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Mel Goodman on The Drive talks about the CIA

Mel Goodman came back on The Drive with Steve Jaxon yesterday, to discuss the latest news from Washington regarding the President's unfounded accusations about the former President and how that has eroded confidence in public leadership. For more information about Mel Goodman, visit his website, http://melvingoodman.com.


Steve Jaxon:
Joining us right now, one of our longtime close friends, and we call him the Drive CIA guy, Mel Goodman is back with us. Mel, how are you?

Mel Goodman:
Well, I’m fine. The CIA just approved my manuscript, after 11 months. Can you believe that anyone could read that slowly? It didn’t take me much more than that to write it.

SJ:
Well, they’ve been kind of busy lately, apparently.

mel goodman

Mel Goodman

MG:
Well, that’s true, they’ve been out there wiretapping and photographing us with our microwaves, it turns out.

SJ:
Yeah, exactly! You know, I was just telling someone the other day about how much we appreciate you and what you do, and what you’ve done for us in all these years, and I was saying, one of the things I thought that was so cool about you, and this was when we were in DC, and we all had lunch, and you and I were sitting at one end of the table and doing, you and I were pretty much one on one and everyone else was talking about something else. But instead of talking about all this heavy duty stuff like we do on the radio, you and I talked almost exclusively about comedy and late night TV. It was great.

MG:
Oh yeah. I think what Trump has done for late night TV is fantastic. I’m watching Trevor Noah regularly. I hadn’t been watching Trevor Noah.

SJ:
And Colbert is #1 now.

MG:
He’s making a comeback. I had stopped watching him because I was so disappointed after the Colbert Report eventually folded.

SJ:
Well, now he’s beating Jimmy Fallon because of the monolog on Trump.

MG:
Exactly. He’s gone back almost to his old persona, which to me is much more effective than his entertainment persona.

SJ:
I agree completely.

MG:
I think he’s basically a very shy individual and I think this is a forced effort for him, no matter what persona it is.

SJ:
Yeah, but he nails that monolog and the staff writers are great.

MG:
You know what’s funny is The Donald.

SJ:
Well, you’re a longtime CIA guy, Mel. What approximately was the year when we learned that microwaves could tap our houses and take photos of us.

Mel Goodman:
Well, we’ve known for years that when your cell phone is off, it isn’t. And your computer is never off. You can’t take a cell phone into the CIA building. I don’t know a lot about microwaves but I know that someone can drive your smart car for you if they try hard enough. We’ve known that. But I like all that conspiracy. You know, this guy is the master of conspiracy theory. ‘Cause when you start really with the birther movement, and he was a major proponent of, you know, ‘who knows where Obama was born.’ And then it was the Muslim arrogance, who were cheering on 9-11 and he said that Scalia was probably murdered, and the link of Ted Cruz’ father to having some role in the assassination of JFK. And there was really something ugly, and of course he indulges in these ugly conspiracies, the Vince Foster suicide, which I thought was very tragic, he said that was fishy. The illegal votes, the 3 million illegal votes, in which he would have defeated Hillary Clinton in the popular vote, and now this wiretapping story. And it’s interesting, it’s typical of all these other conspiracy theories, they come a day or two after bad news.

You know, it was on March 2, that Sessions, we learned, lied about meeting with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador. So two days later on March 4, it’s how low has Obama gone to tap (with a double P) my phones? What a bad or sick guy he is. So it doesn’t end. But the sad thing to me is the fact that 62 million people who voted for this person, that there are still a lot of Americans who trust him more than they trust the news media. I think the news media, especially the mainstream press, has created some problems for itself over the years. But if he’s as credible as the media, that’s a new level of cynicism in America and I think it’s just so incredibly corrosive of all our institutions. I think we have a crisis of public trust of our institutions and he’s making it worse and in some respects, getting away with it.

Now I think the wiretapping charge, in some instances, he’s gone too far. He’s in trouble this time. Remember, today was the deadline for producing evidence.

SJ:
Yeah, and now the DOJ’s told the committee, the Congressional committee, they need more time, now that the microwave is in the story.

MG:
Well, did you hear her response to that one when she was pressed about the microwave that was also a camera? She said, ‘I’m not Inspector Gadget, you know.’

SJ:
Yeah, this was Kellyanne Conway. If you missed it, folks, Kellyanne Conway this morning was being interviewed and she suggested that the former President’s surveillance effort could have employed any number of devices, even a microwave oven. Then she quickly clarified that she was not, in fact, accusing Barack Obama of spying via a kitchen appliance

MG:
But I liked her other lie too. She also said, “I’m not in a job that has evidence.” We know that!

