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Ex-CIA analyst: Rumsfeld 'should have owned up'

'It's a matter of telling the truth,' man says after Iraq questioning

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Ray McGovern

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Donald H. Rumsfeld
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Hecklers repeatedly interrupted a speech Thursday in Atlanta by Donald Rumsfeld, and a former CIA analyst in a question-and-answer session accused the defense secretary of lying about Iraq prewar intelligence.

Rumsfeld denied lying and defended the basis for his claims about weapons of mass destruction and links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

CNN anchor Paula Zahn spoke hours later with the former analyst, Ray McGovern, a member of a group called Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity that has been critical of the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war.

ZAHN: Did you go to this speech today with the intent of challenging Secretary Rumsfeld?

MCGOVERN: I had no predetermined objectives. I just wanted to see what he had to say. But I did get very motivated when the first lady was ejected ... from the crowd.

ZAHN: What was it, then, that you wanted to accomplish by following her rather pointed question?

MCGOVERN: Well, you know, she talked about lies. And I get very upset when Donald Rumsfeld shakes his head and says, "Lies, gosh, lies. I hate it when somebody says that our president would tell lies."

Of course, she hadn't said the president; she said Rumsfeld. But he said that lies are fundamentally destructive of the trust, without which government cannot work.

And that's true. And I found myself really agreeing with that.

ZAHN: Essentially, what he told you is: I never said exactly where the weapons of mass destruction were. I was referring to, we had a pretty darn good idea where the sites were. ... Do you buy what he said today?

MCGOVERN: His words [in 2003] were: "We know where -- where the WMD are. They're near Tikrit and Baghdad, and north, south, east, and west of there." That's a direct quote.

And when he used that wonderful non sequitur by looking at the uniformed personnel in the front row and saying: "Well, they went in with protective gear; they certainly thought there were weapons of mass destruction there." Well, my goodness, of course, they did. Because you, Donald Rumsfeld, told them that they were there.

And, you know, it's not polite to say this, but that was a bald-faced lie. And ... he should have owned up to it, if he wants there to be a modicum of trust.

ZAHN: How much of an ax do you have to grind with Secretary Rumsfeld?

MCGOVERN: It's not a matter of axes to grind. It's a matter of telling the truth.

And we pledged, in my day at the CIA, to tell it without fear or favor, to tell it like it is. And, when I see that corrupted, that is the real tragedy of this whole business.

ZAHN: There was a point where it appeared as though you were going to get kicked out.

MCGOVERN: Yes.

ZAHN: Donald Rumsfeld encouraged whoever I think had their hands on you at the time to let you stay there. Does he get any credit for that today?

MCGOVERN: At first, I thought, "Well, that was rather gracious."

But, then I got to thinking, I was not abusing the privilege. I was simply asking pointed questions. And for the national TV audience to see me carted away for asking Rumsfeld to explain what any objective observer would call a lie, that wouldn't have been good PR.

So, yes, I'm glad he let me stay. But I think it was for self-interested reasons.

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