On Wednesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee approved Gina Haspel’s nomination to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency in a ten-to-five vote; and on Thursday, the full Senate voted to confirm, 54 to 45, with the help of six Democratic senators.
Last week, during Haspel’s confirmation hearing, former CIA official Ray McGovern, 78, was brutalized by Capitol Hill police officers and held overnight in jail after he interrupted the public proceedings.
This week, I spoke with McGovern, whose duties included chairing National Intelligence Estimates and preparing the President’s Daily Brief for President Ronald Reagan, to get his views on the Haspel nomination. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
James Carden: Ray, you were a CIA intelligence officer for 27 years. Do you think Haspel is some kind of aberration or a reflection of the agency post-9/11?
Ray McGovern: The sea change began in earnest with Bill Casey and Bobby Gates [Casey was CIA director from 1981–87, Gates served deputy director from 1986–89, then later as director from 1991–93]. People in analysis as well as operations got ahead according to how quickly they would salute and follow the bidding of their masters. And that accounts for the worst NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] in history, Oct 1, 2002 on the non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. By then, George Tenet [CIA director 1996–2004] had only cooperative sycophants sitting around the table; it takes roughly a generation to corrupt an institution like the agency.
Most distressing, in a way, was my personal experience, watching old colleagues, good, hardworking, until-now trusted colleagues, people like Charlie Allen [assistant director of central intelligence for collection, 1998–2005], for example—who now supports a torturer for director.
How do I explain what happened to Charlie, and so many others of my former analyst colleagues—not to mention folks I knew and, some of them I trusted, from the operations side?
After the trauma of 9/11, something happened to Charlie, and others. He was conscientious in the extreme; it was partly his fault, I’m sure he felt, and he was/is correct.
And it was Charlie, if memory serves, who warned, after the fact, that the light was “blinking red.” In other words, he was in charge of coordinating collection community-wide, and failed miserably.