Messing with the Truth: Disinformation in the West Spread by Ray McGovern

Messing with the Truth: Disinformation in the West Spread by Ray McGovern

25 November 2023
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The justification of Russian aggression is not limited to Russia alone. Western audiences don’t need to translate Russian TV shows or interviews with Russian figures to get a dose of Russian propaganda. It’s enough to listen to their compatriots who echo Russian narratives. VoxCheck, along with the Center for Countering Disinformation of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, sheds light on Western speakers who contribute to the spread of Russian propaganda in the West.

Ray McGovern is a former United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer who worked as an agency analyst from 1963 to 1990. He often comments on intelligence and foreign policy issues, particularly for Russian television channels RT and Sputnik News, which are funded by the Russian government. In 2015, he was spotted at the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Russian information agency RT, where Vladimir Putin was also present.

Ray McGovern on Democracy Now!

The visit of Ray McGovern to Moscow in 2013 became significant: he was one of those who presented the Sam Adams Award “for integrity in intelligence” to Edward Snowden. Edward Snowden was honored in Moscow because it was there that he found refuge after committing the crime of exposing classified CIA materials to the media. Snowden still resides in Russia and obtained Russian citizenship in 2022.

The Sam Adams Award was established by a group of retired CIA officers, including McGovern himself, and is given to intelligence personnel who “demonstrate dedication to truth and integrity, regardless of the consequences.” Sam Adams, a former CIA analyst, once put forth the theory that the CIA and the military manipulated data on the enemy’s forces during the Vietnam War, deliberately underestimating the enemy’s strength, for which he was accused of libel. Each year, the award named in his honor is presented to individuals convicted of espionage and disclosing details of CIA covert operations. Snowden was honored in Moscow because it was there that he found refuge after committing the crime. 

In 2003, McGovern and other former CIA employees co-founded the organization “Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity” (VIPS). The organization typically issues memoranda calling on the government to take certain actions. In 2014, they wrote to Angela Merkel, stating that they “see no credible evidence of Russian invasion.” However, there are numerous examples of direct involvement of the regular Russian army in combat against the Ukrainian Armed Forces. In memoranda addressed to Barack Obama, the organization mentioned that Ukraine is “ethnically partly Russian,” and the U.S. president should understand that his careless actions “could provoke” Russia, which is “defending its territory.” Similar rhetoric persists today: in April 2021, veterans advised intensifying diplomatic negotiations with Russia and signaled to Ukraine that there would be “no military assistance from either the U.S. or NATO.” In September 2022, the organization openly opposed the supply of weapons to Ukraine and insisted that a compromise with Russia would be beneficial for Europe.

On July 12, 2022, Ray McGovern also condemned American arms manufacturing companies for escalating the war between Russia and Ukraine: “Well, it may sound a bit cynical, but there are people profiting from this war. People who are currently making this weaponry for Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, or Boeing. Destroying these missiles in Ukraine simply means their replacement. It means more production, more sales, more money. Thus, money is part of all evil, and it explains to a large extent why the U.S. ignores Russia’s obvious ability to destroy this weaponry as soon as it reaches Ukraine. Never mind, we’ll give them more, and speculators will speculate.” However, it is Russia’s aggression that has stimulated the production of weapons, so it is more logical to blame Russia for creating an opportunity for American companies to profit.

McGovern justifies any actions by Russia, emphasizes the strength of the Russian army and the weakness of the Ukrainian army, and calls for negotiations. Much like the Russian president or a speaker on state-controlled Russian television. In other words, he spreads narratives that resonate with Russian propaganda to a Western audience.

On June 12, 2023, in an interview with Steven Gardner, Ray McGovern accused Ukraine of undermining the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant: “I think the Ukrainians did this. Simply because it makes no sense for the Russians to do it. Look at it. This is an incredible lever controlled by the Russians. If they wanted to flood this part of Ukraine, they would have opened the gates, but they wouldn’t have blown up this thing. They could also just cut off the gas supply.” However, the analyst does not consider the sense for Ukraine to create an environmental catastrophe on its own territory: the explosion of the Kakhovska HPP flooded about 600 square km in Kherson Oblast, 32 settlements. The average inundation level reached 5.6 meters, requiring the evacuation of nearly 2,412 people, with at least 16,000 people in the critical zone.

It’s worth noting that in the first hours after the dam explosion, Russia employed its typical “smoke and mirrors” tactics. Russian-language media and “experts” spread various versions of the catastrophe, often conflicting with each other, all to confuse the audience with different narratives and create doubt in each of them, even the truthful ones.

Watch more about Ray McGovern in this video as well.

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