Before the media goes overboard extolling the virtues of Bob
Gates as the replacement for Don Rumsfeld, it is important to look back
at Gates’ record and reputation.  Gates has some “splaining” to
do.  The press has forgotten that Bob Gates, during his time at
CIA, acquired a reputation for trying to tailor intelligence to satisfy
political masters in the Reagan White House.  In addition, Bob
Gates, a man of enormous intellect and a photographic memory,
conveniently forgot salient facts and meetings surrounding the Iran
Contra scandal.

The doubts about Gates surfaced during confirmation hearings held in
the fall of 1991 to consider his nomination to become the Director of
CIA.  Irionically, the questions then are still relevant
today.  Several analysts came out publically against Gates. 

These included Melvin Goodman and Harold Ford.  A New York Times
piece by Elaine Sciolino captured the mood of the 1991 hearings:

Three witnesses testified that Mr. Gates slanted intelligence
analysis as a senior agency official in the 1980’s, while two others
defended him. . . .Mr. Gates’s detractors assert that the slanting of
intelligence was largely confined to issues involving the Soviet Union,
Soviet expansionism and C.I.A. covert operations. . . .

The most dramatic
testimony came from Melvin A. Goodman, a former division chief in
Soviet affairs. He accused Mr. Gates of imposing his political
judgments on intelligence analyses without any evidence to back his
views, of suppressing his analysts’ conclusions, of corrupting the
agency’s stringent analytical process and of misusing personnel —
“judge shopping the courthouse,” Mr. Goodman called it — until the
desired analysis was produced.

But the more reflective
testimony of another witness, Harold Ford, although less explosive than
Mr. Goodman’s, could carry more weight with the committee. Mr. Ford, a
30-year veteran of the agency who has extensively written and lectured
on ethics in public policy, described his personal agony before
deciding that out of loyalty to the agency, he could not support the
nominee. Adding to the difficulty of his choice, Mr. Ford is a C.I.A.
contract employee who would report to Mr. Gates, if he is confirmed.

of the analysts who spoke in favor of Gates was Lawrence
Gershwin.  Gershwin, the national intelligence officer for
strategic programs, subsequently played a critical role in drafting and
promoting the flawed October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on

Mel’s experience with Gates is consistent with mine.  I
remember talking to the South African analyst back in 1988, who told me
about the time Bob Gates tried to change the lede on an intelligence
piece, which argued that Nelson Mandela was NOT a communist. 

Gates wanted the lede to say that Mandela was a communist.  The
analyst kicked back hard and ultimately prevailed, but this behavior
was consistent with his reputation as a political animal willing to
curry favor with the political masters downtown and sacrifice sound

There is no denying that Bob Gates has a distinguished resume and,
by virtue of experience, is as qualified as any to run the Department
of Defense.  But it is incumbent on Senators during the upcoming
confirmation hearings to insist that Gates fully commit to keep his
fingers out of cooking intelligence and promise to tell the President
uncomfortable truths even if they are politically inconvenient. 
He had trouble doing that during his tenure at CIA.  Hopefully,
with the passage of time, he has grown some spine and learned the
importance of integrity.

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