(Monday, May 08, 2017, by Dahr Jamail, originally published on Truthout | News Analysis)
While Donald Trump delighted in launching 59 cruise missiles toward Syria while eating chocolate cake at one of his resorts, Syrians, as they have for years of living under conditions of extreme violence, feared the worst.
The devastatingly bloody conflict in Syria, which the US has already been involved in for years, has left nearly 500,000 dead and nearly 2 million injured. That means that more than 1 out of every 10 Syrians has been killed or wounded, and more than 85 percent of the country is living in poverty. According to the UN, more than 6 million Syrians are displaced within their own country, and nearly 5 million have fled the country altogether and are now refugees.
As the Trump administration appears poised to become increasingly involved in Syria and the greater Middle East, what is life like under the bombs?
“It is a day-to-day kind of life where nothing is guaranteed and everything is unexpected,” Syrian architect Marwa Al-Sabouni, who lives in Homs, told Truthout, emphasizing that securing day-to-day amenities is a struggle. “There is little room for anything normal.”
Homs, Syria’s third largest city, has been ravaged by war. Al-Sabouni has described her city as basically not having “a cityscape anymore” since more than 60 percent of it has been razed. Her architecture study has long since been flattened by bombs.
As that conflict continues with no end in sight, in yet another direct contradiction to his campaign promises to avoid involvement in Middle East conflicts, Trump is now on the brink of plunging the US deeper into the morass of blood, destruction and suffering across the Middle East and beyond.
Several former intelligence officials spoke with Truthout about the Trump administration’s military escalations, and what his mistakes could mean for the world’s future.
Syria as a Distraction
The former officials pointed to Trump’s escalation of US attacks on Syria as a distraction from investigations into his administration.
“I think it’s clear that Donald Trump found it expedient to fire the 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Syrian air base on April 7 as a way to quell the media frenzy surrounding ‘Russiagate’ that was causing his approval ratings to tank,” Elizabeth Murray, who was formerly the deputy national intelligence officer for the Near East in the National Intelligence Council, told Truthout. Murray retired in 2010 after a 27-year career with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), where she served as a media and political analyst on Middle Eastern issues.
Murray believes Trump seized the opportunity to blame the Syrian government for the April 4 chemical weapon incident so that he could use it as a pretext to bomb.
“By giving his generals the green light to launch the missiles, he was able to silence media criticism, appease pro-war neoconservative elements and shore up his flagging image,” Murray explained. “The neocon-controlled US mainstream media are now referring to Trump as ‘presidential,’ and at least one mainstream TV anchor described the launched missiles as ‘beautiful,’ so in that sense, it worked.”
Philip Giraldi, a former CIA operations officer who worked on counter-terrorism in Europe and the Middle East, told Truthout he also believes the Trump administration is using military machinations in Syria as a distraction from the ongoing investigations into Russian election tampering, as well as the public’s misgivings about the new administration’s domestic policies.
“Trump is demonstrating to the public that he can be tough with America’s ‘enemies’ and that he is also not afraid to offend the Russians,” Giraldi explained. “He has been accused of being a de facto Russian agent so it is particularly important that he demonstrate that he is not.”
Giraldi, who is currently executive director of the Council for the National Interest, a think tank focused on Middle East policy, sees the Russia situation becoming increasingly embarrassing for President Trump.
“Trump is particularly thin skinned and he reacts to protect his image, in this case doing something quite stupid in Syria to make a point about himself and his administration,” Giraldi said. He added that the escalation in Syria “has inflicted major damage on Washington’s ability to deal effectively overseas.”
Ray McGovern, a former Army officer and CIA analyst who prepared the president’s daily intelligence brief under the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations, pointed out how much popularity ratings matter to Trump. Of course, his ratings are currently in the pits.
“So he’s looking for ways to ease the pressure he’s feeling from the media, which is being stoked by the CIA, and Brennon, and Susan Rice, who were leaking that stuff to the press,” he said. “Totally illegal, but it worked.”
McGovern questions the chemical attack in Syria that was used as the pretext for launching the cruise missile attack; he sees it as “fixing the intel” to justify the policy after the fact.
“They came up with this embarrassing three and a half pages about the event that don’t hold water, and we have the MIT professor totally debunk it,” he added. “And now all that is on the record.”
When asked about the Trump administration’s Middle East policy, McGovern replied that he does not believe such a policy exists. He sees Trump as being “completely at the mercy” of the generals with whom he has surrounded himself.
