Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Imperial Hubris

Michael Scheuer examines why Iraqi insurgents are willing to die to do us harm. John Steinberg echoes many of the same sentiments.
Mr. Scheuer has had a great deal to say about Osama and this administration.
Mr. Bush, Mr. Clinton, Mr. Bush before Mr. Clinton -- they all identified Islamic militancy as being based on the hatred of Western democracy and freedom, and that’s clearly not the case. They surely don’t like our way of life, but very few people are willing to die to keep us from having primary elections or because we have freedom of the press.


Blogger Management said...

Michael Scheuer, ex-CIA bin Laden Unit Chief, Explains Why Insurgents Are Willing To Die Fighting Us...Maybe It's Not Our Freedom They Hate...

I’m very much frustrated with the inability of our leaders to make more than a superficial effort to understand the enemy, not because we need to sympathize with them or empathize with them, but because he’s so dangerous. We really need to take the measure of the enemy and why the enemy is fighting us.... Islamic militancy is a complex issue, but it’s not impossible for Americans to understand if they’re talked to directly and frankly. So far, we’ve gone through 12 or 15 years with not a single frank discussion with the American people.


Known as "Anonymous" when his book, Imperial Hubris, came out in 2004, Michael Scheuer served in the CIA for 22 years and as chief of the bin Laden unit of the Director of Central Intelligence Counterterrorist Center from 1996-1999. Since publication of Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror, and his subsequent resignation from the CIA in November, 2004, Scheuer has offered informed, passionate, and controversial commentary on U.S. policy in the Middle East. Frustrated with the Bush Administration's simplistic portrayal of terrorists as "freedom haters," he talked with BuzzFlash about the anti-American insurgency and the American foreign policy choices that he believes fuel it. An advocate of frank discussion of the Muslim perspective, he both urges us, and helps us, to understand this war, and why it won't be easy to end. He also characterizes our recent U.S. presidential campaign as "completely barren on both sides of any discussion of the foreign policy issues that are at play in this war..." We don't agree with everything Scheuer has to say (we think, for instance, there is a distinction to be made between the Sharon Likud government and Israel, just as there is a distinction to be made between the Bush government and America), but he knows terrorism about as well as anybody and needs to be heard.

* * *

BuzzFlash: You argue in your book, Imperial Hubris, that the United States cannot fight an effective war on terror because the Bush administration doesn’t even understand or is unwilling to comprehend how our U.S. foreign policy impacts the Islamic world. You argue that the U.S. government doesn’t comprehend that we have a perception problem, and that the invasion of Iraq, as well as our policies towards Israel and Palestine, fuel this perception problem which drives anti-American sentiment, which therefore breeds terrorism.

Explain, if you could, what Americans should know about our recent history and our foreign policy in the Middle East, and how the Islamic world perceives it.

Michael Scheuer: I think the most basic thing for Americans to realize is that this war has nothing to do with who we are or what we believe, and everything to do with what we do in the Islamic world. Mr. Bush, Mr. Clinton, Mr. Bush before Mr. Clinton -- they all identified Islamic militancy as being based on the hatred of Western democracy and freedom, and that’s clearly not the case. They surely don’t like our way of life, but very few people are willing to die to keep us from having primary elections or because we have freedom of the press.

Universally in the Muslim world, at least according to the most recent polling data, American foreign policy in several specific areas is hated by Muslims. Majorities of 85-90 percent are registered as hating or resenting American policies, towards our support for Israel, our ability to keep oil prices low, or low enough to satisfy Western consumers, our support for Arab tyrannies from Morocco to the Indian Ocean, our support for Putin in Chechnya.

BuzzFlash: Another major thesis of yours is that the West falsely believes that it is, in fact, fighting the global terror network. But, as you argue, in reality it really is more of an anti-American insurgency in the Middle East in an attempt to get the United States out of dominating and essentially corrupting that region.

Michael Scheuer: Or at least protecting the governments that are corrupt. Yes, certainly what the United States is facing is not terrorism. The groups that America has traditionally identified as terrorists would have been destroyed by now if they had suffered the amount of damage that America has inflicted on them. Al Qaeda and its allies are much more insurgent organizations, such as those that grew up during the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. And so our kind of law enforcement mentality of catching them one at a time, as the President says, is surely never going to suffice to protect America or to defeat the enemy.

