National Security Agency (NSA) asked Thomas Drake to join its senior staff. As things turned out, Sept. 11 was his first day on the job. Already au courant with key NSA programs via his earlier contract work, Tom was immediately tasked to find out how much information NSA had on terrorist attacks before 9/11.

Drake found an embarrassing abundance of such information. But when he told top NSA management, his investigation was abruptly shut down. On Jan. 7, 2014 in a VIPS Memorandum prepared for President Obama, “NSA Insiders Reveal What Went Wrong.”

Drake wrote: “Make no mistake. That data [collected and analyzed by NSA] could have, should have prevented 9/11.”

As the post-9/11 months dragged on, Drake had to listen to NSA Director Michael Hayden’s gloating over the ease with which he was able to hide NSA’s egregious performance. It is a good guess that a huge part of that “ease” can be attributed to protection by Hayden’s very powerful patron, Vice President Dick Cheney. It is clear that the Vice President played a key role in “authorizing” unconstitutional surveillance. It is also possible that, BEFORE the 9/11 attacks, Hayden shared with Cheney some of the alarming evidence NSA had collected but otherwise kept to itself.
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New York Times Pushing the Envelope on Russia

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If Wednesday morning’s passive-voice ("Russian hackers are accused of"), evidence-free New York Times article titled "Attempted Hack of R.N.C. and Russian Ransomware Attack Test Biden" has a familiar ring, look who wrote it. The senior author is David Sanger, the NYT’s chief Washington correspondent. Based on Sanger’s unenviable record, the story he wrote with Nicole Perlroth can be dismissed as a proverbial nothingburger with Sanger sauce.

The article claims that Russian hackers breached a contractor for the Republican National Committee (RNC) last week "around the same time that Russian cybercriminals launched the largest global ransomware attack on record". Sanger and co-author Nicole Perlroth cannot resist editorializing in the first paragraph that the "incidents are testing the red lines set by President Biden" at the June 16 summit with Russian President Putin. Biden, they noted, "presented Mr. Putin with a list of 16 critical sectors of the American economy that, if attacked, would provoke a response".

The NY Times does not seem to know if the RNC is included among those 16. Indeed, there is little sign that the Times actually knows what those 16 critical sectors are. No worries, the Russians nonetheless "are accused" of activities that "test those red lines".

The Times, and Sanger in particular, have shown themselves receptive to parts of our government (especially the security services) as well as to those who need an enemy to justify huge defense spending – all of whom have a deep vested interest in painting Russia and Putin in the most dangerous colors. It is a safe bet that this is what is going on here.
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