John Kiriakou Military

John Kiriakou: Info-Warrior Malcom Nance

Has the former MSNBC analyst dropped his media gig and really gone off to battle the Russians in Ukraine?
MSNBC analyst Malcolm Nance shared this photo of himself ‘fighting’ in Ukraine. Twitter.

By John Kiriakou / Consortium News

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.

John Kiriakou

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act — a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.


  1. Mental illness is never pretty, whether it’s in a president or in an MSNBC “expert.”

  2. John,
    Two great articles in as many days. I just wanted you to know how much I enjoy reading you posts. They are clear concise and I say without an ounce of hyperbole simply brilliant. Please keep them coming

  3. In the interest of fairness, please give Mr. Nance an opportunity to reply.

    Thank you.

  4. God I’d love to be there to see the terror in Mr. Nance’s eyes when he gets into his first fire-fight but I imagine he’ll be about 5 clicks to the rear when that happens.

    I was so cotton mouth on my first fight against an NVA company I couldn’t even speak but I did manage to do my job.

  5. certainly seems to have the typical ‘banana’ clip in it to me. you can never tell if such a clip has bullets in it or not, they’re fully enclosed.

    anyone with such a pose, costume and facial expression lays themselves open to ridicule in my social world.

    the comments he makes and the gratuitous bad language and abuse also help create a very bad impression of him.

    Which, both together, unfortunately seem to make up a fair representation of what the majority of Americans consider to be ‘cool’ behaviour today.

  6. Good piece, John. Nance reminds me of Jackie Gleason on “The Honeymooners,” always puffing himself up with one improbable scheme after another, none of which ever go anywhere.

    p.s.: I imagine Mr. Nance is free to post a reply any time he wants — just as soon as he returns from his heroic exploits in Ukraine.

  7. The Ukrainians should assign him to rescue the Azov Battalion vermin holed up in Mariupol.

  8. Nance’s, self-appointed status as an “Intelligence Officer” borders on Psychopathic tendencies, with a desire to project a False image to all. Hence the Fraud he is perpetrating on everyone. What is truly sad, is that MSNBC and the NY Times failed to pick up on what you have so clearly stated. Our country has become involved in a war between the Corporate Fascists that are Trans National and control political systems, and the rest of us who refuse to accept such B.S. , and will opt for a new system rather than trying to correct the present mess which is beyond repair.

  9. I read the account of a Drone Pilot who was prosecuted for whistleblowing but forget his name. His letter to the Judge floored me, speaking of atrocities in graphic detail as if the reader were there. Our government which talks a good game, is CORRUPT to the CORE, including our entire Educational System, Media, the Sciences etc. We have been lied to about everything, and are only now beginning to awaken from the slumber they put upon us. As the Truth continues to expand we shall see many revelations.

  10. MSNBC has repeatedly featured this guy as an “intelligence expert” along with the usual bevy of retired generals , Cold War retreads like Evelyn Farkas and foreign policy goons like Michael McFaul and Ben Rhodes.

    This character is an embarrassment, even to that roster of miscreants — and people should flood MSNBC with mocking e-mails and social media posts. We might get some of their research drones reassigned 🙂

    MSNBC, like the NY Times — is an outlet for Democratic Party spin and lies. Its talking heads, even those who likely know better — are restrained from telling the audience what’s actually going on or providing and useful perspective.

    Selected MSNBC people I’m familiar with:

    Chuck Todd: mediocre, stumbling, a leading voice persuading “moderates” to avoid Sanders. During the run-up to the presidential nominations, he hosted lights such as an editor from the fascist Daily Caller, and once led a discussion of how Democrats need to “fall in love” with a candidate. Yeah, wet panties and bulging boxers — how’s that for analysis? He frequently mentioned which candidate was attracting substantial money. Any revelations of who and to what end?


    Nicolle Wallace, who worked in the administration of war criminal George W. Bush, alternately blubbers over the spectacle of “people just like us” i.e. white people — being massacred — and badgering officials and even the Times Pentagon reporter on why the US isn’t sending even more weapons into the conflict, musing about no-fly zones and more dangerously aggressive acts. She mumbled past the Times’ journalist, who tried to inform her about the risk of a nuclear conflict. She also had a Big Wet Kiss interview with what competent journalists would have regarded as a source — a Pentagon spokesman — to be treated with at least some skepticism, — with unconsciously self-humiliating tearful adoration and TV love.


    She once departed briefly from her usual bleating to talk with a guest “expert” about a tactical repeat of Charlie Wilson’s War — generating an insurgency in Ukraine — apparently oblivious to the fact that that policy led in a clear, decades-long line to the Afghanistan fiasco .

    She seems oblivious that the US has steadfastly refused to recognize the ICC. In any case, that’s never mentioned in any MSNBC reports, with one notable exception, just the fantasy that Putin stand trial.

    Ali Velshi: once presented as a competent journalist, has screeched demands that Putin be removed and seconded Biden’s gaffe on the subject — and has repeatedly denied that NATO has anything to do with the conflict. He’s also called for no-fly zones. he made a passing reference to his support for the Palestinians, who would be killed with the rest of us in the event of a nuclear exchange.

    Ari Melber stands out somewhat: a staunch advocate for Black, brown, LGBTQ+ rights: his repetitions of the anti-Russian bilge seem bland and lack his normal motivation.

    He did twice press US officials to the wall in interviews about US disregard for the ICC, and got self-owning evasions.

    Joy Reid is a radically clear and aggressive voice about American racism: she has frequently pointed out that the US was founded by rich, racist , sexist (openly) heterosexual white men who until the fragile revolts of the 50s and 60s held total sway, and calls the GOP fascists, not just credulous clowns.

    However, she’s a total neocon on foreign policy, and has hosted Nance frequently and presented him as an expert.

    Alicia Mendez: a daughter of the Cuban gusano white flight population, (Democrat BigShot Robert Mendez) her obvious partiality and link to vociferously anti-Cuban powers goes unmentioned to the audience. After the defeat of the Women’s Health Protection Act, she blamed the Republicans only — not mentioning that Manchin — a Democrat — actually sank the legislation.

    This is pure hackery.

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