An evening inside the CIA


What: CIA analyst Melvin Goodman

When: 7 pm Tue., May. 8

Where: Garden Street United Methodist Church, 1326 N. Garden St.

Info: Bellingham’s Veterans For Peace Chapter 111, 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

“Whistleblowers. Dissidents. Contrarians,” author Melvin Goodman writes.

“The terms are used synonymously by pundits and the public, and I’ve been all three at one time or another in order to expose improprieties and illegalities in the secret government, and to inform the American public of policies that compromise the freedom and security of U.S. citizens and weaken U.S. standing in the global community.”

Goodman served as a senior analyst and Division Chief at the CIA from 1966 to 1990. An expert on U.S. relations with Russia, his writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Harper’s, and many others. He is author of six books on U.S. intelligence and international security—most recently on the subject of whistleblowers and their function in creating transparency in a democratic society.

It’s a subject of personal experience for him. In 1991, Goodman went public, blowing the whistle on top-level officials and leading the opposition against the appointment of Robert Gates as CIA director. In widely covered Senate hearings, Goodman charged that Gates and others had subverted the “process and the ethics of intelligence” by deliberately misinforming the White House about major world events and covert operations. 

“I have never liked the terms contrarian or dissident,” he relates. “I’ve always believed that my criticism should be conventional wisdom. The term whistleblower is more complex because it often raises questions of patriotism or sedition.

“Edward Snowden, if he had remained in the United States, would have faced an even longer prison sentence because he revealed the massive NSA surveillance program that was illegal and immoral, and that violated the Fourth Amendment protection against illegal seizures and searches. Chelsea Manning and Snowden admit to breaking U.S. laws, but their actions were never as serious as the law-breaking, including massive violations of privacy, that they exposed.”

According to U.S. law, the term “whistleblower” applies to anyone who “reasonably believes” he or she is disclosing a violation of law or gross mismanagement, gross waste, or abuse of authority.

In the era of the Trump administration—where absolute loyalty to the person of the president is a hallmark—the role of the whistleblower becomes even more keen.

Goodman objected to Gates because he believed the director destroyed the political culture of the CIA and created a toxic and corrupt environment at the agency. He also objected to the CIA detention and torture program, and can be no less aggrieved that the operative who oversaw and implemented it is the acting director of the agency. Gina Haspel stands to be confirmed as permanent director in Senate hearings this month.

“This lamentable state of affairs could have been avoided had Barack Obama complied with the United States’ obligations under the UN convention against torture to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the CIA’s torture program,” asserts Sonya Sceats, chief executive of the Freedom from Torture public policy group. He refused to do so, as part of a misguided theory that the best way to stop future torture by the CIA was to “look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”

That lack of introspection, of candor, of honest internal assessment, is what continues to drive the toxic culture of America’s surveillance state, Goodman notes.

“Once the political culture of an institution such as the CIA has been broken,” Goodman says, “it is extremely difficult—if not impossible—to rebuild or repair it.”

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