Malcolm Nance, the MSNBC talking head who bills himself as an “intelligence professional,” recently quit his media gig, signed on to the so-called International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine and left to battle the Russians. At least that’s what he wants all of us to think. There are so many things wrong with this story that I don’t know where to begin. So, I guess the best place to begin is at the beginning.
I met Malcolm Nance in the spring of 2001. I had returned from an overseas assignment as a C.I.A. counterterrorism officer to take a course called “advanced counterterrorism operations.” As part of the class, the participants were given about a dozen books related to the latest thinking on terrorism and how to combat it.
I knew myself pretty well. I wasn’t going to read those books. And I wasn’t going to haul them back overseas in a suitcase. So, I put them on eBay for $50. They sold a week later, and I got an email from the high bidder saying that he wanted to send me a check. (These were the days before the now-dreaded PayPal.) I told him that I lived in Arlington, Virginia, and he responded that he did, too. It would be better for us just to meet up.
A few days later, I met the high bidder, Malcolm Nance, at a bar in Arlington. I gave him the books; he gave me the check and we started talking. He immediately began bragging that he was an “intelligence officer.”
That’s interesting, I said. I never told him what I did for a living. I was a C.I.A. counterterrorism officer under cover, and so I told him that I was a federal employee active in trade and economic issues. It was so boring that he never asked me a single question about myself. But he went on at length about his life in “intelligence.”
The truth is that Nance spent 20 years in the Navy. “Intelligence” has a broad definition. Nance was involved in cryptology, the coding and decoding of messages. His CV says he also specializes in “counter-terrorism, intelligence and information warfare.” None of that necessarily means he is a career intelligence professional, however. And certainly nothing about his resumé qualifies him to pontificate on national television about everything from Al-Qaeda to Chinese foreign policy to Ukraine.
Based on my interactions with him, and what I have heard about him, Nance should be taken with a grain of salt. When he was still in an active-duty status in the military, he appeared to be less than popular with his colleagues. One recently wrote in a military publication,
“As a retired Senior Chief (E-8), Airborne Mission Supervisor, Cryptologist, and SPECWAR operative, I have given (as most of the naval cryptologic community has) retired Senior Chief Malcolm Nance a wide berth. Bottom line: He left the Naval Security Group in disgrace and we, our professional communities and associations, generally have a good laugh at his self-promotion, exaggeration of performance and associations, and his pretense of expertise. The proverbial ‘eye roll’ precedes any response we give when asked about his exploits. He has been declared persona non grata from his profession…”
Nance has often wrongfully attacked people.
Over the years, he has said bombastically on MSNBC that Green Party presidential nominee Dr. Jill Stein, “has a show on Russia Today,” the Russian government’s television network. Not true. Jill Stein has never had a show on RT.
He accused award-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald of being “an agent of Moscow” and “deep in the Kremlin’s pocket.” Those are fighting words. Legally, they have a very specific meaning. That meaning is that Glenn Greenwald takes money from Russian intelligence to perform a task or to provide information. The accusation is clearly and obviously a lie.
And Nance said that “(Edward) Snowden defected to Moscow.” That is utterly disingenuous. Snowden never “defected” to Russia. He was in the Moscow Airport transit lounge on his way to Ecuador when Secretary of State John Kerry revoked his passport and stranded him there.
A person who stretches his credentials (and I’ve seen this countless times over the course of my career) has to continually improve on what he claims to have done in the past. He can’t just rest on his exaggerated laurels.
Malcolm Nance is 60 years old. How does he cap off such a career? He does it by going to Ukraine to “fight for democracy.” But is he really?
Nance joined the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine. That’s supposed to be a unit of the Ukrainian Army made of up international volunteers fighting the Russians. According to The New York Times, Malcolm Nance has become the “face” of that unit, which includes somewhere between 800 and 2,000 “fighters.” Three, including one American, have reportedly been killed since the start of the war.
Check out the photo of Nance in this article, from a U.S. military publication. Notice that the big, bad gun Nance is carrying doesn’t have a clip of bullets in it.
So, what is Nance’s response to those of us who criticize him, or who wonder about his reasons for going to Ukraine? This is what he told The Daily Beast:
“If anybody gives me any fucking flak, just tell them to shut the fuck up since they’re obviously pussies who have never been in combat.”
That’s Malcolm Nance.
Crossposted from Consortium News.