“The cruise missile attack is a visceral reaction to show he is not a tool of Putin, and show he’s a tough guy and can react immediately,” McGovern added.
Murray believes the Trump missile attack violated international law and set a dangerous “shoot-from-the-hip” tone for US foreign policy under the new administration.
“There’s little mention of the 13 Syrian civilians who were killed by the US missiles, including four children, which is a clear war crime,” she said.
Murray pointed out how the US bombing also took place in the absence of actual evidence of Syrian government involvement in the preceding attacks, and that, if anything, there are indications that the US-backed al-Qaeda-affiliated rebels may be responsible.
Like McGovern, she pointed towards MIT professor Ted Postol’s analysis of the event that contradicts the “assessment” issued by the White House.
“What’s especially troubling is that there’s been no independent investigation,” she said. “In fact, the US is currently obstructing efforts initiated by Russia, China, Iran and Syria to bring in an independent international fact-finding commission to investigate the incident.”
Murray also found it strange that Trump did not commission a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the April 4 chemical incident at Khan Shaykhun.
“A National Intelligence Estimate, as you may know, is a consensus paper that brings together the expertise of all 16 US intelligence agencies, including the CIA, FBI, State Department, NSA and others,” she said. “It is the most authoritative and credible document that the Intelligence Community (IC) can issue. Instead, the White House issued a four-page paper that offers nothing in the way of substantive evidence. The lack of an NIE suggests to me that there was likely serious disagreement among Intelligence Community analysts with the White House version of events.”
McGovern expressed grave concerns about where Trump’s actions could lead.
“To the degree Trump keeps having all these problems, he’s irascible and unpredictable, and it’s hard to know what he’s going to do,” McGovern said. “But my fear is [what will happen in the case of] either a real event — say in the Ukraine — or something provoked, by people who want to see an outbreak of hostilities between NATO and Russia. The Russians will have their defenses way up on high alert, and we better be careful they don’t misinterpret what we are doing as an attack on their homeland.”
McGovern warned that saber-rattling in Russia’s direction should not be dismissed.
“If Putin’s generals believe that our generals think we can pull off a first strike taking out their ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles], that raises a lot of stakes,” McGovern said.
From Bad to Worse
According to Murray, in terms of the trajectory of developments in Syria and Iraq, it’s very difficult to be optimistic in the near term.
“What’s really disturbing is that US citizens are being prevented from knowing what is really going on with regard to US involvement in those countries,” she said. “The Trump administration has announced that the public will no longer be informed of new troop deployments to Iraq and Syria, while this was routinely disclosed under the previous administration.”
She sees that as an indication that US military activity in both countries is being ramped up in a clandestine manner; and since deploying ground troops to these countries is wildly unpopular, the Trump administration has decided to keep the American people in the dark.
McGovern agreed with Murray that a lack of transparency and trustworthy information — and, therefore, a less informed populace — is a big part of the problem.
“The fourth estate is dead,” he said, citing the failings of the media. “The transcendent problem is that Americans don’t know what is going on in the world.”
Murray felt similarly, pointing to the silence around the US attacks on Mosul.
“It disturbs me that so little is reported about what is taking place in Mosul, Iraq, where thousands of innocent people are dying from US-led coalition airstrikes — one report said more than 2,000 Iraqi civilians died in the month of March alone. But the American people are simply told that Mosul is being ‘liberated,'” she said.
Given that the US military does not report numbers of civilian casualties in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, it is impossible for Americans to hold their so-called leaders accountable when they are prevented from knowing what is even occurring.
“These kinds of policies will leave us dependent on journalists and whistleblowers willing to risk their lives and livelihoods to tell the truth,” Murray added. “Meanwhile, weapons manufacturers and Washington, DC-based ‘beltway bandits’ [the cottage industry of think tanks and contractors servicing the Defense Department and intelligence agencies] will continue to thrive under a foreign policy of endless wars.”
Murray had been optimistic about Trump’s early statements about seeking a modus vivendi with Russia, cooperating with Moscow to counter ISIS in Syria, and not seeking a Syrian regime change.
“But these were just words,” she said. “As with nearly every other US president, Trump has caved to the pressures brought by neoconservative elements within the government and the military-corporate complex, otherwise known as the Deep State.”
Murray predicts that this “caving” will serve Trump well in the ratings polls: He will continue to be rewarded for ramping up attacks.
