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Former CIA agent Ray McGovern went over what he considers the failures of the intelligence community and current administration over the past few years. He has 27 years of experience as a CIA analyst to draw upon and has dealt with every administration from Kennedy to Bush Sr.
"It's difficult for people to learn the truth about things like Iraq," said McGovern, a member of the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), which is comprised of more than 40 former employees of agencies such as the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, Department of State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Army Intelligence, the FBI and the National Security Agency.
"We have hundreds of years worth of experience in government service and intelligence to draw on so we feel a civic responsibility to do our best to spread as much truth as we can this fall," McGovern said.
He began his lecture by describing the CIA. He explained that the agency is supposed to be the one place in government with no political agenda, and could be very disastrous if it obtains one.
McGovern told a story about CIA officials who gave false information about enemy troop numbers in Vietnam to President Johnson. The lie led to a surprise of U.S. forces by the Tet Offensive in 1968. In this war of attrition, the agency wanted to make it look like the United States was doing better than it really was, McGovern said.
"Picture the Vietnam Memorial in Washington; it's a big 'V' shape. Now picture it with just one side of the 'V'. It might have been that way if some people had told the truth," McGovern said.
He also criticized the 9/11 Commission's final report, saying the committee was comprised of political extremists who couldn't reach a consensus.
"It wasn't a bipartisan commission; it was more like a bipolar commission," McGovern said. "To say that no one could prevent 9/11 was a bold-faced lie. It basically let the president and everyone responsible off the hook."
He went on to talk about the faulty intelligence attorney general John Ashcroft used when he announced that terrorist attacks may occur before or around election time, saying that elections might have to be postponed if the United States is attacked.
"There might be a real or staged terrorist attack in order to postpone the elections," McGovern said. "This might seem outlandish; I hope it is."
He mentioned how the Bush administration wanted to involve the country with the war in Iraq for certain reasons other than fear of weapons of mass destruction, which was just a more media-friendly explanation for the war.
"I have initials for why I think we went to war in Iraq," McGovern said. "O.I.L. O-I-L, O is for oil, I is for Israel and L is for logistics, as in when we have Iraq we have a foothold and a number of bases strategically placed in the Middle East so we can be in control over there and also to protect Israel."
Next he brought up civil liberties in the United States and how they have declined in the past few years.
"I used to say when I was a kid growing up when someone told me not to do something, 'It's a free country,'" McGovern said. "I ask you to think about it now."
In the audience was Nahla al-Arian, wife of imprisoned former professor Sami al-Arian. She explained to McGovern how she and her husband came to America to be free and described their current situation. Then she asked him why the government would target Palestinian activists.
His initial response was just, "I'm sorry," then he paused to collect his thoughts and said that things like that come all the way from the top down.
McGovern had a speaking engagement at the University of Florida later in the afternoon, and will also be lecturing at UCF soon on his and the VIPS's quest to spread the truth.
"No one has a corner on the truth. We don't have a corner on the truth, but it is certain that Fox News does not," McGovern said. "That most people get their 'news' from Fox News is extremely troubling."
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