You are herecontent / President-elect's Queries to Briefers

President-elect's Queries to Briefers

By Ray McGovern,

After a week lecturing at Kansas State University and then in Kansas City, Missouri, I could not shake the feeling that what Kansas and Missouri need most is the equivalent of Radio Free Europe, which was so effective in spreading truth around inside Eastern Europe during the Cold War.

(Truth in advertising: during the late Sixties, I served for two years as substantive liaison officer between the RFE and Washington.)

So I was amused while still in Kansas to get a call from Mike Caddell of “Radio Free Kansas” asking me for an interview. Broadcasting from rural northeastern Kansas, Caddell does his own part in spreading truth around.

Most of his fellow Kansans are malnourished by a steady diet of extreme right-wing media gruel that helps re-elect folks like see-no-evil Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, who did Bush’s bidding in “justifying” Bush’s attack on Iraq when Roberts headed the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Caddell called me on Thursday, expressing excitement at the beginning of daily intelligence briefings of President-elect Barack Obama by the CIA.

Aware that I helped prepare the President’s Daily Brief for Presidents Nixon and Ford, and that I conducted one-on-one PDB briefings of Reagan’s most senior advisers during the latter’s administration, Caddell wanted me to tape a telephone interview to run on his show this weekend.

He asked what I would tell President-elect Barack Obama if I were Mike Morell, the chief CIA analyst assigned to brief Obama daily.

What fun, I thought. On more sober reflection, it seemed more useful to prepare questions of the kind President-elect Obama might wish to ask Morell, since the briefings are supposed to be a two-way street.

Obama is no shrinking violet. Just the same, it may be useful to warn him not to succumb to the particular brand of “shock and awe” that can be induced by ostensibly sexy intelligence to color reactions of briefees, including presidents. I have seen it happen.

The president-elect needs to start asking hard questions. Now. Here are some he might want to select for his next briefing:

1. The lead story in Friday’s New York Times undercuts the claims of Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili that he was acting in self-defense when he ordered his troops to fire artillery and rockets at the city of Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia. The new information comes from international monitors of the highly respected Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and, oddly, is much closer to the Russian version of what happened.

Task: A two-page memo on who started the fighting and why? Deadline: Monday

2. A National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) produced last November concluded that Iran’s work on the nuclear-weapons part of its nuclear development program was suspended in mid-2003. National Intelligence Council director Thomas Fingar repeated that judgment publicly on Sept. 4, 2008.

I want to know how that squares — or doesn’t — with the claim by neoconservative icon Norman Podhoretz, just hours after the NIE’s key judgments were made public, that Iran is “hell-bent on developing nuclear weapons,” and why Podhoretz would go on to charge that the intelligence community was trying to “undermine George W. Bush.” I notice, incidentally, that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has parroted Podhoretz’s “hell-bent” phraseology, and that your boss, CIA Director Michael Hayden, has also publicly volunteered his “personal opinion” that this is so.

Task: A memo updating the judgments of the Nov. 07 NIE, as necessary. Deadline: Nov. 14

3. My aides have been telling me that, when speaking of the recent decrease in violence in Iraq, I have been mis-overestimating, so to speak, the success of the surge while mis-underestimating factors like the sectarian cleansing in Baghdad, the decision to pay Sunnis not to shoot at U.S. forces, and the decision of Muqtada al-Sadr to hold Shia fire pending the withdrawal of U.S. forces, which the Shia see as just a matter of time.

Task: A memo ranking the reasons for the downturn in violence in order of relative importance. It should address all these factors; it should also explain why the U.S. has several thousand more troops in Iraq now than were there before the surge came and went. Deadline: Nov. 19

4. Confusion reigns with respect to what is likely to happen when U. S. forces withdraw from Iraq. That administration officials and U.S. Army generals know better what to expect than the Iraqis themselves strains credulity. It has become increasingly clear that the Iraqi government and people believe they themselves can handle whatever comes once we depart, and that they consider the large U.S. troop presence part of the problem, not the solution.

Task: A memo addressing why the Iraqis are more relaxed about a U.S. troop withdrawal than most U.S. officials and pundits. Deadline: Nov. 21

5. No outsiders have been able to prevail in Afghanistan. What makes us think the U.S. can, no matter how many troops it chooses to recruit and insert?