BuzzFlash: The Bush administration has deceived the American people about linking the campaign to defeat Al Qaeda with the war in Iraq, which we believe to be completely wrong. What are your thoughts on the spiraling violence in Iraq? How could someone explain to the American people that leveling Fallujah or fighting insurgents on the streets in Iraq has anything to do with protecting Americans against terrorism or defeating Al Qaeda?

Michael Scheuer: Whatever the threat was from Saddam Hussein or weapons of mass destruction, the invasion of Iraq was a countervailing issue that should have been discussed very fully in terms of the war against Islamic militancy. By invading and occupying Iraq, America, or its allies, now occupy the three holiest places in Islam -- Saudi Arabia, first; second, Iraq; and the Israeli control of Jerusalem, the third. Of course, the Israelis are viewed simply as an extension of the United States, so, in essence, in the Muslim mind, all three of their sanctities are occupied by the United States and its allies -- something that was bound to offend 1.3 billion Muslims, whether or not they supported Osama bin Laden.

The real question I think for Americans is, was the President briefed on that? Did Mr. Tenet, when he was the Director of Central Intelligence, inform the President of this countervailing problem? Further than that, the ongoing insurgency in Iraq will grow over time. It’s not, as so many of our generals say, primarily the people who used to support Saddam. In fact, I would venture that a percentage of the insurgent force made up of Iraqis is probably growing smaller over time. But Iraq is now what Afghanistan was in the late 1970s and throughout the 80s into the 90s, and that’s an insurgent magnet, if you will, a Mujahideen magnet, only much, much worse. This is because Iraq is in the middle of the Middle East and the middle of the Arab world, the second holiest place of Islam. The fighters are coming there from all over the Islamic world, from Uzbekistan, from Afghanistan, from Saudi Arabia, from Jordan and Algeria, and it’s going to continue that way, I think, for the foreseeable future.

BuzzFlash: One of the biggest problems is that the Bush Administration believes the answer to defeating terrorism is with overwhelming military power to intimidate and dominate the enemy. We believe this strategy has been a colossal failure. It seems that the battle against Al Qaeda should really be fought with diplomatic, humanitarian, intelligence and law enforcement means. Of course, we’re not even discussing even some of the other, maybe perhaps more important, systemic problems such as poverty, that help fuel terrorism and violence. Would you agree with that?

Michael Scheuer: I don’t agree with it in its entirety. Al Qaeda -- just to take your last point first -- and many of its allies are basically middle class and upper-middle-class individuals. These people who came from good families had a fairly good education -- sometimes a scientific or engineering education -- and were people who had a future. These are not desperate people who had nothing to live for. These are people who have just decided to give up what they could have gained in order to protect what they see as a threat against their religion.

I also disagree with the idea that intelligence activities and military force aren’t necessary. Indeed, at this point, we’ve got ourselves into such a box that the only thing we have left is the military and the intelligence services, and neither of them has been applied with particular vigorousness. We’ve not intimidated anyone, we’ve not scared anyone, and that’s a problem in the Middle East where force and intimidation is generally a kind of a lingua franca.

Al Qaeda and the Taliban survived the war in Afghanistan, and they must figure, gee, we rode this one out. They’re not that strong. The same thing happened in Iraq. We used our military power with a little too much daintiness. The real problem for Americans is that the intelligence services and the military can’t hold the ring forever. America really has a choice between war and endless war, not between war and peace. And what we have to do is to find a way to slow the growth in the Muslim world of support for Osama bin Laden. And that comes down to understanding that the motivation for the people fighting us has to do with our policies.

Until America reviews those policies in an open and democratic way to decide whether they still serve the interests of the United States, we’re really just buying time a little bit at a time, in the sense that, again, the military can’t possibly win this war over the long term.

BuzzFlash: When you look at suicide bombers -- whether they’re in Palestine or in Afghanistan or in Iraq -- you don’t believe that perhaps part of the mechanism that fuels young men and women to die in this war is poverty? You don’t believe that there’s an underlying problem that helps the insurgency and the anti-American sentiment to fester?

