A shadowy organization that is overtly sympathetic to the Russian government — and which was originally formed by anti-war activists — has emerged as one of the foremost critics of CIA director nominee Gina Haspel.
Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) — a group made up of self-proclaimed whistleblowers, conspiracy theorists, and disgruntled former government employees — released a statement earlier this week opposing Haspel on the grounds that she is alleged to have had a major role in the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program.
“With respect, we veteran intelligence officers from CIA and other agencies urge you to withdraw the nomination of Gina Haspel for CIA director. From what is already known of her leading role in CIA torture 16 years ago, she has disqualified herself,” VIPS wrote in a memorandum addressed to President Trump.
An open letter to Donald Trump from Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity re Gina Haspel: Trump Should Withdraw Haspel Nomination, Intel Vets Say https://t.co/pW2T6HEQN3
— John Kiriakou (@JohnKiriakou) March 26, 2018
The most notable promoters of the group’s press release this week have been Sputnik and RT, which are the two most prominent Kremlin-controlled English-language media enterprises. Sputnik interviewed two of the signatories, while several of the group’s members are frequent RT contributors.
VIPS does not have a website, but it does produce its membership roster each time the outfit spins out a new memorandum.
Originally founded to oppose the invasion of Iraq, VIPS has transformed into a network of activists that appear solely focused on advancing Russia’s interests.
The turn toward Russia coincided with a trip three VIPS officials made to Moscow in 2013, when they received unprecedented access to the infamous Edward Snowden, who lives in Russia under the protection of the Kremlin. Prior to their visit, neither Russians themselves nor American foreigners had been able to get even a semblance of access to Snowden, given the fact that he was a wanted man for betraying the United States and stealing its secrets. Jesselyn Radack, who accompanied the three on the trip, said that they were “greatly honored” and that the Russians greeted them with “open arms.” In subsequent interviews, members of the group did not reveal who paid for the trip or whether Moscow had particular conditions on the agreement for access to Snowden.
Since the Moscow adventure, VIPS press releases and memos have called attention to global incidents in which Russia plays a major role. One hundred percent of the time, the group has taken Russia’s side in regional disputes, calling on the United States and other nations to act in Moscow’s interests.
In April of last year, VIPS claimed that there was no evidence that the Assad regime (Russia’s client in Syria) committed a chemical weapons attack against innocent civilians, although plenty of evidence of these attacks does in fact exist. U.S. intelligence, the United Nations, and countless other allied nations often independently confirm Assad’s regular WMD attacks.
VIPS has released several memos on Syria, frequently attempting to distort the reality that Assad is willing and trigger-happy when it comes to using chemical weapons against civilian populations, which has resulted in the deaths of countless innocents. In one such memo, VIPS urged “President Trump to rethink his claims blaming the Syrian government for the chemical deaths in Idlib and to pull back from his dangerous escalation of tensions with Russia.” The group also released two earlier statements trying to downplay the Syrian dictator’s murderous regime, which is primarily responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Syrians.
In 2015, as war raged (and continues to this day) in eastern Ukraine between Russia-backed armies and Ukrainian nationalists, VIPS released a statement contesting the data and evidence confirming Russia-backed separatists had shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which resulted in 298 innocent lives lost.
In August 2014, VIPS released a memorandum addressed to NATO claiming that intelligence about a Russian invasion into Ukraine was not correct. In another pro-Moscow memo addressed to President Obama, VIPS wrote:
“We recommend that you publicly disavow any wish to incorporate Ukraine into NATO and that you make it clear to Moscow that you are prepared to meet personally with Russian President Vladimir Putin without delay.”
Earlier that year, VIPS called for “urgent action on Ukraine,” as Russia was forcibly annexing Ukraine’s Crimea.
In 2010, VIPS urged President Obama to condemn the state of Israel, claiming that it was moments away from attacking Iran (Russia’s ally). Israel did not attack Iran.
The views expressed in the VIPS pro-Moscow memoranda over the years are reflected in its membership.
Philip Giraldi, a former intelligence official who said he wrote the anti-Haspel press release, was recently fired from The American Conservative for his explicitly anti-Semitic conspiracies. Giraldi has entertained countless conspiracies about Jewish control of American foreign policy. He recently wrote a piece titled “America’s Jews Are Driving America’s Wars,” in which he advocated that when Jews appear on television, there should be a label next to their name identifying them as such. He also has an affinity for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
— Free To Be (@belwalsh1) January 3, 2017
"MH17: The Blaming Putin Game Goes On" – Philip Giraldi – http://t.co/GRc82UY8p7
— The Unz Review (@UnzReview) July 14, 2015
The Giraldi piece was shared by fellow VIPS member and former CIA officer Valerie Plame, who has been embroiled in an anti-Semitism scandal of her own. To solve any potential arms race between the United States and Russia, Plame, another apologist for Moscow, has argued that the U.S. should simply unilaterally disarm.
