Sunday, November 26


Veteran intelligence operative Ray McGovern paints a disturbing picture of Defense Secretary-designate Gates. Uh-oh. He turns out to be just another George Tenet. No, correct that. He was the precursor to Tenet. Not exactly what we need now, or have ever needed. When is the CIA going to revert to its original purpose, to give the president of the United States the unvarnished truth? Obviously, not under any Republican administration.

For if there is one distinctive hallmark of Eagle Scout Gates’ career, it is that he has always earned what might now be called the “Colin Powell Loyalty Patch”—loyalty to the next person up, whatever the content of their character.
Those of us who had front-row seat to watch Gates’ handling of substantive intelligence cannot overlook the manner in which he cooked it to the recipe of whomever he reported to. A protégé of William Casey, President Ronald Reagan’s CIA Director, Gates learned well from his mentor. In 1995, Gates told the Washington Post’s Walter Pincus that he watched Casey on “issue after issue sit in meetings and present intelligence framed in terms of the policy he wanted pursued.” Gates followed suit, cooking the analysis to justify policies favored by Casey and the White House.

The cooking was consequential. Among other things, it facilitated not only illegal capers like Iran-Contra but also budget-breaking military spending against an exaggerated Soviet threat that, in reality, had long since passed its peak.

I was amused to read in David Ignatius’ Washington Post column this week that Gates “was the brightest Soviet analyst in the [CIA] shop, so Casey soon appointed him deputy director overseeing his fellow analysts.” He wasn’t; and Casey had something other than expertise in mind. Talk to anyone who was there at the time (except the sycophants Gates co-opted) and they will explain that Gates’ meteoric career had mostly to do with his uncanny ability to see a Russian under every rock turned over by Casey. Those of Gates’ subordinates willing to see two Russians became branch chiefs; three won you a division. I exaggerate only a little.

To Casey, the Communists could never change; and Gorbachev was simply cleverer than his predecessors. With his earlier training in our Soviet Foreign Policy branch (and a doctorate in Soviet affairs no less), Gates knew better. Yet he carried Casey’s water, and stifled all dissent. One consequence was that the CIA as an institution missed the implosion of the Soviet Union—no small matter. Another was a complete loss of confidence in CIA analysis on the part of then-Secretary of State George Shultz and others who smelled the cooking. In July 1987 in the wake of the Iran-Contra affair, Shultz told Congress: “I had come to have grave doubts about the objectivity and reliability of some of the intelligence I was getting.”



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