“I believe that Trump will now proceed according to the dictates of these powerful groups, which means more wars to support the military machine and the interests of Israel, which wants the overthrow of governments in Iran and Syria,” Murray explained. “In return, he will see far less media criticism and even receive accolades as with the ‘presidential’ missile strikes on Syria.”
Even if the US and the other players in the region manage to finish off ISIS, Giraldi sees the role of the other actors, like Turkey and the Kurds, further complicating the aftermath — which is complicated even further by what he sees as the US lacking any real policy for the war-torn region.
“The US increasingly does not actually have a coherent policy in the region and is acting largely reactively,” he said. “If it insists on removing Bashar al-Assad as a precondition for any final settlement it will make any peace agreement unlikely.”
Giraldi was blunt in his assessment of Trump’s handling of the US’s relationship with Russia, which has obvious global implications.
“I fear that Washington’s Syria policy has effectively destroyed any possibility for a good working arrangement with Moscow,” he said. “The Russian-US relationship is the most important in the world given the fact that failure to recognize that reality can have dire consequences. Since that is so, the cavalier attitude regarding Russian national interests is a huge mistake on the part of Trump and his advisers.”
McGovern agreed, and pointed to Trump’s unpredictability as another worrisome factor in that equation.
“He lashes out viciously at the slightest slight, real or imagined, and we see that in this missile attack,” he said.
According to McGovern, it’s exceedingly dangerous for someone so unpredictable — who lashes out for political benefit in a violent way — to be dealing with Russia.
“[Trump’s] generals show no respect for the other major nuclear power, and if I’m Putin, I say we’d better go to heightened alert because this guy is unpredictable, and work out a firm relationship with China so Trump doesn’t play us off against each other, but so we can beat him on a united front,” he said.
McGovern explains that recently, a major geopolitical strategy change has been taking place. Increasingly, he says, Trump’s presidency is turning Russia and China (and possibly North Korea) into “virtually allies” against the US.
“If there is a dustup with Russia or China, then what?” he asked.
Giraldi’s statements on the matter serve as an equally dire warning.
“In spite of his campaign promises regarding both Russia and the Middle East, Trump has made a 180-degree turn … and using military intervention as his preferred response to situations that he does not seem to understand,” he said. “If he continues to be aggressive with North Korea, and there is every sign that he will, it could be catastrophic for the entire northeast Asian region.”
And for the Middle East, Giraldi had an equally worrisome outlook.
“Trump is also clearly edging ever closer to Israel, and an Israel-centric policy will inevitably lead to conflict with Iran, which would be a terrible outcome for an administration that in effect promised no more wars in the Middle East,” Giraldi said.
Murray thinks face-to-face talks with North Korean leadership are required to de-escalate tensions, which Trump has gone out of his way to ratchet up. Additionally, she says Washington should scale back the ongoing hostile rhetoric and major military maneuvers it has been conducting in the region.
“If one reads the terrible history of US military intervention in North Korea, it’s easy to understand why Pyongyang is jittery and testing its ballistic missiles,” Murray said. She noted that a similar process of de-escalation should be employed with regard to Syria and Russia, adding that Iran should be included in these negotiations.
Murray hopes that the real threat of nuclear war will prompt moves toward restoring normalcy and diplomacy to US foreign policy.
“If that doesn’t take place,” she concluded, “then all bets are off.”
Meanwhile, the US military continues to wreak bloodshed and suffering abroad. In Syria, Al-Sabouni continues to hope for a chance to begin rebuilding her country — to help Syria return “from the sad state of degradation it is suffering from” and “to find an alternative option other than the usual self-glorification and self-flagellation” in which it has been embroiled.
She also believes it is possible to build a country where people can appreciate their shared spaces, where they can collectively appreciate what their hands can produce and how their lands can thrive.
She outlined her vision for the country: “A place that is not occupied by companies nor neglected by individuals. A place where morals are embodied in stones as well as in every day acts. A place that we can all call home.”
But before the quest for that future country can begin, the conflict that the US continues to bolster must end. With a Trump administration now calling the shots, the forecast looks bleak.
Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
Dahr Jamail, a Truthout staff reporter, is the author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan (Haymarket Books, 2009), and Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from Iraq for more than a year, as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey over the last 10 years, and has won the Martha Gellhorn Award for Investigative Journalism, among other awards.
His third book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with William Rivers Pitt, is available now on Amazon.
Dahr Jamail is the author of the book, The End of Ice, forthcoming from The New Press. He lives and works in Washington State.
