Former CIA analyst discusses Iraq War, NSA

Wednesday, April 2, 2014 | 1:20 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Ray McGovern's message to you: the U.S. government isn't always telling the truth.

The former CIA analyst spoke at a social justice lecture at MU on Tuesday night on topics including the Iraq War and the Edward Snowden leaks.

He started the lecture by presenting conflicting statements from U.S. officials on events prior to 9/11. He showed a video showing that several months before 9/11, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice were assuring the public that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. Several months later, the two made a case for invading Iraq because Saddam Hussein was using weapons of mass destruction on his own people.

McGovern said there was no way these statements could all be true.

"You don't get weapons of mass destruction in a few months, or even in a few years," McGovern said.

He also said the "mistake intelligence" about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq claimed by the Bush administration was nothing but "out-and-out fraud." He said there were never weapons of mass destruction in the country, that the claim was made up to justify the war in Iraq, and analysts at the CIA were asked to forge evidence to support the claim.

McGovern said proof for this is in the fact that no photos of Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction ever surfaced.

"There were artist's renderings," McGovern said. "I know the CIA Photoshop, and they do wonderful artist's renderings when they don't have real evidence."

McGovern went on to highlight an impromptu debate he had with former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in 2006 about statements Rumsfeld made on whether the U.S. government knew if Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

He also focused on recent events involving the National Security Agency.

McGovern said the dragnet approach to data collection used by the NSA does not align with the Fourth Amendment. Those who swear an oath to uphold the Constitution, like CIA operatives, should be aware of this, he said. He described Edward Snowden as one of those people.

"He swore this oath and he wasn't going to forget about it," McGovern said.

When James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, told Congress in March 2013 that the NSA didn't collect any data on Americans, that was the last straw for Snowden, McGovern said.

McGovern met with Edward Snowden in Russia in October to present him the Sam Adams Award. This decoration, given by the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence, is named after a CIA analyst who discovered that the U.S. count of Vietnamese Communists under arms was grossly underestimated.

Because of Snowden, other whistle-blowers can now share information they might have, McGovern said.

"The bottom line for me is that the president is afraid of the NSA, he's afraid of the CIA and, if he was going to be so afraid, he shouldn't have tried to be president," McGovern said.

McGovern's career at the CIA spanned 27 years. This included being chairman of a national security committee and preparing former president Ronald Reagan's daily briefing in the 1980's. Upon his retirement, he received the Intelligence Commendation Medal for "especially meritorious service" to the CIA. He returned the medal in 2006 as a protest against the CIA's use of torture.

Recently, McGovern busies himself with activism. In 2003, he formed Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, a group of past and present intelligence officials protesting the faulty intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq. The group has issued several memos commentating on national security and foreign affairs.

McGovern is on a three-state tour hosting several talks like the one held at MU. He spoke earlier Tuesday at William Woods University in Fulton, and will speak Sunday at the Whiteman Air Force Base in Kansas City.

McGovern's talk was sponsored by the MU Peace Studies Program, legal studies at William Woods University, Mid-Missouri Peace Works, Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Veterans for Peace and the Mid-Missouri Peace Coalition.

Supervising editor is Elise Schmelzer.

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