SJ:
Can you tell our listeners, how does this work, with wiretapping? I mean, it’s pretty confusing, but I mean, the President...

Mel Goodman:
Well, let me simplify it. I hope I’m not over-simplifying it. But you could only get a wiretap for one of two reasons. Either there’s a criminal wiretap or there’s a national security wiretap. And in both cases, the Department of Justice has to create the case, not the President. The President, on his authority, cannot wiretap anyone. But the Justice Dept. has to go to a Federal Court in the case of a criminal wiretap, or to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, in the case of a national security wiretap. Now, if they got such an approval, that such a warrant was granted for a wiretap, that means there is good reason to think that a law had been broken. So I think Trump has gone down the wrong road with this one, because he’s suggested that there are some implications in terms of his behavior. Now, if he’s making it all up, you can’t sue him for libel, because the President is exempt from libel laws. But, what are high crimes and misdemeanors? No one has ever really defined for me what a high crime and misdemeanor is but accusing your predecessor of wiretapping is the worse charge that any President has ever made against his predecessor. I can’t think of anything comparable to that. We’ve had some pretty ugly exchanges over the years between, you know, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, and Eisenhower and Truman didn’t like each other. They didn’t speak, driving to the inauguration. And Eisenhower and Kennedy, Eisenhower was furious with Kennedy’s inaugural address about the torch being passed to a new and younger generation.

SJ:
Really?!

MG:
Oh yeah.

SJ:
But that was true!

MG:
Well, it was true but I don’t think it was a very nice thing to say with Eisenhower in the house.

SJ:
Yeah, I guess.

Mel Goodman:
Especially since he was a legitimate war hero, among other things. But this is a cynicism that I find corrosive because, you know, when I think of, you know, I lecture a lot about the Soviet Union, that is my first specialty, and it was cynicism, that, I think, brought down the Soviet Union, that people no longer believed their leaders. Well, who in the hell are we supposed to believe now? When I lecture out there now, people are very confused and Trump has done a good job of creating this kind of chaos and confusion. Because whenever a story comes up that’s damaging to him, he changes the subject. He shifts gears. And he’s been doing this effectively, I think, even though I do hope the wiretapping thing may cause some reconsideration on his part, because there’s nothing there. They’re not going to find anything. James Comey has already tried to get the Justice Department to disavow it. It’s interesting that they won’t. James Clapper, who has gone on national television to say that there’s no evidence of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. And by the way, I was talking to some of my old friends at the old Defense Intelligence Agency, and they filled me in on the details of the Gen. Flynn versus Gen. Clapper situation and apparently those two detest each other. So the problem between Clapper and Flynn is just strictly personal. And when Clapper fired Flynn in 2014, it was Clapper who went to the White House and Obama agreed. Then the order was given to the Joint Chiefs of Staff to get Flynn out of the Defense Intelligence agency. They had a party over at the DIA and they had another party when Flynn was forced to retire and was actually fired by Trump over his deceit with regard to contacts with the Russians.

Then the foreign agent lobbying comes up, the money he was taking from the Turkish government and the editorials he was writing to enhance the status of Erdogan, who is a real authoritarian leader. And then what has really complicated it, and I’m getting this a lot in questions when I go out and speak, the deep state. You know, I think this is an incredible myth but it has taken root to a certain extent. You know, is there a deep state? Is there a CIA that is trying to undercut the President? Is there a CIA that’s leaking intelligence? You know, and what I tell people is, you know, the United States is the only ship of state that leaks from the top. You know, leaks rarely come from the CIA. Leaks come from the White House. And this was true in all administrations. There were people that, for example, favored journalists. People such as Henry Kissinger had if he wanted to release certain kinds of information. Brezinski did the same thing when he was National Security Advisor for Jimmy Carter. And this goes back to the days when the Georgetown set in Washington has such close ties between journalists such as Joseph Kraft and Stewart Alsop and CIA Directors like Allen Dulles and Richard Helms. So these leaks aren’t coming from the CIA. I don’t think they’re coming from the intelligence community. A lot of this, I think, is coming from the White House. There are incredible disputes going on in the White House.

SJ:
That’s what we hear.

MG:
It’s in incredible dissaray. And then you have a Secretary of State who is essentially banished, never speaks, holds no press conferences, doesn’t take part in high-level discussions with heads of state who come to the White House.

SJ:
I heard yesterday that the son in law, a lot of these foreign people want to meet with him and not Tillerson.