Michael Scheuer: I think there clearly are problems with poverty, illiteracy and health across the Muslim world. But the evidence available to date does not indicate that terrorism is at all powered by desperateness or a sense of hopelessness. Indeed, the most powerful bases of strength for the fundamentalists -- at least for the militant movement in the Islamic world -- is in the educated classes, in the doctors, in the physicians, in the engineering guilds in Egypt, for example. Bin Laden himself came from a family of billionaires. Many of his associates are engineers or former professional military officers. The problem we have is people don’t commit terrorism because they’re poor. We have great numbers of people in the United States who are poor and illiterate and we don’t have terrorism based on that here. It’s a sense that the Islamic religion and the Muslim people are under attack by policies followed by the United States and its allies in the West.

I really think there’s only a limited amount that could be done with economic policy. The 9/11 Commission suggested that we have to do a lot more to train and educate Muslim youth, as if some sort of a New Deal was the answer for the Islamic world, and I don’t think there’s any evidence to support that. I also think the idea that public diplomacy, which the 9/11 Commission Report recommends as way out of this box, is also mistaken because we’re not going to talk these people out of what they’re up to.

I think it’s a mistake to think the Muslims don’t understand our policy. Whether they understand it correctly or not is another question, but it’s certainly viewed as predatory policies in terms of the exploitation of natural resources in the Islamic world, in terms of supporting police states across the Islamic world, whether in Saudi Arabia or Egypt, or in support for Israel against virtually everyone else on any Islamic world. So no, I’m afraid I’m not one that thinks that curing poverty or humanitarian aid is going to make much of a difference in this war.

BuzzFlash: It’s difficult now to differentiate between perhaps a young man in Fallujah who has taken up arms vs. a member of Al Qaeda. So perhaps we may be talking about two separate things and we’re not even sure how to separate the two now.

Michael Scheuer: Or are they separable?

BuzzFlash: Correct. Well, let me ask you that -- are they?

Michael Scheuer: No. I think what’s happened is that the American educational system over the last 30 years has bred into Americans the idea that somehow wars can be conducted without casualties. Clearly during the Clinton years at least, we were very eager to conduct military activities as long as we didn’t suffer casualties. We had a chance to capture Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1998, and the government decided not to do it because we might risk the lives of several of our intelligence officers. And at the same time, they were bombing the daylights out of the Serbs who posed no threat to the United States at all. So I really believe that much of the problem lies in the way we understand or misunderstand history.

War hasn’t changed since Hannibal. And the truth of the matter is we’re facing an enemy that is indistinguishable from the civilian population, and they don’t wear uniforms. And because we’ve whittled our own choice down to military or intelligence actions, the reality is that many innocents or civilians are going to be killed if we are to defend America properly.

BuzzFlash: Now that we’re bogged down in Iraq, what do we do? It seems the situation is un-winnable, but, as you indicate in your book, the Bush Administration is concerned about being labeled weak, so withdrawing probably won’t be an option, despite the horrific losses to American soldiers and civilians. What do you think should be done?

Michael Scheuer: You know, people have a hard time admitting mistakes, and certainly nation-states have a harder time than people. I don’t know what the answer is going to be in the long term to what’s going on in Iraq. Clearly we’re not winning. Clearly no one wants to hear the reality of what’s going on. I noticed in the New York Times today that people are attacking again the CIA for writing the truth about what’s happening on the ground in Iraq.

To me, the main problem with neo-conservatives is that they live in a fact-free environment: the world is as they want it, not as it is. Iraq is a beautiful example of that because of just the way the insurgency is rising there. It’s not an accident that so many Saudis and Kuwaitis and Jordanians are being killed in the fighting in Iraq. People are coming from all over the Muslim world to fight there. Do we withdraw? I don’t know. As I said, that’s a very hard decision for a great power. Certainly we’re not going to win there in the near term with 150,000 troops. It looks to me like, until we accept the reality of the world, the way the world is, we’re going to continue to send troops in there, and we’re going to continue to bleed but not win.

BuzzFlash: What should the United States do, in your opinion, with respect to our policies towards Israel and the creation of the Palestinian state? Would a fundamental change help curb anti-American sentiment in the Middle East?

Michael Scheuer: Well, I think that the Israel-Palestinian issue certainly has become a gut issue for the whole Muslim world. Fifteen years ago, it was kind of a hot-house issue. There were sets of diplomats who spoke the jargon and played the game, but everybody was pretty much happy if they kept talking to each other and there was no conventional war. Since the birth of Arabic satellite television and CNN and the BBC television around the world, Palestine now is a much greater issue for Muslims. It’s a gut issue. And yes, I think it would make a difference if there was some kind of change in our policy toward Israel.

