AcTVism Munich recently interviewed former CIA analyst-turned-activist, Ray McGovern, whose steadfast anti-torture stance led him to return his Intelligence Commendation Medal in 2006 — when the CIA sought official inclusion of torture in its methodology.
AcTVism’s Zain Raza asked McGovern to describe what led to his decision to return the medal.
“It was a time when the director of the CIA was openly pleading for an exception to legislation being drafted by Senator John McCain, prohibiting U.S. government officials from torturing people,” McGovern explained, noting he was aware torture had been practiced during CIA operations in Latin America. “But this was the first time the CIA was openly advocating for permission to be able to torture … and that seemed to me so abhorrent that I wanted to disassociate myself from the CIA for the first time since 1963 — because I didn’t want to be associated in any way, however remotely, with an agency engaged in torture.”
McGovern also described Europe’s role in the torture campaign and his opinion on whether President Obama had followed through on campaign promises to hold officials accountable for their actions.
“The role of our ‘allies,’ in my view, is a scandal. Fifty-three other countries cooperated in the kidnapping — extraordinary rendition — of suspected terrorists to black sites, where they were administered ‘enhanced interrogation techniques … which, by the way, is a direct, literal translation of verschärfte Vernehmung, right out of the Gestapo manual. I have the manual, and the sad thing is that many of the techniques are exactly the same — with a few ‘enhancements’ by the U.S. since World War II. So the role of our European allies and others has just, really, disappointed me greatly.
“Now, why President Obama … decided not to hold the torturers accountable is another very sad story,” McGovern continued, saying the president “is afraid” of the CIA. “I never thought I would hear myself saying that the President of the United States is afraid of the CIA, but he is. He’s afraid of the NSA, as well.”
McGovern says this is evident because National Intelligence Director James Clapper, who lied under oath in a Senate hearing, and Director of the CIA John Brennan, who hacked computers involved in the Senate committee overseeing him, both remain on the job to this day.
“You know, it’s hard to say this,” he continued, “but I suspect that Obama is afraid either of blackmail potential or even worse; and he has referred to the killing of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. … saying, ‘Don’t you remember what happened to Dr. King?’”
Discussing the NSA’s overreach and domestic spying, as well as general tacit acceptance of surveillance by people in both the U.S. and Germany, McGovern warned against passivity. He strongly emphasized the need to protect against the gradual ebbing of liberties and human rights, comparing such programs to those of the Gestapo.
“This is terribly, terribly dangerous territory,” McGovern said. “And the passiveness, you know, the apathy, that’s not responsible citizenship. When I’m asked why am I an activist, I say, ‘well, that’s the rent that I pay for living on this planet,’ okay? … To the degree we pretend to be a democracy, we have a corresponding duty to be activists enough to prevent our human rights from being infringed upon.”
McGovern also discussed Edward Snowden, whom he met in Russia, and dispelled some myths and rumors surrounding the whistleblower many call a hero.
AcTVism Munich’s interview can be seen in full below, or at the link here. The independent media site has previously conducted interviews with Glenn Greenwald, Noam Chomsky, and many others, which are available in multiple languages. AcTVism Much relies heavily on crowdsourcing to fund such endeavors, which you can help by donating here.