Mel Goodman:
Well, they know that Kushner and Bannon and Steven Miller, Bannon’s deputy, have access to the President, whereas Rex Tillerson rarely sees the President. And I was talking with someone today who came out of a meeting at the State Department, and they’re worried over there because of the 37% cut in the budget. I think they’ve gotten this reduced to 31% but Tillerson isn’t doing anything for them. The battle is being waged by Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who realize you just can’t do that to the diplomatic corps. You know, as secretary of Defense, former general Mattis has said, you cut the State Department and you’d better give me more funding ‘cause we’re going to be involved in more wars.

And I don’t think Trump understands any of this or he wants to essentially kill the State Department and diplomacy. Tillerson has no staff. He has, in terms of the slots, there are slots for two deputies, four or five under-secretaries and fourteen to sixteen assistant secretaries. Not one of them has been filled. And these are all positions that require confirmation. In fact, if you look at the total government, there are over 500 important positions that require confirmation where no one has been nominated. For Trump to blame, and particularly Sean Spicer, his Press Secretary, to blame the slow rolling by Democrats in the confirmation process, that’s nonsense. These people haven’t been nominated. These slots have been unfilled, intentionally. Here we are.

SJ:
Well, it took the CIA eleven months to read your book. Now they’ve OK’d it. Were there a lot of changes that you had to make?

Mel Goodman:
Well, that’s an interesting question. It’s a 360-page book. There were 13 pages where they wanted changes. 10 of the 13 pages were just like a word or two. On the other 3 pages, there was actually one sentence on each of those 3 pages that they wanted removed. Now I would argue none of it was classified, none of it was sensitive and I would file a reclama, but frankly that would just delay the process. I’m taking all of their redactions and believe me, they were things that could not be called classified by any institution other than the CIA. It’s things you can read about in mystery novels and read about in the daily press. But it does mean the book will be coming out in May and it does mean that I’ll be coming out there at some point because City Lights and WPFW want to do some promotion.

SJ:
Cool.

MG:
And I thought maybe I could come on the air in your studio out there.

SJ:
Hell yeah, that would be great.

MG:
I’ll let you know the timing.

SJ:
OK, and then we can go out to dinner afterwards and talk about comedy.

MG:
Sounds good.

SJ:
Give us a capsulized version of what the book’s about and when you think it might be out.

Mel Goodman:
I’ve been scheduling events now, it should be out by May 18, that is the date that Amazon now has posted, because I have accepted my first book talk on May 20. And it’s essentially a political memoir of why someone who has been with the government for 42 years with security clearances, because I’ve been in the Army, the State Department, the CIA, the Defense Department, why would someone become a contrarian, why would someone become a dissident, essentially why would someone become a whistleblower? And the book is called, “Whistleblower at the CIA: The Path to Dissent” and it deals with my testimony against Robert Gates when he was nominated to be CIA Director in 1991. And I have a very frank discussion of the field of journalism and how journalism really hasn’t done the kind of digging to get these stories out because they don’t want to compromise their relations with key sources. So I talk about the journalists who really do the work, people like, well, Seymour Hirsch and James Risen at the New York Times, Greg Miller to a certain extent at the Washington Post. But I also talk about apologists for the CIA such as Walter Pinkus and David Ignatius.

SJ:
I remember those names.

Mel Goodman:
Yeah, of the Washington Post. You know, Ignatius has been an apologist for the CIA for twenty years and I explain what that’s all about. And it gets into the politics of intelligence. You know, what are these intelligence failures, particularly that involve politicization? How was the CIA turned around by the White House, to basically create fake news to justify going to war against Iraq, a totally... well, a total fool’s errand that could not be justified, but yet the CIA went along with pressure from Dick Cheney who traveled to the CIA on 10 or 12 occasions to get this phony intelligence. And then of course my own experience in dealing with Gates in the 1980s, the phony intelligence on the Soviet Union, you know, when the Soviet Union was collapsing, here was Reagan referring to them as the “evil empire” and Gates trying to give him intelligence to show that the Soviet Union was 10 feet tall. And of course then in 1991 they disappear entirely. So it gets into a lot of material that’s never been discussed before. There have been a lot of books by operatives about covert actions and operations but this is an unusual book, I think, in terms of, it’s an analytic, it’s a view from an analist of how intelligence analysis is produced at the CIA. I think your audience would be interested in it.

SJ:
Yeah, I can’t wait. Hopefully, we will see you in May out here and we will talk to you before then. The great Mel Goodman, longtime Drive Hall of Famer and just, it’s always such a pleasure, sir. I can’t wait to see you again.

Mel Goodman:
Keep up the good work.

SJ:
Thank you, all right, we’ll talk soon.

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