Of course, when you raise that, people label you an anti-Semite as if you’re saying abandon them to the wolves, and really what we’re talking about is to look at our alliance with the Israelis and see if it isn’t time that the American dog leads the Israeli tail, instead of the other way around. The perception of our relationship with the Israelis right now is getting Americans killed. There’s no doubt about that, and that needs to be at least discussed. I think that’s where we are.

You can ask me, as you did, what should we do. My answer to that is, first of all, we need a shot of democracy inside the United States. The just-completed Presidential campaign was completely barren on both sides of any discussion of the foreign policy issues that are at play in this war against Islamic militancy. The American people, I think, deserve to at least have a voice in policies that have basically been on auto-pilot for 25 years, whether toward Israel, energy policy, support for the Saudis and the Egyptians -- all of that -- I think it deserves a debate.

If, at the end of the debate, in our democratic process, the decision is to keep those policies kind of as they are -- well, I think that might be a mistake. But, at the same time, if that's what the country would want, then at least the country would be going into the war against Islamic militancy with its eyes open, knowing that those policies, more than anything else, motivate our enemy.

We would go into it with our eyes open. We’d be expecting a very long war, and a very bloody and costly war. And so I really believe, before you can actually say what the policy should be, you need to examine those policies to see if they are still in America’s interest.

BuzzFlash: Why do you believe that there has not been another major terrorist attack on U.S. soil since September 11?

Michael Scheuer: I think the world has been going in the direction of Osama bin Laden since 9/11. The U.S. military was completely unprepared to respond to the attack. It took them nearly 30 days to attack Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. And when they did, Al Qaeda and the Taliban had basically dispersed. Then we fought for awhile in Afghanistan, and we won the cities, which was the winning of a battle, but we mistook that for winning the war. Now we have a rising insurgency there, so it’s going to become increasingly bloody for the United States.

The second reason is, I wrote in my book that if Osama was a Christian, the invasion of Iraq would have been the Christmas present he long desired but never thought his parents would give him. It is an activity which has kind of broken the back of U.S. counterterrorism policy and undone much of the good we’ve accomplished in the last decade for the reasons we talked about earlier. It is now a contemporary Afghanistan which will motivate fighters for the foreseeable future.

I’d also say that one of the problems besetting the American intelligence community on the issue of terrorism is to assume if someone doesn’t attack us when we expect them to attack us, that he can’t, and that he is defeated. And bin Laden is a man who we have never been able to either push into action or away from action. He’s somebody who kind of works at his own schedule and is not influenced to any great extent when it comes to attack by external forces.

The final thing I would say to you is Americans tend to be a little bit short-sighted on Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s all we see. If you step back and look over the last 18 months, for example, you would see a rise of Islamic militancy in the world that is, in some ways, quite startling -- the current unrest and violence in southern Thailand, for example; a great deal of Muslim-Christian violence in northern Nigeria; the growth of Islamic militancy at a rapid rate in a place like Bangladesh; the great increase in Pakistan in sectarian violence inside the country.

Maybe most startling is the ongoing violence in Saudi Arabia. Five or six years ago, Saudi Arabia was one of the safest places on earth in terms of violent crime. And now, you know, as recently as yesterday [December 6], we had an American consulate in Jeddah attacked. So for all those reasons and others, I think bin Laden figures the world is going in his direction.

BuzzFlash: Do you believe the United States, the homeland, is safer from threats of terrorism since 9/11?

Michael Scheuer: Well, I hope it is. My own experience in government over pretty close to a quarter century is that bigger bureaucracy is seldom the answer for a dysfunctional bureaucracy. And the Department of Homeland Security and now a new national counterterrorism center, and a new chief for the intelligence community, seems to me that although we may be bigger, I don’t know if we’re any better. Certainly the failure after 9/11 to find out who was in our country legally and who was here illegally was botched. We didn’t take advantage of it. We still don’t have a firm idea of who’s in this country. And now they want to legalize nine million immigrants. There’s arguments on both sides of that issue. But from strictly the national security aspect, if there are only three Al Qaeda in every million, you would have close to 30 Al Qaeda people able to travel freely across the United States without any real means of checking on them.

So of all the people who are defending America, I tend to think that the immigration people, the FBI, the local police forces, the local Department of Homeland Security people -- they have a desperately difficult job. And I’m not sure at all that the federal government, at least, has addressed that issue satisfactorily.