Task: A formal National Intelligence Estimate on prospects for Afghanistan. Deadline: Jan. 9, 2009

6. Nuclear nonproliferation: The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently proposed a nuclear-free zone as the best way to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. I want to know why this proposal never gets off the ground. What are the obstacles?

Task: A memo addressing this in historical perspective. Deadline: Nov. 26

7. Peak Oil: the juncture at which demand keeps growing sharply while supply stagnates/recedes. Some say we are already there. What does the intelligence community think? Related question: Is it likely that China, India and other key countries regard the invasion of Iraq as the first resource war of the 21st Century?

Task: A memorandum addressing these questions. Deadline: Dec. 1

8. My advisers tell me that senior intelligence officials, including the principal deputy to National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell, have been briefing the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a creature of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Task: Please ask McConnell to let my staff know what other policy advocacy institutes his subordinates have briefed. Deadline: Nov. 10

9. Mike, one of my aides has read carefully through the memoir of your former boss, ex-CIA director George Tenet, who speaks very highly of you. The reader gets the clear impression you were one of his protégés; he appointed you personal briefer to President George W. Bush.

Now two questions for you, Mike:

(1) Tenet told his British counterpart, Sir Richard Dearlove, on July 20, 2002, that the “intelligence was being fixed around the policy” of invading Iraq to bring “regime change” there. (I refer, of course, to the so-called “Downing Street Minutes” of Dearlove’s briefing of British Prime Minister Tony Blair on July 23, 2002.) Did you know, Mike, the intelligence was being “fixed?”

(2) Tenet also says in his memoirs that you “coordinated the CIA review” of Colin Powell’s speech at the U.N. on Feb. 5, 2003. Your comment?

Nothing personal, Mike. But with all due respect, you will be able to understand why I would like to start with a fresh slate. Please inform your management that I would prefer a briefer untainted by the intelligence fiasco regarding Iraq. Add that I am offended that they would send me someone so closely associated with George Tenet, the consummate “fixer” of intelligence.

And please do not forget to pass along to your successor the requests I have made.

Thank you.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, publications outreach of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. His career as a CIA analyst spanned seven administrations, and included responsibility for chairing NIEs. He is now a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

To all of you who enjoy watching RAY MCGOVERN don't miss out this long and very insteresting "Spy Symposium". He speaks three times

The spy who tried to stop a war (video)

Spy Symposium, American University, Washington DC, September 24, 2008

Someone asked Obama today in a Press Meeting: If he has changed his position in key issues, after being Briefed directly by the CIA. He did not comment.

I hope HE DID in particular about the "IRAN NUCLEAR THREAD" and the "RUSSIAN INVASION OF GEORGIA".

We spend today 2 BILLION DOLLARS A DAY in "NATIONAL DEFENSE" that's the legacy of eight years of NEOCON-PENTAGON LIES AND MASS PROPAGANDA.


OOOPS! It appears he DIDN'T change his position on IRAN:

Today Press TV:

Obama recites Bush on Iran
Fri, 07 Nov 2008 23:06:57 GMT

The US President-elect Barack Obama has accused Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons and lending support to terrorist organizations.

Compound that comment with the fact that he met with AIPAC less than 12 hours after victory and it gets even creepier... I was consoled by his qualifier however, that it was "not going to be a kneejerk reaction but one building on international consensus". (...look between the lines: only the dwindling neocons of the US, Great Britain and Israel want to attack Iran, everyone else has already shelved it Publicly...)

I have been and will be watching this more than any other issue, and I'm hoping he's smoothing the transition by offering everyone what they want until he's Commander in Chief. We'll know within the first 6 months if we've been duped once again by the Military Industrial Government or not... nothing like more bombs flying to prove me wrong, but I don't think it's going that way for reasons bigger than the US presidency.


10. To what degree and proportion does the US intelligence community spend its current resources on projecting/protecting each of the following National Interests: oil, uranium, US dollar hegemony, legal drugs, illegal drugs and weapons traffic?

Task: Please take your time proceeding, I will be Ordering a Presidential Truth And Reconciliation Commission to give a parallel response by July 4th, 2009.

