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In this segment of Reality Asserts Itself, Paul Jay and former CIA analyst Ray McGovern discuss the relationship between seeking to be the world’s single superpower and the resulting need to suppress dissent at home. This is an episode of Reality Asserts Itself, produced November 4, 2013.
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore. And welcome to Reality Asserts Itself.
We are continuing our interview with Ray McGovern, who now joins us in the studio.
Thanks for joining us again, Ray.
RAY MCGOVERN, RETIRED CIA ANALYST: Welcome.
JAY: So Ray, in case you don’t know, is a former CIA analyst. He’s now a political activist. He’s–was instrumental in founding the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence. He’s a cofounder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.
Thank you. And I know you actually have found some veterans and professionals with some sanity. It’s somewhat of a–.
MCGOVERN: And with some conscience.
JAY: You have. I’ve actually been quite impressed. You know, I got politicized during Vietnam days, and then we had no idea there actually were anyone like you in the CIA.
MCGOVERN: Thanks a lot.
JAY: You were all the bad guys.
I’m going to pick up–part one of the interview I suggest you watch, ’cause I’m going to kind of pick up on something we talked about in part one. You said that the Constitution defends people’s rights at home and that should be respected in an ironclad way–my words, but that’s what you meant. But you understand the need for adult intelligence abroad, meaning don’t do something stupid like spy on Merkel, but you might do something else that’s required.
MCGOVERN: That’s correct. Yeah.
JAY: I want to push back a little bit on that, which is, with U.S. foreign policy as it is, with the basic mindset of the American elite, whether it’s represented by Republicans or Democrats in terms of their leadership, that you will necessarily violate the Constitution at home if you have this mindset abroad.
And let me just quickly–from right after World War II, with the development of Truman and the national security state and the fighting of the Cold War and the beginnings of the fight against national liberation movements and anything that smelled anything like socialism anywhere in the world, you have at home the House Un-American Activities Committee. You have McCarthyism, which, if they had had the NSA kind of spying in those days–and I’m sure they did as much as they could in terms of listening to phones, but they were going after everybody. I mean, they were going–ordinary teachers and union members and actors. And let me emphasize how much it was directed against trade unions to get rid of militants.
Jump ahead. The Vietnam War creates the conditions at home for the criminalizing of dissent, and even to the point of shooting students on university campuses. You know.
Jump ahead. And, of course, I’m missing all kinds of stuff in between. The ambition, objective, which actually gets enunciated most clearly by Zbigniew Brzezinski–if you want to, you know, run the world, you’d better dominate Eurasia, and Brzezinski works for Jimmy Carter, a Democrat. And I’m not saying that Brzezinski was saying anything that a Kissinger wouldn’t, a Republican, but the desire to dominate the world, dominate Eurasia, leads to the arming of jihadists in Afghanistan and gives rise to bin Laden, gives rise to 9/11, you know, in terms of not just that thread but the whole issue of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and attitude towards Israel and so on and so on, you wind up getting 9/11, which becomes a whole new rationale for spying on Americans at home.
What I’m saying is you cannot disconnect the two, that if you seek hegemony abroad, you will violate people’s rights at home. And if you really want to deal with this issue of the development of a security state that violates people’s constitutional rights at home, then people have to also take a stand against this kind of superpower activities abroad.
MCGOVERN: Paul, you don’t understand. America is the sole exceptional country in the world, the soul indispensable country in the world. Now, if you know the antonym for indispensable, it’s dispensable. Okay? So the rest of you Canadians, everybody else, are dispensible by definition. Okay? The president said that. He said that as recently as just a couple of months ago. And Putin of all places–of all persons says, you know, you ought to be careful giving the impression that your country is so exceptional that it can do what it wants around the world.
Now, the answer to this is that after World War II, that’s when we became the sole remaining superpower in the world. Russia was decimated, 30 million people killed. You know, Europe was in ashes. We had to devise a policy. And what did we do? George Kennan, who used to be my hero, George Kennan, head of the policy planning staff at State Department, policy planning paper number one, we comprise–we dominate 50 percent of the world’s national resources but comprise only 6.3 percent of its population. Therefore our policy has to be devised in such a way as to maintain this equilibrium. We can’t be diverted by thoughts about soft power or democracy or civil rights. The time will come when we have to exert hard straight power.
JAY: Yeah, if you want to consume 50 percent of the world’s resources, then you do what it takes.
MCGOVERN: That’s right. So that’s the policy, okay? And that’s 1948. First policy.
Now, what happened? He’s instrumental in setting up an intelligence agency that is far from what President Truman wanted, an analysis shop to tell him what was going on in the world, with a clandestine collection part, which would give us some spies to tell us that kind of information. And Kennan says, no, let’s put these OSS guys, these people that overturn governments, these people that, you know, can really operate abroad, let’s put them in with these analysts. What happens? Well, these operators get all the money and all the attention, and when this upstart, Mosaddegh, in Iran gets this weird notion that the oil underneath the sands of Iran should be–you know, should go to the benefit of the Iranian people at least, and he doesn’t realize it all belongs to British Petroleum, well, the British take this by the–you know, MI6 says, okay, you fledgling CIA, you’re only six years old; this is what you do. So we–.