Media Advisory from Institute for Public Accuracy
When: Friday, April 28 at 10 a.m.
Where: U.S. Department of Justice Building between 9th and 10th Streets NW (Constitution Avenue entrance)
CIA Director Mike Pompeo recently called WikiLeaks a “hostile intelligence service.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently stated that Julian Assange’s arrest is a “priority” of the Trump administration. This has caused numerous individuals — with differing perspectives on WikiLeaks — to warn of a growing threat to press freedom.
The following will address U.S. government policy toward WikiLeaks and whistleblowers:
* Ann Wright is a retired U.S. Army Reserve colonel, and a 29-year veteran of the Army and Army Reserves. As a U.S. diplomat, Wright served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Krygyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia and helped re-open the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan in 2001. In March of 2003, she resigned in protest over the invasion of Iraq. She is co-author of Dissent: Voices of Conscience.
* Jesselyn Radack is National Security and Human Rights Director of WHISPeR — Whistleblower and Source Protection Program — at ExposeFacts. Her clients have included NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. She’s also a whistleblower herself. While at the Justice Department, she disclosed that the FBI committed an ethics violation in their interrogation of John Walker Lindh.
* Ray McGovern, a former Army officer and CIA analyst who prepared the President’s Daily Brief (under the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations), is co-founder of Sam Adams Associates for Integrity (see: samadamsaward.ch), which gave Julian Assange its annual award in 2010. Sam Adams Associates strongly opposes any attempt to deny Julian Assange the protections that are his as a journalist.
Contact at ExposeFacts (a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy):
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020, sam [at] accuracy dot org.
Two dozen former U.S. intelligence professionals are urging the American people to demand clear evidence that the Syrian government was behind the April 4 chemical incident before President Trump dives deeper into another war. (Originally published on Consortiumnews.com on April 26, 2017.)
AN OPEN MEMORANDUM FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE
From: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
Subject: Mattis ‘No Doubt’ Stance on Alleged Syrian CW Smacks of Politicized Intelligence
Donald Trump’s new Secretary of Defense, retired Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, during a recent trip to Israel, commented on the issue of Syria’s retention and use of chemical weapons in violation of its obligations to dispose of the totality of its declared chemical weapons capability in accordance with the provisions of both the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions.
“There can be no doubt,” Secretary Mattis said during a April 21, 2017 joint news conference with his Israeli counterpart, Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman, “in the international community’s mind that Syria has retained chemical weapons in violation of its agreement and its statement that it had removed them all.” To the contrary, Mattis noted, “I can say authoritatively they have retained some.”
Lieberman joined Mattis in his assessment, noting that Israel had “100 percent information that [the] Assad regime used chemical weapons against [Syrian] rebels.”
Both Mattis and Lieberman seemed to be channeling assessments offered to reporters two days prior, on April 19, 2017, by anonymous Israeli defense officials that the April 4, 2017 chemical weapons attack on the Syrian village of Khan Shaykhun was ordered by Syrian military commanders, with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s personal knowledge, and that Syria retained a stock of “between one and three tons” of chemical weapons.
The Israeli intelligence followed on the heels of an April 13, 2017 speech given by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that, once information had come in about a chemical attack on Khan Shaykhun, the CIA had been able to “develop several hypothesis around that, and then to begin to develop fact patterns which either supported or suggested that the hypothesis wasn’t right.” The CIA, Pompeo said, was “in relatively short order able to deliver to [President Trump] a high-confidence assessment that, in fact, it was the Syrian regime that had launched chemical strikes against its own people in [Khan Shaykhun.]”
The speed in which this assessment was made is of some concern. Both Director Pompeo, during his CSIS remarks, and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, during comments to the press on April 6, 2017, note that President Trump turned to the intelligence community early on in the crisis to understand better “the circumstances of the attack and who was responsible.” McMaster indicated that the U.S. Intelligence Community, working with allied partners, was able to determine with “a very high degree of confidence” where the attack originated.
Both McMaster and Pompeo spoke of the importance of open source imagery in confirming that a chemical attack had taken place, along with evidence collected from the victims themselves – presumably blood samples – that confirmed the type of agent that was used in the attack. This initial assessment drove the decision to use military force – McMaster goes on to discuss a series of National Security Council meetings where military options were discussed and decided upon; the discussion about the intelligence underpinning the decision to strike Syria was over.