11. How many Iraqi's and how many Afghani's really have died as a result of US Aggression, and include the number of Orphans, crippled, and totals of destroyed infrastructure ie., hospitals, press offices, water supplies, electrical distribution and generating facilities, historic structures, archeological preserves/museums, agricultural fields, schools, vehicles, and other important materials like shoes, clothing, blankets, dishes, grocery stores/markets?

Task: The Truth And Reconciliation Commission will need your very best answer to compare against open-source intelligence by no later than May 1st, 2009.

12. To what degree of accuracy did the 9/11 Commission ascertain and publish the relevant culprits, logistics, execution and factors that led to the failure of $400 Billion Dollar/year US Defenses over the Eastern Seaboard on 9/11/01?

Task: It will be your assignment to provide the Truth And Reconciliation Commission's 9/11 Questions Inquiry with all relevant assessments, including that of Gagged Whistleblowers and foreign and domestic financial interests, and help the US government Finally Satisfy the other 70% of Victim's Family Outstanding Questions along with those of serious academic organizations currently "radicalizing" large numbers of people around the world who don't believe a thing we've told them. We must stop this 9/11 radicalization movement before it leads to a crime.

I am Barack The Obama, and I approved this message!


Obama's first press conference (Hilton hotel, Chicago, November 7 2008):

> "Iran's development of a nuclear weapon I believe is unacceptable."

Barack Obama beating his wife I believe is unacceptable.

> "Iran's support of terrorist organizations, I think, is something that has to cease."

Barack Obama's support of terrorist organizations, I think, is something that has to cease.

Inventing facts, asserted as an implied premise, this is the fingerprint of a large cabal of liars, some, Obama has drawn into his circle.

I offer two more hard questions, for Ray McGovern's excellent list, for the president-elect to ask his intelligence briefer ("President-elect's Queries to Briefers"):

1. The IAEA later investigated and dismissed every factual assertion, promoted by the U.S., which prompted the IAEA board of governors (2006) to refer Iran's uranium enrichment program to the U.N. Security Council. And, Mohammad ElBaradei recently said, the IAEA has seen no credible evidence that Iran has ever worked on a nuclear weapon.

Yet, the U.S. NIE on Iran (2007) asserts high confidence that Iran did just that, prior to 2003.

What evidence have we concealed from the IAEA which accounts for this NIE assertion.

Task: Full NIE on Iran, plus transcript, audio, list of participants, of each meeting leading to the drafting and adoption of this NIE assertion. Deadline: Nov. 30.

Task: A written summary of this evidence, with the names of all those approving, and dissenting from, the summary. Deadline: Dec. 31.

Task: A presentation of all raw intelligence, supporting the NIE assertion, each analysis of each item of such intelligence, with the name of its analyst(s), including dissenter(s). Deadline: Jan. 21.

2. The U.S. designation that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism (January 19 1984) is mainly grounded on its support for Hezbullah (Lebanon) and Hamas (Palestine), each U.S. designated (1997) a "terrorist organization." Iran first offered financial support for Hamas in 2006, after Hamas won the Palestine election (Jan. 25), Israel confiscated Palestine's tax revenues, and the U.S. threatened any bank which transferred foreign donations to Hamas.

Task: A report on who and when decided that the law of belligerent reprisals was to be disregarded when making these designations (this law legalizes violence normally termed "terrorism"). Deadline: March 15.

Task: A copy of all documents on the law of belligerent reprisals, every legal opinion (every unissued draft opinion), transcript, audio, written memo, or record of any description -- in every part of the government and every contractor and consultant whenever in the pay of the government -- pertaining to this question, including a complete list of every participant including every dissenter. Deadline: May 15.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.


Support This Site


Get free books and gear when you become a supporter.



Speaking Truth to Empire


Families United


Ray McGovern


Financial supporters of this site can choose to be listed here.



Find the perfect Purple Bridesmaid Dresses for your bridesmaids from




Ca-Dress Long Prom Dresses Canada
Ca Dress Long Prom Dresses on

Buy Books

Get Gear

The log-in box below is only for bloggers. Nobody else will be able to log in because we have not figured out how to stop voluminous spam ruining the site. If you would like us to have the resources to figure that out please donate. If you would like to receive occasional emails please sign up. If you would like to be a blogger here please send your resume.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.