Sputniknews (radio) asked Ray to comment on the childish comments of former Acting Director of the CIA, Michael Morell, who told Charlie Rose on August 8 he (Morell) wanted to “make the Iranians pay a price in Syria. … make the Russians pay a price in Syria.” I am not making this up. Here’s how that segment went:
Rose: “We make them pay the price by killing Russians?”
Rose: “And killing Iranians?”
Morell: “Yes … You don’t tell the world about it. … But you make sure they know it in Moscow and Tehran.”
Here is Ray’s interview: (5 minutes)
What excellent adventure earned Morell his latest appearance with Charlie Rose? An August 5 NY Times op-ed titled “I ran the C.I.A. Now I’m Endorsing Hillary Clinton.”
Peabody award winner Rose having made no secret of how much he admires the glib, smooth-talking Morell, performed true to form. Indeed, he has interviewed him every other month, on average, over the past two years. This interview, though, is a must for those interested in gauging the caliber of bureaucrats that have bubbled to the top of CIA since the disastrous tenure of George Tenet (sorry, the interview goes on and on for 46 minutes).
A Heavy Duty
Such interviews are a burden for unreconstructed, fact-based analysts of the old school. In a word, they are required to watch them, just as they must plow through the turgid prose of “tell-it-all” memoirs. But due diligence can sometimes harvest an occasional grain of wheat among the chaff.
For example, George W. Bush’s memoir, Decision Points, included a passage the former president seems to have written himself. Was Bush relieved to learn, just 15 months before he left office, the “high-confidence,” unanimous judgment of the U.S. intelligence community that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon in 2003 and had not resumed work on such weapons? No way! In his memoir he complains bitterly that this judgment in that key 2007 National Intelligence Estimate “tied my hands on the military side. … After the NIE, how could I possibly explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?” No, I am not making this up. He wrote that.
In his memoir, At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA, CIA Director George Tenet described Michael Morell, whom he picked to be CIA’s briefer of President George W. Bush, in these terms: “Wiry, youthful looking, and extremely bright, Mike speaks in staccato-like bursts that get to the bottom line very quickly. He and George Bush hit it off almost immediately. Mike was the perfect guy for us to have by the commander-in-chief’s side.”
Wonder what Morell was telling Bush about those “weapons of mass destruction in Iraq” and the alleged ties between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. Was Morell winking at Bush the same way Tenet winked at the head of British intelligence on July 20, 2002, telling him that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” of invading Iraq?
Tenet High on Morell – Just One Little Problem
Not surprisingly, Tenet speaks well of his protégé and former executive assistant Morell. But he also reveals that Morell “coordinated the CIA review” of Secretary of State Colin Powell’s infamous Feb. 5, 2003 – a dubious distinction if there ever was one. So Morell reviewed the “intelligence” that went into Powell’s thoroughly deceptive account of the Iraqi threat! Powell later called it a “blot” on his record. Morell even apologized to Powell in 2015.
It is sad to have to remind folks almost 14 years later that the “intelligence” was not “mistaken;” it was fraudulent from the get-go. Announcing on June 5, 2008, the bipartisan conclusions from a five-year study by the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Jay Rockefeller described the intelligence conjured up to “justify” war on Iraq as “uncorroborated, contradicted, or even non-existent.”
It strains credulity beyond the breaking point to think that Michael Morell was unaware of the fraudulent nature of the WMD propaganda campaign. Yet, like all too many others, he kept quiet and got promoted.
A Deus-ex-Machina Escape
And, for services performed, Tenet rescued Morell from the center of the storm, so to speak, sending him to a plum posting to London, leaving the hapless Stu Cohen holding the bag. Cohen had been acting director of the National Intelligence Council and nominal manager of the infamous Oct. 1, 2002 National Intelligence Estimate warning about Iraq’s [non-existent] WMD.
Cohen made a valiant attempt to defend the indefensible in late November 2003, and was still holding out some hope that WMD would be found.
He noted, however, “If we eventually are proved wrong — that is, that there were no weapons of mass destruction and the WMD programs were dormant or abandoned – the American people will be told the truth …” And then Stu disappeared into the woodwork.
In October, the 1,200-member “Iraq Survey Group” commissioned by Tenet to find those elusive WMD in Iraq had already reported that six months of intensive work had turned up no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. By then, the US-sponsored search for WMD had already cost $300 million, with the final bill expected to top $1 billion.
In Morell’s own memoir, The Great War of Our Time, Morell writes, “In the summer of 2003 I became CIA’s senior focal point for liaison with the analytic community in the United Kingdom.” He notes that one of the “dominant” issues, until he left the UK in early 2006, was “Iraq, namely our failure to find weapons of mass destruction …” (It was a PR problem; Prime Minister Tony Blair and Morell’s opposite numbers in British intelligence were fully complicit in the “dodgy-dossier” type of intelligence.)
Landing on His Feet
When the storm subsided, Morell came back from London to bigger and better things. He was appointed the CIA’s first associate deputy director from 2006 to 2008, and then director for intelligence until moving up to become CIA’s deputy director (and twice acting director) from 2010 until 2013.
Reading his book and watching him respond to those softball pitches from Charlie Rose Monday, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that glibness, vacuousness, and ambition can get you to the very top of U.S. intelligence in the 21st century – and can also make you a devoted fan of whoever is likely to be the next President.
Wisdom on China
For those who did not make it to the very end in watching the most recent Michael-and-Charlie show, here is an example of what Morell and Rose both seem to consider trenchant analysis. Addressing the issue of U.S. relations with China, Morell described the following as a main “negative:”
“We both have large militaries in the same place on the planet, the Pacific. What does that mean? It means you have to plan for war against each other, and we both do; it means you have to equip yourself with weapons systems for war against each other, which both of us do; and it means you have to exercise those forces for war against each other, and both of us do. And both sides see all of three of those things. That leads to a natural tension and pulls you apart. …”
Those who got to the end of Morell’s book had already been able to assimilate that wisdom on page 325:
“The negative side [regarding relations with China] includes the fact that … each country needs to prepare for war against each other (because our militaries are in close proximity to each other). Each plans for such a war, each trains for it, and each must equip its forces with the modern weaponry to fight it [leading] to tension in the relationship. …
Well, Morell is at least consistent. More telling, this gibberish is music to the ears of those whom Pope Francis, speaking to Congress last September, referred to as the “blood-drenched” arms traders. Morell seems to be counting on his deep insights being music to the ears of Hillary Clinton, as well.
Finally, it was not hard to see all this coming, as Morell rose higher and higher in a system that rewards deserving sycophants. Ray addressed this five years ago in the “Rise of Another CIA Yes Man.”
That piece elicited many interesting comments from senior intelligence officers who knew Morell personally; sine of those comments are tucked into the end of the article.