Now, was that a smart thing?
JAY: Overthrew Mosaddegh.
MCGOVERN: Overthrow Mosaddegh, yeah. And, you know, BP emerge.
Now, what were the results of that? Well, we know what–the results of that. We can see them today.
So what we have is a sort of myopic view of what the world is like. It goes in four-year cycles, or two-year cycles if you talk about Congress, four-year cycles about what would be good for politicians. And it hinders the achievement of a broad policy that could be based, despite George Tenet’s disavowal of this, on a certain degree of altruism. You know? On a certain degree of recognition that we’re all in this together. And, God, if we don’t come to that now with, what, 7 billion people in the world and resources going down the drain, we’ll never do that. But the political cycle makes that very different.
Now, with respect to the intelligence services, you know, this goes in waves as well. After Vietnam, after all those abuses, after Bill Colby, the head of the CIA, to his credit, decided he would be a lawyer and obey the law and testify to Congress about the incredible abuses that took place in the ’50s and ’60s by the CIA, after the FISA law was put it in in ’78, this Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which prohibited precisely the kinds of things that NSA is doing now–.
JAY: And it has become a kind of rubberstamp for the NSA.
MCGOVERN: Yeah, now it’s become a complete–. So these things do go in circle–in cycles. And I’m hopeful that out of all this, with the help of some of our allies that know what it’s like to live under a different kind of regime, you know, know what it’s like to live under fascism–let’s say the word–that we can come to our senses, and maybe some leadership will come to the top and say, well, you know, President Obama, you know, you think you can’t deal with these security types, you don’t have the backbone or you don’t want to risk the political costs it would take, but you really can, because the American people are fed up with this kind of stuff.
JAY: But there’s no reason to think President Obama doesn’t share the same mindset. In fact, there’s every reason to think he does.
MCGOVERN: Well, share the same mindset of–.
JAY: Which–that the United States needs to project power abroad, and to do so, if you have to curtail rights at home, you do so.
MCGOVERN: Well, you know, I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter, because even if he thought that, even if he thought the better of that, he doesn’t seem to have the backbone implant that he needs to stand up to those.
JAY: Doesn’t even articulated anything, any–. He more or less justifies it.
MCGOVERN: Well, his–well, in some of his speeches he does. But the point is that as far as Obama is concerned, he is intimidated.
JAY: But I guess what I’m saying is I’m kind of less speaking to the elites here, ’cause I don’t think the elites are going to change much, except for one thing. There are sections of the elites that don’t want to get spied on by other sections of the elite. I mean, I saw Hayden on TV a couple of months ago, and Hayden was–Hayden’s the former head of the CIA and is right in the–.
MCGOVERN: And NSA too.
JAY: NSA. And NSA.
JAY: Both. Yeah. And Hayden was defending all this. But all of a sudden he was upset about something, and he says, who exactly authorized the spying on Petraeus? Now he’s concerned, ’cause, like, one of his guys actually got, you know, listened to. So, I mean, there are fractures in the elite who don’t like this ’cause they may be on it. And I’m sure, you know, Congress, there’s a lot of congressmen who don’t want to be listened to, ’cause what if some of that leaks, some of the stuff they’re up to, both in terms of their personal life and what–all the money they get in the connection between policy and receiving money? So within the elite there’s fractures.
But I’m kind of talking to more ordinary people who find foreign policy abstract, who think what happens over there doesn’t affect me. And what I’m saying, I guess, is, number one, not only are you paying for it, and as a result–. Like, in an ordinary worker in the United States pays about the same taxes a Canadian worker does. You know, Canadian workers get a health care policy, and here you get a Pentagon that spends almost $1 trillion a year. But to speak to what’s happening now, the issue of people’s constitutional rights, it is affecting you, because it’s–that foreign policy creates the condition and the rationale for violating all these rights that people consider at the core of what it is to be an American.
MCGOVERN: You’re right. And one of the major problems is the military leadership and the way it gets to be–gets to the top. When Hayden was told by Dick Cheney very early–before 9/11, mind you–forget about that first commandment out of NSA, okay, forget about the commandment that says thou shalt not eavesdrop on Americans without a court warrant, forget about it, okay, before 9/11, okay, Hayden said, okay, I’ll do that, despite his constitutional oath to defend the Fourth Amendment and everything else.
Now, earlier heads of the NSA, Bill Odom, for example, said, as soon as he realized that, that Hayden should be court-martialed. Okay? And Bobby Ray Inman, who was sort of the father of the NSA, who helped actually with the wording of the FISA act, said what Hayden did was clearly illegal, was clearly beyond what FISA, what the FISA law–.