The US and Russia have already been through one nuclear arms race: Why It’s Safe to Scrap America’s ICBMs https://t.co/AqHtB4SPtm
— Valerie Plame Wilson (@ValeriePlame) September 30, 2016
Stomping his little feet: US Neo-Con Throws Tantrum About World Russia Forum http://t.co/Q78cBkPbrG
— Valerie Plame Wilson (@ValeriePlame) May 4, 2015
Another high-profile member of the VIPS gang is co-founder Ray McGovern, an anti-war activist except when it comes to any kinetic activity that Russia engages in. For someone who claims to be a peace activist, McGovern remains entirely committed to promoting a pro-Moscow foreign policy narrative in Europe, the Middle East, and in U.S.-Russia relations.
The West Snubs Russia Over V-E Day
By Ray McGovern, April 20, 2015https://t.co/OY8STbpddD
— Ray McGovern (@raymcgovern) April 21, 2015
Russia’s Humanitarian “Invasion” of Ukraine
By Ray McGovern, August 23, 2014http://t.co/LPrfvnfAom
— Ray McGovern (@raymcgovern) August 27, 2014
The Hope Behind Putin’s Syria Help
By Ray McGovern, October 4, 2015https://t.co/UkEivzWdMw
— Ray McGovern (@raymcgovern) October 5, 2015
Ray gives the kind of interview automatically banned from the US "blame Putin" media. http://t.co/Que2XNdScE
— Ray McGovern (@raymcgovern) July 21, 2014
John Kiriakou, a disgraced former CIA officer who was profiled last week by Conservative Review, is another prominent member of VIPS. He’s not only a Kremlin apologist, he is on Russia’s payroll as a staffer for Sputnik. He is responsible for spreading the disinformation campaign about Gina Haspel’s role at a CIA black site in Thailand. Kiriakou manufactured the “Bloody Gina” libel, and without evidence, he has claimed that Haspel tortured detainees and took great pleasure in doing so.
VIPS member Richard K. Black is a Virginia state senator who is best known for his unapologetic support for the Assad regime. In 2016, he went to Syria and demanded that the U.S. lift sanctions against Damascus. Sen. Black is an enthusiastic supporter of Russian foreign policy under President Vladimir Putin.
For a year, U.S. allowed 12,000 oil trucks to take ISIS oil to Turkey. Russia just blasted 2,000 of them into dust. #USFailedForeignPolicy
— Senator Dick Black (@SenRichardBlack) January 10, 2016
White House struggles with failed effort against ISIS. Watch Putin – he's whipping ISIS with just 50 planes. #PhonyUSWarOnISIS
— Senator Dick Black (@SenRichardBlack) January 13, 2016
VIPS official Lawrence Wilkerson, who once served as chief of staff to Colin Powell, has in the past claimed that Syrian chemical weapon attacks are actually Israeli-planted false flags. Wilkerson is a regular guest on Russian state television.
Lawrence Wilkerson, retired US official who believes Putin on Syria sarin attack, is interviewing Snowden today at the 2nd oldest US college pic.twitter.com/sUWj4x0FSO
— Michael B. Kelley (@MichaelBKelley) April 18, 2017
Col. Lawrence Wilkerson on Ukraine last night: "If I were Putin I'd have done exactly what Putin did." (4:40) http://t.co/yyTjfTSj2k
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) March 4, 2014
The list of Russia apologists continues with VIPS’ Karen Kwiatkowski.
The USG is out of control. China and Russia are selling peace and economic growth to the world while we play bombing games. https://t.co/fVxOAg7G3z
— Karen Kwiatkowski (@karen4the6th) November 27, 2017
Enjoy my comments, friends! ‘Acts of aggression come from Pentagon, not Russia or China’ https://t.co/HavZdzbTKd
— Karen Kwiatkowski (@karen4the6th) February 4, 2016
Putin – you have to laugh with him, and he us right to laugh! http://t.co/ZABxFFsCU9
— Karen Kwiatkowski (@karen4the6th) March 31, 2014
Putin’s Blitz Leaves Washington Rankled and Confused http://t.co/CGSSVUMtcs
— Karen Kwiatkowski (@karen4the6th) October 3, 2015
And VIPS’ Greg Thielmann shares the views of his co-signers:
Congress making matters worse: "How congressional Republicans trying to undermine U.S.-Russia relations" https://t.co/0AyPG2eKni
— Greg Thielmann (@GregThielmann) August 20, 2017
@SBatsanov Thanks for highlighting Russia's progress with CW destruction. We expecially need to hear more such good news at this time.
— Greg Thielmann (@GregThielmann) September 4, 2017
VIPS’ Coleen Rowley, who was part of the contingent that visited Edward Snowden in Moscow:
— Coleen Rowley (@ColeenRowley) October 20, 2013
— Coleen Rowley (@ColeenRowley) August 2, 2017
— Coleen Rowley (@ColeenRowley) July 27, 2017
And the list goes on.
The CIA is the United States’ foremost intelligence agency, helping President Trump to fight back and defend against our primary great power adversaries, such as Russia. Is VIPS trying to shut down President Trump’s preferred nominee for CIA director with the goal of giving Vladimir Putin momentum on the geopolitical chess board?
VIPS co-founder Ray McGovern did not respond to questions about whether the group has any involvement with or takes money from the Russian government.