The danger of this rush toward an intelligence decision by Director Pompeo and National Security Advisor McMaster is that once the President and his top national security advisors have endorsed an intelligence-based conclusion, and authorized military action based upon that conclusion, it becomes virtually impossible for that conclusion to change. Intelligence assessments from that point forward will embrace facts that sustain this conclusion, and reject those that don’t; it is the definition of politicized intelligence, even if those involved disagree.
A similar “no doubt” moment had occurred nearly 15 years ago when, in August 2002, Vice President Cheney delivered a speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars. “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction,” Cheney declared. “There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us.” The message Cheney was sending to the Intelligence Community was clear: Saddam Hussein had WMD; there was no need to answer that question anymore.
The CIA vehemently denies that either Vice President Cheney or anyone at the White House put pressure on its analysts to alter their assessments. This may very well be true, but if it is, then the record of certainty – and arrogance – that existed in the mindset of senior intelligence managers and analysts only further erodes public confidence in the assessments produced by the CIA, especially when, as is the case with Iraq and Weapons of Mass Destruction – the agency was found so lacking. Stuart Cohen, a veteran CIA intelligence analyst who served as the acting Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, oversaw the production of the 2002 Iraq National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that was used to make case for Iraq possessing WMD that was used to justify war.
According to Mr. Cohen, he had four National Intelligence Officers with “over 100 years’ collective work experience on weapons of mass destruction issues” backed up by hundreds of analysts with “thousands of man-years invested in studying these issues.”
On the basis of this commitment of talent alone, Mr. Cohen assessed that “no reasonable person could have viewed the totality of the information that the Intelligence Community had at its disposal … and reached any conclusion or alternative views that were profoundly different from those that we reached,” namely that – judged with high confidence – “Iraq had chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of the 150 kilometer limit imposed by the UN Security Council.”
Two facts emerge from this expression of intellectual hubris. First, the U.S. Intelligence Community was, in fact, wrong in its estimate on Iraq’s WMD capability, throwing into question the standards used to assign “high confidence” ratings to official assessments. Second, the “reasonable person” standard cited by Cohen must be reassessed, perhaps based upon a benchmark derived from a history of analytical accuracy rather than time spent behind a desk.
The major lesson learned here, however, is that the U.S. Intelligence Community, and in particular the CIA, more often than not hides behind self-generated platitudes (“high confidence”, “reasonable person”) to disguise a process of intelligence analysis that has long ago been subordinated to domestic politics.
It is important to point out the fact that Israel, too, was wrong about Iraq’s WMD. According to Shlomo Brom, a retired Israeli Intelligence Officer, Israeli intelligence seriously overplayed the threat posed by Iraqi WMD in the lead up to the 2003 Iraq War, including a 2002 briefing to NATO provided by Efraim Halevy, who at the time headed the Israeli Mossad, or intelligence service, that Israel had “clear indications” that Iraq had reconstituted its WMD programs after U.N. weapons inspectors left Iraq in 1998.
The Israeli intelligence assessments on Iraq, Mr. Brom concluded, were most likely colored by political considerations, such as the desire for regime change in Iraq. In this light, neither the presence of Avigdor Leiberman, nor the anonymous background briefings provided by Israel about Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities, should be used to provide any credence to Secretary Mattis’s embrace of the “no doubt” standard when it comes to Syria’s alleged possession of chemical weapons.
The intelligence data that has been used to back up the allegations of Syrian chemical weapons use has been far from conclusive. Allusions to intercepted Syrian communications have been offered as “proof”, but the Iraq experience – in particular former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s unfortunate experience before the U.N. Security Council – show how easily such intelligence can be misunderstood and misused.
Inconsistencies in the publicly available imagery which the White House (and CIA) have so heavily relied upon have raised legitimate questions about the veracity of any conclusions drawn from these sources (and begs the question as to where the CIA’s own Open Source Intelligence Center was in this episode.) The blood samples used to back up claims of the presence of nerve agent among the victims was collected void of any verifiable chain of custody, making their sourcing impossible to verify, and as such invalidates any conclusions based upon their analysis.
In the end, the conclusions CIA Director Pompeo provided to the President was driven by a fundamental rethinking of the CIA’s analysts when it came to Syria and chemical weapons that took place in 2014. Initial CIA assessments in the aftermath of the disarmament of Syria’s chemical weapons seemed to support the Syrian government’s stance that it had declared the totality of its holding of chemical weapons, and had turned everything over to the OPCW for disposal. However, in 2014, OPCW inspectors had detected traces of Sarin and VX nerve agent precursors at sites where the Syrians had indicated no chemical weapons activity had taken place; other samples showed the presence of weaponized Sarin nerve agent.