Okay. Now, I heard Inman say that one Thursday. And the next Thursday, I’m in with Lou Dobbs’s blue room, okay, and I’m going to talk about my little debate with Rumsfeld. And in rushes Bobby Ray Inman. You know, he’s got no tie on. So they put it on. And they say, what are you talking about? Hayden’s nomination. He’s just been nominated to be the CIA director. I said, oh! I said, great. Tell them what you told the New York Library folks there a week ago when Bobby Ray Inman said, look, what Hayden did was beyond the law, it’s illegal, and I know, and I even put wording in that FISA law saying you can’t do anything else that’s not expressly put in this law! [incompr.] go at it! So I’m watching a monitor. Lou Dobbs: Admiral Inman, what do you think of Michael Hayden becoming the head of the CIA? He said, I couldn’t pick a more qualified person. He’s an excellent–he’s very bright and he’s devoted to our country. And he comes out, and I say, what the hell happened there? And he just–he’s out of there. [incompr.]
Well, that’s how it works. You know, they were all in this together [incompr.] except people like Bill Odom, who was really furious. He said, Hayden, you know, we take this oath to the Constitution. I take that seriously. Every other NSA director before me, Bill Odom says, did. And to watch that happen, that’s not a trivial thing. Okay? That’s the Fourth Amendment. And that’s what, you know, the Third Reich just–they had a similar provision in their Constitution in 1933. All that went by the board.
So this is important stuff. And you’re right to point out that some repression internally is often a companion, a handmaiden of what’s going on abroad. But I don’t see that it needs to be that way. And I see that with all this that’s been happening, you know, if people can unshackle themselves from party affiliation–.
You know, I’m a Bronx Irish Catholic. Okay? When I was baptized, I had membership in the Democratic Party, as well as the union, automatically. Okay? And I am incredibly ashamed for what’s happened to the Democratic Party. I don’t want any part of it anymore. When people come canvassing, I say, are you in favor of targeted assassination? Oh, what’s that about? And I says, well, you know, look what the Democratic president is tolerating or even approving before he has lunch with Michelle every Tuesday at noon time. Hello? First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Fifth Amendment. You know, I’m a Virginian now. And when those folks said that we’re going to risk their–pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to this enterprise, they meant it. And it was just as likely they would end up on the end of a rope as they would emerge as new leaders of a wonderful country. Okay? Well, the latter happened. And we have an obligation to safeguard those freedoms.
JAY: And let’s not forget the NDAA amendment, because it’s kind of–you know, there was a lot of fuss about it, and it’s now not being talked about, ’cause everything’s on the intelligence gathering, but President Obama signs this thing, right? It’s become law. Did I miss something? The military can arrest you if they can just somehow–like, we were talking in part one how the British can call Glenn Greenwald’s partner, Dave Miranda, call him a terrorist, well, if you can start using language like that, then you got the NDAA amendment, which has been passed, which is if you can be defined as a terrorist or some sort of ally of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, you can be arrested by the army, never mind the FBI. You can be put into military detention.
MCGOVERN: Right, come in here right now, Paul, pluck me out, and–. No, they wouldn’t detain me forever; just so long as there are no terrorists around in the world. Okay?
Now, I thought that that was John McCain and Lindsey Graham in the Senate. You know? That came out of the Senate, okay? And when the bill came back and indicated that American citizens could be wrapped up this way, there was a hue and cry by some progressive senators. And they asked Carl Levin, the head of the Armed Services [Committee], well, what about this [incompr.]? And he said, and I quote, well, it wasn’t that way when we sent it over to the White House, but that’s the way it came back.
JAY: Actually, we’re going to run the tape right now that has Levin doing that.
MCGOVERN: Two questions. Since when does Carl Levin, one of the most powerful members of Congress, have to take legislation that’s changed by the White House and enact it into law? ‘Cause they’re all afraid. And you and I had a little dispute about this two years ago. I said it was because of Occupy. I still think it was because of Occupy. They want to protect themselves against a mass movement, which is, you know, fledgling right now, but they want to be able to arrest people off the streets. They have the capability the NSA provides. They’re going to do it real easy.
JAY: Oh, I never said it wasn’t about fear of a mass movement. I’m just said Occupy wasn’t going to be that mass movement. It wasn’t Occupy they were afraid of.
MCGOVERN: Yeah, but Occupy was a symptom of what they’re afraid of, yeah. So, yeah.
So it’s really kind of–we’re at a crossroads now, and I feel it, I feel it in my bones. And for some reason I think that the people who feel violated, you know, in that sense of the word, in Western Europe and others of our allies, the Brazilians and other–you know, maybe, maybe they will be able to stop their servile, their supine posture towards the U.S. and say, look, enough of this stuff. This is the way the new world is. You’re losing your clout. We’ve got all kinds of movements that are exceeding your power to dictate to people. And maybe, just maybe enlightened leadership will come along and say, oh, you know, read the signs of the times and say, well, we need really not to think that we can do what George Kennan advocated in 1948, that we’re no longer the sole remaining superpower in the world, that we have to deal with these other countries in a more mutually beneficial and–what’s the word?–respectful way.
JAY: Alright. Thanks for joining us, Ray.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.