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Mel Goodman is an expert on Russia who blew the whistle by testifying against the confirmation of Robert Gates to head the CIA in 1991. In his new book, he details that experience, and gives us many reasons not to trust the CIA today.Goodman’s latest book is Whistleblower at the CIA: An Insider’s Account of the Politics of Intelligence. In this wide-ranging interview, Goodman’s expertise on Russia and the Soviet Union offer important perspectives on the ways that the US intelligence community manipulated intelligence to support political objectives.
Starting under Director Bill Casey in the Reagan years, Goodman and his colleagues saw objective analysis displaced by the work of political actors intending to exaggerate the threat posed by the Soviet Union. Goodman says the USSR was already collapsing, and that Reagan’s military buildup and other moves were not the cause. He focuses on the role of Robert Gates–whom he first met during grad school at Indiana U–in sidelining CIA analysts by blaming Russia for the attempted assassination of the pope, for example. The politicization of intelligence is what caused Goodman to leave the CIA, and to testify against Gates in 1991.
We also talk about the Six Day War, where the LBJ White House believed lies from the Israelis rather than CIA analysts, and lingering questions about Israel’s attack on the USS Liberty. Goodman thumbnails many recent CIA directors, and has sharp criticism of Leon Panetta and John Brennan, especially for marginalizing the role of inspectors general in intelligence oversight.
Goodman’s book is quite revealing about himself, and the CIA. It’s part memoir and whistleblower narrative, and also a running critique of the failures and deception that have faced limited accountability. And for your humble host, it offers many reasons not to trust the CIA in the current Trump/Russia scandal.