Whistleblower at the CIA

Title:                      Whistleblower at the CIA

Author:                 Melvin A. Goodman

Goodman, Melvin A. (2017). Whistleblower at the CIA: A Path of Dissent. San Francisco: City Lights Publishers

LCCN:    2016047282

JK468.I6 G6633 2017


Caveat. Perpendat itaque lector cavendum (civilis).[1]

  • “Mel Goodman has spent the last few decades telling us what’s gone wrong with American intelligence and the American military. He is also telling us how to save ourselves.”–Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker Whistleblower at the CIA offers a fascinating glimpse into the secret, behind-the-scenes world of U.S. intelligence. Melvin A. Goodman’s first-person account of the systematic manipulation of intelligence at the CIA underscores why whistleblowing is so important, and why the institutional obstacles to it are so intense. At its core it’s an invaluable historical expose, a testimony to integrity and conscience, and a call for the U.S. intelligence community to keep its top leaders in check. Urgent, timely, and deeply recommended.”–Daniel Ellsberg “In this fascinating and candid account of his years as a senior CIA analyst, Mel Goodman shows how the worst enemies of high quality intelligence can come from our own midst, and how the politicization of intelligence estimates can cause more damage to American security than its professed enemies. Whistleblower at the CIA is a must-read for anyone interested in the intricate web of intelligence-policymaking relations.”–Uri Bar-Joseph, author of The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel Melvin Goodman’s long career as a respected intelligence analyst at the CIA, specializing in US/Soviet relations, ended abruptly. In 1990, after twenty-four years of service, Goodman resigned when he could no longer tolerate the corruption he witnessed at the highest levels of the Agency. In 1991 he went public, blowing the whistle on top-level officials and leading the opposition against the appointment of Robert Gates as CIA director. In the 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. In this breathtaking expose, Goodman tells the whole story. Retracing his career with the Central Intelligence Agency, he presents a rare insider’s account of the inner workings of America’s intelligence community, and the corruption, intimidation, and misinformation that lead to disastrous foreign interventions. An invaluable and historic look into one of the most secretive and influential agencies of US government—and a wake-up call for the need to reform its practices. Melvin A. Goodman served as a senior analyst and Division Chief at the CIA from 1966 to 1990. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Harper’s, and many others. He is author of six books on US intelligence and international security”—Provided by publisher.
  • “The revealing story of a man with a conscience working at the CIA (1966-1990) during the height of the Cold War between Washington and Moscow, Mel Goodman settles old scores as he offers first-hand accounts of the inner workings of the CIA and how high-level officials compromise national security by pressuring those below them to support their career-advancing political agendas”— Provided by publisher.

LC Subjects

Date Posted:      December 13, 2017

Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake[2]

The writings of former senior intelligence officers deserve special attention particularly when they are also teaching intelligence-related courses at prestigious institutions. Whistleblower at the CIA is an important example. Retired CIA senior analyst Melvin Goodman claims whistleblower status “because of [his] revelations before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence during confirmation hearings for Bob Gates [as DCI].” (p. 9) In his final chapter, he adds, “I wish I had gone further as a whistleblower.” (p. 379) Whistleblower at the CIA can be seen as an attempt to fulfill that wish.

After a few words about his background and why he joined the CIA in 1968, Goodman launches a relentless and spirited attack on Congress, the Defense Department, the State Department, the Intelligence Community—including the DNI—the media, and most of all the CIA. His concerns range from corrupt behavior to politicization in intelligence matters.

Following up on a theme of his 2008 book, Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA[3] (Rowman and Littlefield), he writes in Whistleblower, “The CIA’s decline over several decades was marked by mediocre leadership, particularly by directors such as William Casey, Robert Gates, Porter Goss, and George Tenet, who tailored intelligence to satisfy the neoconservative biases” of presidents Reagan and George W. Bush. And “Tenet and Goss, as well as Michael Hayden and John Brennan, endorsed barbaric interrogations methods, and Brennan tried to block the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation of torture in secret prisons.” (p. 21) Later, Goodman returns to the topic of CIA directors, labeling Generals Hayden and Petraeus “unsuited to lead the CIA,” adding that John Brennan “lied to the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee,” and then criticizing President Obama for “selecting CIA chiefs, considering the disappointment of Panetta, Petraeus, and Brennan.” (pp. 270-271)

Other topics subjected to Goodman’s hostile scrutiny include the chapter on “CIA’s Double Standards and Double Dealing,” a discussion on the “lack of internal oversight … [and] the demise of the Office of the Inspector General and the virtual disappearance of the statutory inspector general” (p. 214); the myth that the Intelligence Community functions like a community (p. 230); the unwillingness of the press “to adequately question and investigate government” (p. 313); the preferential treatment given some members of the press (pp. 324-327); and the willingness of some in the media to succumb to CIA pressure. Even Steven Colbert—”(or his lawyers)”—is included. (p. 332)

But Goodman reserves most of his bitterness for Bob Gates, to whom he gives indirect credit for his whistleblower status. This criticism of Gates is focused in Chapter Eight, where he explains how the two met in 1968 and why they drifted apart. Goodman depicts Gates as complicit in CIA’s institutionalized politicization of intelligence, fueled internally by corrupt officers from the top down—a harsh judgment, coming from an “insider” who left the agency over three decades ago.

What has been quoted above is but a small sample of the Goodman’s explicit dissatisfaction with the Intelligence Community, its elements, its personnel, and its performance. The only personnel who are uniformly praised are his fellow whistleblowers, from Ellsberg to Snowden. Goodman concludes with the unsupported comment that “as long as the secret government manages to operate beyond the law and allows former officials such as Mike Morell, Jose Rodriguez, and John McLaughlin to lie about illegalities and abuse, the Agency will remain an enemy of democracy—and I will champion the path of dissent.” (p. 379)

Readers who encounter Goodman’s doggedly negative opinions of the CIA and the Intelligence Com-munity should note the absence of any contrary views.

[1] On occasion, personal loyalties and opinions can be carved in stone and defended with a vengeance — at times with some venom thrown in. In these situations, the actual importance of the subject matter is dwarfed by the amount of aggression expressed. Retain a sense of proportion in all online and in-person discussions. [From The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies.]

[2] Peake, Hayden in The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (23, 2 Fall 2017, p. 117). Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations. Most of these reviews appeared in recent unclassified editions of CIA’s Studies in Intelligence, Other reviews and articles may be found online at http://www.cia.gov

[3] Goodman, Melvin A. (2008). Failure of Intelligence: The Decline And Fall of The CIA. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield

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