Also, he said, the United States is undergoing a constitutional crisis.
"I do not wish to be associated, however remotely, with an agency engaged in torture," wrote Ray McGovern in a recent letter as he returned his Intelligence Commendation Award medallion to Congressman Pete Hoekstra, R-MI, and Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
At the time, McGovern was wearing an orange jump suit, similar to those worn at Guantanamo Bay, with a gag over his mouth on which was written the word, "torture." Along with 15 other individuals, dressed alike, he wandered the halls of Congress.
"It was simply a slow, dead man walking kind of thing," said McGovern, who said the reaction he received was interesting. "I had expected turbulence, the worst I experienced was people averting their eyes and the most common reaction was people looking at me, silence," he said.
He described the experience as having "a certain somberness and reverence."
There were more volunteers wanting to take part, he said, but "not enough jump suits."
A 27-year veteran of the CIA, spanning administrations from John F. Kennedy to George Herbert Walker Bush, the current president's father, McGovern has taken, in recent years, a vocal stand on several aspects of the current Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq and ensuing events.
Returning his medal for "especially commendable service" took a lot of thought. "I had been thinking of ways I could disassociate myself from torture," he said, describing it as a response for his grandchildren who, he said, would ask him what role he played in current events.
"Pete Hoekstra was one of the few people in our government who would be able to stop this," said McGovern. But neither has he seen any action from Hoekstra in attempt to stop torture of prisoners at American hands, nor has he received any response from the return of his medal yet, he said.
"In my view, this is an order of magnitude different from my experiences in the past -- there has been torture before, but never before has it been ordered and openly 'justified'," he said.
Recent months have seen CIA Director Porter Goss and Vice President Dick Cheney unsuccessfully try to prevent Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. from his successful initiative to ensure there were legal restraints on torture.
Attorney General "Alberto Gonzalez in London was unwilling to say whether dogs were used in torture," said McGovern. "Even thought torture has always been conducted separosa, there should be a debate in this city," he said.
During his time at the CIA, McGovern at one point was responsible for daily briefings to the first President Bush. After retiring in 1990; he said he received a "wonderful letter from Bush, Sr. We do stay in touch periodically," but would not comment on the former president's opinions on McGovern's current activities.
Today, he spends his time writing and speaking around the world and abroad, mostly about the Iraq war, "trying to spread a little truth around," he said.
The alleged corruption of intelligence strikes a heavy chord with McGovern. The war in Iraq started, he said, because former CIA director George Tenet, was given no choice but to state the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
"Back in my day, I like to think we would have got up and walked out," if asked to force intelligence, he said. "Cooking intelligence is a cardinal sin in the intelligence world."
In a chapter in the new book, "Neo-Conned Again!" -- a compilation of condemnations of the war in Iraq -- McGovern referred to the New Testament passage carved into the marble entrance at CIA headquarters. "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
"This was the ethos of the intelligence analysis directorate during most of the 27 years I spent there," McGovern wrote.
"As outraged as we are by the politicization, some say prostitution, of intelligence procedures, we are upset by the undermining of the Constitution," he said, speaking for the anti-war group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, of which he is a founder.
Currently the group has 54 members who are former and some current intelligence professionals from all branches of the government. VIPS started in 2003 with five members -- all former agency analysts.
"If you're going to have an intelligence apparatus that tells the president what he wants to hear, you might as well just abolish the whole thing," and let the State Department run intelligence operations, said McGovern. The point of the CIA was to be accountable, he said. "We're supposed to tell the truth."
VIPS focuses on putting out memos to critique and comment official actions regarding controversial subjects related to the War on Terror. "People can and do come to us for the straight answers," McGovern said.
"When I speak frankly about the real reasons why we went into Iraq," he said, "I use the acronym OIL - Oil, Israel, Logistical bases." In recent months, the debate has turned to Iran.
McGovern refers to a former colleague at the CIA -- Paul Pillar, recently retired and now able to voice his perspectives on current situations.
McGovern quoted Pillar's words from a talk given at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington Tuesday, "It is important to bear in mind that we don't know if Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon."
His point, he said, was that one must not only analyze the historical facts that would lead to such a conclusion, but also provide hard evidence -- not corrupted evidence. He said he believed that, if not prevented now, another war will start in the next month or two.
"The American people need to wake up now, the evidence is all there," he said. "Our president and vice president have started a war of aggression defined by Nuremberg as a supreme international crime."
Describing members of Congress as tools of the White House, McGovern expressed a need for the people to take a different way. "Together with torture and clearly illegal wiretapping, we need to look for ways to stop all these crimes and indignities," he said.
McGovern also discussed the constitutional provision of impeachment. "I think impeachment proceedings should begin" against President Bush, he said.
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