As alleged Russian meddling dominates headlines, how much attention is paid to US meddling around the globe? Ex-CIA agent John Sipher and Aaron Mate discuss
AARON MATÉ: It’s the Real News. I’m Aaron Maté. This is part two of my conversation with John Sipher, national security analyst with the Cipher Brief and a former member of the CIA’s Clandestine Service. In part one, we talked about the recent indictment of the Russian troll farm and the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. Here in part two, we talk about comparing that to the US role in interfering with countries around the world.
One more thing, let me play for you a clip of James Woolsey, the former CIA director, speaking recently on FOX News. He was asked if the US interferes in other countries.
SPEAKER: Have we ever tried to meddle in other countries elections?
JAMES WOOLSEY: Oh probably, but it was for the good of the system in order to avoid communists from taking over, for example in Europe, in 47, 48, 49, the Greeks and the Italians, we-
SPEAKER: We don’t do that now though?
JAMES WOOLSEY: The CIA-
SPEAKER: We don’t mess around in other people’s elections now?
JAMES WOOLSEY: Well, only for a very good cause.
SPEAKER: Can you do that, do a Vine video on this, former CIA director?
JAMES WOOLSEY: Only for a very good cause in the interest of democracy.
SPEAKER: Okay, thanks for being here, it’s always great to see you.
AARON MATÉ: That’s former CIA director James Woolsey, speaking on FOX News. John, is it fair to say that in the frenzy over this election Russian meddling, we may have lost sight of what the US carries out around the world today and over history?
JOHN SIPHER: Yeah, I think Mr. Woolsey there handled a very serious thing in a very sort of flippant way, and I think that’s unfortunate. The US, you know history like I know history, so clearly, the CIA on behalf of certain presidents have gotten involved over the years in countries overseas in elections and things. I don’t believe that happens much anymore, but in fact it happens now more, the US government writ large.
You know, we’ve seen in Gaddafi’s Libya and we’ve seen in Iraq, and you know, we’ve seen these kinds of efforts overseas. You know, Mr. Putin himself was complaining about Mrs. Clinton in the State Department in 2012 in his election as opposed to claiming that was a CIA operation. So listen, I’m proud American, I think that the United States has been a force for good in the world, and you know, my heart doesn’t bleed for people like Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi and those kind of people who you know, were dictators and treated their people that way.
But I think that the United States has learned over the years that some of those early things in the 1950s and others backfired, and didn’t work very well. I think you’d be surprised about the debate inside the intelligence agencies when these issues come up. If a president wants to just sort of work around the system to try to use the CIA, you know, get involved in elections, there would be a lot of push back, a lot of debate, a lot of explanation about does that fit with policy, does it make sense, what’s the long term concern here?
So, I think, you know, you’ll probably find more skeptics inside the intelligence community as many as you would find outside on these kind of issues.
AARON MATÉ: Let me ask you, I mean, this speaks to the consequences of actions like this, when we have these internal deliberations. Do we take into account the consequences to the people of these countries who we subvert. So, for example you mentioned that your heart doesn’t bleed for Saddam Hussein or Gaddafi. Sure, but how about for the hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people who’ve lost their lives as a result of US policies in both these countries?
JOHN SIPHER: Yeah listen, I think the Iraq invasion was a massive strategic blunder that’s hurting us today, and hurting the people of Iraq. So yeah, I certainly understand that and I do think that any kind of serious administration when they debate these kind of things absolutely needs to keep those things in mind. So, you know, I’m with you on that, these are hard decisions. These are kinds of things that you do need to think ahead and, in fact, I wonder if Mr. Putin is thinking ahead.
He is antagonizing every Western country for tactical gain but it’s hard for me to see how a country with an economy the size of Portugal was making an enemy of all of the developed economies in the world. What’s his long term play here? It’s not clear to me.
AARON MATÉ: Well, or the alternative is that that is being overblown. And for example, a Russian troll farm is just being a Russian troll farm.
JOHN SIPHER: Right, this is all about this one Russian troll farm but I’m telling you it’s a much larger thing than this. However, your point’s a good one. We’re the United States of America, we’re the biggest and richest country in the history of the world. This kind of thing should brush off our back. The fact that we’re so divided and partisan and let this do this to us is as much to blame on us as it is on them.
AARON MATÉ: All right, we’ll leave it there. John Sipher, national security analysis with the Cipher Brief, former member of the CIA’s Clandestine Service. John, thank you.
JOHN SIPHER: Thank you.
AARON MATÉ: And thank you for joining us on The Real News.