Shadowy pro-Russia advocacy group behind attacks on CIA’s Haspel

· March 29, 2018  
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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The list of Russia apologists continues with VIPS’ Karen Kwiatkowski.

And VIPS’ Greg Thielmann shares the views of his co-signers:

VIPS’ Coleen Rowley, who was part of the contingent that visited Edward Snowden in Moscow:

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.

 


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Author: Jordan Schachtel

Jordan Schachtel is the national security correspondent for Conservative Review and editor of The Dossier for CRTV. Follow him on Twitter @JordanSchachtel.