Ray McGovern leads the “Speaking Truth to Power” section of Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. A former co-director of the Servant Leadership School (1998-2004), he has been teaching there for more than 20 years. His current course is: “On the Morality of Whistleblowing.”
Ray came to Washington from his native Bronx in the early Sixties as an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then served as a CIA analyst for 27 years, from the administration of John F. Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush. Ray’s duties included chairing National Intelligence Estimates and preparing the President’s Daily Brief, which he briefed one-on-one to President Ronald Reagan’s five most senior national security advisers from 1981 to 1985.
In January 2003, Ray co-created Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) to expose how intelligence was being falsified to “justify” war on Iraq. On the afternoon of the day (Feb. 5, 2003) Secretary of State Colin Powell misled the UN Security Council on Iraq, VIPS sent a blunt memorandum to President George W. Bush, in which VIPS gave Powell a C-minus. VIPS ended the memo with this:
“No one has a corner on the truth; nor do we harbor illusions that our analysis is irrefutable or undeniable [as Powell had claimed his was]. But after watching Secretary Powell today, we are convinced that you would be well served if you widened the discussion beyond … the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”
On July 20, 2002, CIA Director George Tenet had told his British counterpart that the “intelligence and facts were being ‘fixed’ around the policy of ‘regime change’ in Iraq.” On June 5, 2008, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Jay Rockefeller, announced the main conclusion of a five-year study by his committee, saying, “In making the case for war, the administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when it was unsubstantiated, contradicted or even nonexistent.” In sum, the “intelligence” was not mistaken; it was out-and-out fraud.
It got worse. As an act of conscience, on March 2, 2006 Ray returned the Intelligence Commendation Medallion given him at retirement for “especially meritorious service,” explaining, “I do not want to be associated, however remotely, with an agency engaged in torture.” He returned the medallion to Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R, Michigan), then-Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Hoekstra then secretly added to the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY’07 (HR5020) a provision enabling the government to strip intelligence veterans of their government pensions. HR5020 passed the full House, but Congress opted instead for a continuing resolution.
On December 11, 2014, Ray had an opportunity to tell Hoekstra exactly what he thought of Hoekstra’s underhanded, Lone-Ranger attempt (he did not inform his House Intelligence Committee colleagues) to make it possible to revoke the government pensions of people like Ray. He confronted the former Congressman off-air, after the two were interviewed live on CCTV’s “The Heat” about the Senate Intelligence Committee findings released on December 9, 2014 regarding CIA torture. The interview itself offered Ray a unique chance to hold Hoekstra publicly accountable for condoning torture, and the Michigan congressman rose to the occasion. (See minutes 8:15 to 10:41 of:
On the early afternoon of May 4, 2006, in Atlanta, Ray confronted Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on live TV with pointed questions like: “Why did you lie to get us into a war that was not necessary and that has caused these kinds of casualties?”
The impromptu, four-minute mini-debate that followed is still receiving hits on YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1FTmuhynaw. Accused by TV pundits that evening of “following the Secretary of Defense all the way down to Atlanta,” Ray explained that he had gotten to Atlanta first – to receive, that same evening, the ACLU’s National Civil Liberties Award (won the previous year by Coretta Scott King).
Ray’s opinion pieces have appeared in many leading newspapers and other publications in the U.S. and abroad – except for the NY Times and Washington Post. His website writings are usually posted first on consortiumnews.com as well as here on raymcgovern.com. Many are then cross-posted elsewhere.
Ray still serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. Links to VIPS’ 46 corporate issuances are posted on https://consortiumnews.com/vips-memos/
He has debated three times at the Oxford Forum. The second time, in early 2013, he chose a lighter tone in explaining why it is still possible to dream the American dream. (It’s a little hammy; see what you think.)
There was little to be merry about on Nov. 3, 2016, however, when Ray was asked to take the affirmative side in an Oxford Union debate on the issue: “The U.S. Presidential race reveals a broken two-party system.” He was glad to have a chance to debate opposite former New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson and could not pass up the chance to expose the genuinely sad story about what has happened to what once was a great newspaper. The Oxford students (who do the voting), though, showed themselves impervious to Ray’s criticism of the often noxious role played in two-party elections by the “mainstream media” – and specifically the NY Times – in supporting one candidate over the other in its reportorial coverage, as well as its editorials.
Most Oxford folks – like the NY Times, the Washington Post, and other “mainstream media” – strongly supported Hillary Clinton; fully expected her to win just five days later; and were thankful that the U.S. two-party system – broken or not – had served up a “winner” (Clinton) to be president. Ray’s attempt to expose the crucial influence of the media (whose masters are convinced they know what’s best for the country) – not only in rooting for candidates, but also suppressing violations of the Constitution, in order to guarantee criminals like George W. Bush a second term – fell on mainstream (deaf) ears). Ray’s side of the debate lost; it wasn’t even close.
November 3, 2016, (14 minutes)
Ray has appeared on The Newshour, C-Span’s Washington Journal, CNN, BBC, a number of domestic Russian TV channels, Aljazeera, RT, PressTV, CCTV and many other TV & radio programs and documentaries. Ray’s favorite gig was debating Iraq with yellow-cake-aluminum connoisseur and ex-CIA Director James Woolsey on Charlie Rose on Aug. 20, 2004. (See minute 17:48 when Woolsey plays the “anti-Semitic” card against Ray.)
Ray was in NYC with filmmaker Robert Greenwald for the debut of his full-length documentary, Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War. Ray is often on the road, giving talks and interviews to a wide variety of audiences in the U.S. and abroad.
A founder of Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence ( samadamsaward.ch ), Ray was happy to be able, with former awardees Thomas Drake, Coleen Rowley, Jesselyn Radack, to present the annual award in 2013 to Edward Snowden.
Ray’s B.A. and M.A. degrees – both from Fordham University – are in Russian history, language, and literature, with minors in theology, philosophy, and classics. He has taught Russian as an adjunct at the University of Virginia. Ray also holds a Certificate in Theological Studies from Georgetown University and is a graduate of Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program.
A Catholic, Ray has been worshipping for many years with the ecumenical Church of the Saviour. He has been invited to lecture at various interfaith and ecumenical events around the U.S., and has preached during services at a number of Christian churches and Jewish synagogues.
Ray enjoys being asked to “substitute teach” at universities and colleges. At George Washington University, though, he quickly wore out his welcome when he stood silently with his back turned toward then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He was seized and badly beaten directly in front of Clinton, while she spoke eloquently about the need for freedom of expression – in Iran.
Ray is fluent in Russian, German, and Spanish. He and his wife have been married 55 years; they have five children and nine grandchildren.