Testimony of Ray McGovern
Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
Introduction: (45-second video clip from 'Breaking the Silence' by John Pilger showing former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice making the following remarks)
'Saddam Hussein has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.' Colin Powell, Feb. 24, 2001
'We are able to keep his arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt.' Condoleezza Rice, July 29, 2001
We just saw Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice saying in 2001 that Iraq had no significant 'weapons of mass destruction' (WMD) and was not even a threat to his immediate neighbors.
Just a few months later, after 9/11, the story abruptly changed. Suddenly, Iraq had WMD and posed an immediate threat not only to its neighbors but to the United States as well.
How to explain?
The Downing Street minutes and other British official documents help a lot. The minutes are the official account of the briefing that the head of MI-6 (the British CIA), just back from Washington, gave to Prime Minister Tony Blair on July 23, 2002.
I would like to thank publicly the courageous whistleblowers that leaked the documents and Rupert Murdoch's Sunday Times of London, which published them. Thanks to them, we now have an official record, acknowledged as authentic by Tony Blair himself'the kind of evidence after which intelligence analysts'not to mention lawyers'positively lust.
By now you know what it says: i. e., President Bush has decided to send U.S. forces to effect 'regime change' in Iraq, claiming that Iraq has WMD and may give such weapons to terrorists. This, despite a warning from British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw that the evidence that Iraq has WMD is 'thin.' No problem. The minutes record the head of MI-6 as saying, 'The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.'
But how exactly is this 'fixing' accomplished?
Rather than speak in generalities, let's do AOL'the Anatomy Of a Lie. We only have time to look at one.
Here's how it works:
On August 26, 2002, less than five weeks after the briefing at 10 Downing Street, Vice President Dick Cheney gave a major speech, in which he said:
'We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Among other sources, we've gotten this from the firsthand testimony of defectors'including Saddam's own son-in-law.'
This was a lie.
Saddam's son-in-law, Hussein Kamel told us just the opposite when he defected in 1995.
You can find it on page 13 of his debriefing report. He said: 'All weapons ' biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed.'
How did Kamel know this? He was in charge; they were destroyed in July 1991 at his order, to prevent the UN inspectors from finding them. And EVERYTHING ELSE he told us about Iraq's WMD programs checked out.
Cheney's lie would have been allowed to stand, were it not for the conscience of another patriotic whistleblower who gave the text of Kamel's debriefing to Newsweek, as the drumbeat for war grew ever louder in early 2003.
Newsweek broke the story on February 24, 2003 just a few weeks before the attack on Iraq, but U.S. media suppressed the information. When Reuters asked then-CIA spokesman, Bill Harlow, about it, he pulled out his entire tray of adjectives, branding the report 'incorrect, bogus, wrong, untrue.' The British government took the same line. It did not seem to matter to the press that the evidence was documentary'from the official report of the debriefing of Kamel.
So that's how it works. That's how you 'fix' intelligence. All you need is chutzpah, a very flexible attitude toward truth, sleeping 'watchdog' committees in Congress, and a supine press eager to accept official explanations'however disingenuous.
Cheney played a superb role in fabricating out of whole cloth a nuclear threat from Iraq, putting wind behind all those 'mushroom clouds' conjured up by the president and Condoleezza Rice to deceive you in the Congress into voting for war.
It worked masterfully. In a 27-year career one encounters many examples of attempts to trim the truth, or as the British minutes put it, 'fix the intelligence and facts around the policy.' It is in the woodwork; it is part of the political scene.
But I had never known 'fixing' to include a vice president arrogating the right to turn a key piece of intelligence on its head.
Nor had I, in all those years, ever known a sitting vice president to make multiple visits to CIA Headquarters to put in the fix.
And this is but one example.
There is no word to describe the reaction of professional intelligence officers, active and alumni, to the eagerness of intelligence community managers to play the role of accomplice in such deceit. 'Outrage' does not even come close.
And I do not speak only of the corruption of intelligence, unconscionable as it was. We feel even more strongly about the deliberate subversion of the Constitution of the United States, which all of us'ALL of us'swore to protect and defend.
We are not talking about Georgetown parlor games, or'worse still'White House fraternity jokes. These are consequential lies, death-dealing lies.
The establishment press and politicians were all yucking it up at the annual dinner of the Radio and TV News Correspondents on March 24 last year, as photos were displayed showing the president looking behind his office furniture for WMD'with Bush saying 'They've got to be somewhere...nope, no weapons over there...maybe under here?'
I'll tell you who was not laughing. Cindy Sheehan right next to me, who lost her son in Iraq 11 days later.
Also not laughing were the father and brother of Sgt. Sherwood Baker, killed 33 days later on a mission to find WMD in Iraq FOUR MONTHS AFTER CIA inspector David Kay reported there were none. Sgt. Baker's father and brother are also here with us today.
'You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free' is chiseled into the marble entrance of CIA headquarters.
Well, thanks to the Downing Street documents, we now know a good deal more of the truth.
The question for us is whether we have enough respect for the Constitution, and enough courage, that we will hold accountable the purveyors of consequential falsehood, so that the truth can truly set us free.