BuzzFlash: As a side note, sometimes I get the sense from you, perhaps from your years of working in government, that your job is to solve the problem, and that you struggle or are frustrated with sensitive issues of perception and politics.

Michael Scheuer: I’m very much frustrated, certainly so, with the inability of our leaders to make more than a superficial effort to understand the enemy, not because we need to sympathize with them or empathize with them, but because he’s so dangerous -- we really need to take the measure of the enemy and why the enemy is fighting us. There’s just such a reluctance to get into the whole discussion of religious motivation or the chance that our policies and Americans are hated for some reason.

I guess fortunately, and unfortunately, at the same time, I was educated by Jesuits. They always said it’s sometimes necessary to manipulate others, but never fool yourself. That’s kind of where I am on this. At a very selfish level, I have four kids and three grandchildren. And they’re not being adequately protected. Islamic militancy is a complex issue, but it’s not impossible for Americans to understand if they’re talked to directly and frankly. So far, we’ve gone through 12 or 15 years with not a single frank discussion with the American people.

BuzzFlash: What do you believe is the greatest security threat facing the United States?

Michael Scheuer: Our failure to understand what we’re facing. The President, the Vice President, Mr. Clinton, Mr. Kerry -- most of our political leaders continue to identify bin Laden as a thug and a gangster and a deviant personality, and nothing could be further from the truth. He is, in every sense, a great man, without a connotation of positive or negative, but in the sense of a man who has changed the course of history. Already, since 2001, if you just try to take your children’s grammar school class to visit something in Washington, whether it’s the White House or the Congress, and you see the security guards first passing these fourth graders through electronic detection, and then running the wand over them and making them empty their pockets. Try to get on an airplane. Look at the concentric rings of defense around the White House. It’s like it’s under siege.

The American way of life has changed, and bin Laden’s activities and our fear of him is directly responsible for that. Look at the spiral in the budget deficit. All of that is attributable either to Osama bin Laden or the gift we gave him by invading Iraq. To me, the most dangerous thing is that Americans think we’re on the verge of winning this war when indeed we have barely started to fight it.

BuzzFlash: Having read other interviews with you and parts of your book, I want you to clarify something. On one hand, it seems that you indicate that we’ve been, in some respects, too sensitive in not using enough military force. You indicated our hesitancy to strike at bin Laden or retaliating against Al Qaeda terrorist attacks in the 90s. At the same time, it seems that the very civilian casualties in Afghanistan, as well as attacks in Iraq, are fueling the insurgency and the anti-American extremists through propaganda and through perception. It seems a vicious cycle.

Michael Scheuer: Yes, in many ways it is a vicious cycle. I don’t think it’s necessarily contradictory. What I did argue in the book was that because we have left these policies unchanged -- and indeed, someone said the other day that most of them are immutable so they can’t be changed -- we’ve left ourselves only the military and the intelligence services to defend America.

Now if we believe America is worth defending, we have to use the tools that are available, and we have to use them aggressively until we come up with another tool to complement those tools. I tend to believe that whatever increased anger we cause in the Muslim world is going to be on the margins. I don’t think that our leaders have really quite taken the measure of the hatred across the Islamic world. We have polling information for the first time in the last five or six years that’s been taken by major Western companies -- the Pew Trust and Gallup and the BBC -- that show, in many Muslim countries, Islamic countries, majorities in the range of 85, 90, 95 percent hating the same U.S. policies that bin Laden has identified.

At the same time, those polls show majorities -- sometimes large ones -- who admire our society for its basic striving toward equity, for the ability of parents to educate their children and provide health care, and find employment. And so the idea that they hate us for what we are needs to be taken off the map. They wouldn’t run their lives as we run ours, surely. But they wouldn’t be dying in increasing numbers because they oppose our elections, for example.

We need to approach this problem for what it is. It’s a war. No war can be won solely by military and intelligence work. But until we do something about the perception, at least, of our policies in the Islamic world, public diplomacy, economic activities, humanitarian aid, are of very marginal use to us. And so we’re stuck. And there’s no one more than I who wants to be able to complement military and intelligence activities with a group of policies that will assist in winning this war and protecting America, but right now, we don’t have the option.