The Syrian explanation that the samples detected were caused by cross-contamination brought on by the emergency evacuation of chemical precursors and equipment used to handle chemical weapons necessitated by the ongoing Civil War was not accepted by the inspectors, and this doubt made its way into the minds of the CIA analysts, who closely followed the work of the OPCW inspectors in Syria.
One would think that the CIA would operate using the adage of “once bitten, twice shy” when assessing inspector-driven doubt; U.N. inspectors in Iraq, driven by a combination of the positive sampling combined with unverifiable Iraqi explanations, created an atmosphere of doubt about the veracity of Iraqi declarations that all chemical weapons had been destroyed. The CIA embraced the U.N. inspectors’ conclusions, and discounted the Iraqi version of events; as it turned out, Iraq was telling the truth.
While the jury is still out about whether or not Syria is, like Iraq, telling the truth, or whether the suspicions of inspectors are well founded, one thing is clear: a reasonable person would do well to withhold final judgment until all the facts are in. (Note: The U.S. proclivity for endorsing the findings of U.N. inspectors appears not to include the Khan Shaykhun attack; while both Syria and Russia have asked the OPCW to conduct a thorough investigation of the April 4, 2017 incident, the OPCW has been blocked from doing so by the United States and its allies.)
CIA Director Pompeo’s job is not to make policy – the intelligence his agency provides simply informs policy. It is not known if the U.S. Intelligence Community will be producing a formal National Intelligence Estimate addressing the Syrian chemical weapons issue, although the fact that the United States has undertaken military action under the premise that these weapons exist more than underscores the need for such a document, especially in light of repeated threats made by the Trump administration that follow-on strikes might be necessary.
Making policy is, however, the job of Secretary of Defense Mattis. At the end of the day, Secretary of Defense Mattis will need to make his own mind up as to the veracity of any intelligence used to justify military action. Mattis’s new job requires that he does more than simply advise the President on military options; he needs to ensure that the employment of these options is justified by the facts.
In the case of Syria, the “no doubt” standard Mattis has employed does not meet the “reasonable man” standard. Given the consequences that are attached to his every word, Secretary Mattis would be well advised not to commit to a “no doubt” standard until there is, literally, no doubt.
For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
William Binney, Technical Director, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)
Marshall Carter-Tripp, Foreign Service Officer (ret) and former Office Division Director in the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research
Thomas Drake, former Senior Executive, NSA
Bogdan Dzakovic, Former Team Leader of Federal Air Marshals and Red Team, FAA Security, (ret.) (associate VIPS)
Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)
Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC, Iraq & Foreign Service Officer, Afghanistan (associate VIPS)
Larry C Johnson, CIA & State Department (ret.)
Michael S. Kearns, Captain, USAF (Ret.); ex-Master SERE Instructor for Strategic Reconnaissance Operations (NSA/DIA) and Special Mission Units (JSOC)
Brady Kiesling, former U.S. Foreign Service Officer, ret. (Associate VIPS)
Karen Kwiatkowski, former Lt. Col., US Air Force (ret.), at Office of Secretary of Defense watching the manufacture of lies on Iraq, 2001-2003
Lisa Ling, TSgt USAF (ret.)
Linda Lewis, WMD preparedness policy analyst, USDA (ret.) (associate VIPS)
Edward Loomis, NSA, Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)
David MacMichael, National Intelligence Council (ret.)
Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Near East, CIA and National Intelligence Council (ret.)
Torin Nelson, former Intelligence Officer/Interrogator (GG-12) HQ, Department of the Army
Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)
Coleen Rowley, FBI Special Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel (ret.)
Scott Ritter, former MAJ., USMC, former UN Weapon Inspector, Iraq
Peter Van Buren, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer (ret.) (associate VIPS)
Kirk Wiebe, former Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA
Lawrence Wilkerson, Colonel (USA, ret.), Distinguished Visiting Professor, College of William and Mary (associate VIPS)
Sarah G. Wilton, Intelligence Officer, DIA (ret.); Commander, US Naval Reserve (ret.)
Robert Wing, former Foreign Service Officer (associate VIPS)
Ann Wright, Col., US Army (ret.); Foreign Service Officer (resigned)