CIA Vets McGovern & Kiriakou: It’s Scoundrel Time Back in the USA

Podcast and Transcript; Intro & Highlights (Below) By Ray McGovern

by Robert Scheer, May 20, 2022


Younger readers/listeners may ask, who is Robert Scheer? He certainly deserves a full introduction, but I will keep it short. A fearless journalist in the tradition of I.F. Stone and Sy Hersh, Scheer was one of the earliest and boldest to see Vietnam as tragic fiasco, and to call it like it was. He poured his considerable energy and gifts into reporting on Vietnam (and similar U.S. policy fiascos) in Ramparts magazine and other media. He was one of the deepest, most painful thorns in the side of an Establishment that, though Neck Deep in the Big Muddy, kept pushing on, leaving millions dead.

Later, Scheer wrote for The Los Angeles Times and taught at UCLA. He was also a Fellow in Arms Control at Stanford. He is the son of immigrants, who worked in the garment industry. Scheer was born and raised in The Bronx (two miles from where I grew up). He has written nine books and now runs “Scheer Intelligence”.

Robert Scheer asked to interview John Kiriakou and me to hear us comment on our personal experiences working alongside “scoundrels”. It should go without saying that not all of our former co-workers were scoundrels. There were enough of them in senior posts, though, to grease the skids for things like wars of aggression and what Nuremberg called the “accumulated evil” flowing from such wars — think torture, for example. None of the torturers were held to account. One was made CIA director. John Kiriakou resisted being trained in torture techniques, and eventually blew the whistle on torture. He was “rewarded” by being sent off to prison for two years (a long but compelling story).


Discussing operational intelligence relations with Russia after the USSR fell apart, John Kiriakou reminded us that there were extremely promising prospects for bilateral cooperation in key areas — counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics, to mention just two. According to John, several initiatives toward that kind of cooperation ran aground on U.S, intelligence’s insistence on treating the Russians as mentees — not as equals. In wider perspective, John reminded us that both Yeltsin and Putin asked to join NATO and were rebuffed. U.S. arms manufacturers and dealers need an enemy to “justify” obscene expenditures on weapons (and sharing a slice of their profiteering with congressional candidates, who then can be counted on to appropriate still more money for “defense”).

Commenting on the culture at CIA, John expressed some wonderment at hearing gratuitous comments regarding “our most evil enemy, Russia”, long after the Soviet Union disintegrated and its successor posed little, if any, strategic threat. (The CIA is in no less need of a credible threat than the rest of the MICIMATT — the Military-Industrial-Congressional-IntelligenceMedia-Academia-Think-Tank complex, of which the U.S. intelligence establishment has become an integral part. Not to mention the pivotal role played by the corporate media — the acronym’s middle “M’ — which is owned and operated by co-conspirators to its left and right on MICIMATT.)

At Scheer’s request, John Kiriakou provided examples of the trouble he has encountered trying to get his books (he’s just completed his 8th) cleared by agency censors for publication. It is a little like Kafka.


I didn’t take notes on what I said. I do remember trying to explain that what the Soviets used to call “the world correlation of forces” had markedly changed — actually, a tectonic change caused by the surprisingly close alliance between Russia and China. (It is not possible to exaggerate its importance.) Biden’s benighted advisers still don’t seem to “get it”, even after the embarrassingly incompetent misstep last June, when Biden apparently commiserated with Putin over Russia being “squeezed” by China (sic)!

RIP, Unipolar World. Amid all the talk of an emerging “multipolar” world, I suggested it might be more instructive to use “bipolar” — in both senses of the word! In the political sense, what is emerging is (1) a lily-white West against (2) people of color (the great majority). Russia has been painted so thoroughly black over recent years (with Russia-gate and all the rest), that even a hot soapy bath would fail to remove all the paint. So it can fit in nicely alongside people of color — in China, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, for example.

Indeed, it should be clear by now that rhetorical points about how isolated Russia has become after the invasion of Ukraine are illusory. Moreover, as economic sanctions begin to bite harder and harder, most of the world seems likely to assign primary blame to lily-white NATO, not Russia. (Since Biden took office, I have grown more and more convinced that his economic advisers are on a par with those who advise on foreign policy. This is not a compliment.)

I also talked a bit about the increasing danger of nuclear war and the nonchalance — and surrealism — with which that existential issue is being addressed by policy makers and pseudo-savants in Washington. Take this syllogism, for example:

1 — The U.S. does not want nuclear war.

2 — Putin might resort to nukes to stave off defeat in Ukraine.

3 — Ergo: The U.S. must defeat Putin in Ukraine.


I hope you find the interview informative. I was a pleasure being on with John and Robert.