Several people have said it’s a schizophrenic book. I probably should have written more clearly. But I really think that the hatred for U.S. policy is so deep across the Muslim world that whatever we do to defend ourselves can only increase hatred for us at the margin.

BuzzFlash: Thank you for your time.

Michael Scheuer: It’s nice to talk to you. Thank you very kindly.


5:02 PM  
Blogger Management said...

The secret history of Anonymous
The author of Imperial Hubris is unmasked and says he fears for his job at the CIA, not for his life at the hands of Al Qaeda

EVER SINCE THE Guardian of London revealed almost two weeks ago that "Anonymous," the author of the soon-to-be-published Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror (Brassey’s, Inc.), is a CIA figure "centrally involved in the hunt for Bin Laden," the American press has been playing catch-up — yet in a strangely coy sort of way.

Public interest in the book itself isn’t at all hard to understand: it’s not every day that an active US intelligence officer publishes a work that disputes the Bush administration’s assertions, holding that, among other things, bin Laden is not on the run; the invasion of Iraq has not made the United States safer; and that Islamists are in a campaign of insurgency, not terrorism, against the US because of US policies, not out of hatred for American values. But what’s a bit harder to grasp is exactly why the media seem so reflexively deferential to the idea that "Anonymous" must be anonymous — especially when critical details revealed in a June 23 New York Times story indicated that his real identity is well-known to at least a few denizens of the Washington press corps.

Indeed, the Times piece revealed that Washington Post managing editor Steve Coll knows more about Anonymous than most — enough to give him a first name and details of his career in Coll’s recently published and highly acclaimed book, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. While the Times identified "Mike" via Coll’s book as a 22-year CIA veteran who ran the Counterterrorist Center’s bin Laden station (code-named "Alec") from 1996 to 1999, the paper also reported that in spite of that revealing detail — and despite the fact that "Mike" is an overt CIA employee whose name is not a state secret — a "senior intelligence official" held that "Mike’s" full identity had to remain unknown because revelation of his full name "could make him a target of Al Qaeda."

FOR THE MOMENT, all the general public knows about the book comes from excerpts posted on a handful of Web sites, and a slew of brief television and radio interviews, where Anonymous has appeared in silhouette. He also published another anonymous book two years ago, Through Our Enemies’ Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam, and the Future of America, which analyzed the structure and motives of Al Qaeda. Anonymous is not squishy: both Hubris and Eyes seem sufficiently apocalyptic to warm the heart of someone as anti-Islamic and bloodthirsty as, say, Ann Coulter. So if liberals seem ecstatic that yet another career national-security official is blasting the Bush administration for unnecessarily invading Iraq and bungling the so-called war on terror, they’re also horrified by Anonymous’s apparent advocacy (largely rhetorical, actually) of a military campaign that includes "killing in large numbers" and "a Sherman-like razing of infrastructure" as part of "relentless, brutal and blood-soaked defensive military action until we have annihilated the Islamists who threaten us."

But at issue here is not just the book’s content, but why Anonymous is anonymous. After all, as the Times and others have reported, his situation is nothing like that of Valerie Plame, a covert operative whose ability to work active overseas cases was undermined when someone in the White House blew her cover to journalist Robert Novak in an apparent payback for an inconvenient weapons-of-mass-destruction intelligence report by her husband, Joseph Wilson. Anonymous, on the other hand, is, by the CIA’s own admission, a Langley-bound analyst whose identity has never required secrecy.

A Phoenix investigation has discovered that Anonymous does not, in fact, want to be anonymous at all — and that his anonymity is neither enforced nor voluntarily assumed out of fear for his safety, but rather compelled by an arcane set of classified regulations that are arguably being abused in an attempt to spare the CIA possible political inconvenience. In the Phoenix’s view, continued deference by the press to a bogus and unwanted standard of secrecy essentially amounts to colluding with the CIA in muzzling a civil servant — a standard made more ridiculous by the ubiquity of Anonymous’s name in both intelligence and journalistic circles.

When asked to confirm or deny his identity in an interview with the Phoenix last week, Anonymous declined to do either, and said, "I’ve given my word I’m not going to tell anyone who I am, as the organization that employs me has bound me by my word." His publisher, Brassey’s, likewise declined to comment. Nearly a dozen intelligence-community sources, however, say Anonymous is Michael Scheuer — and that his forced anonymity is both unprecedented and telling in the context of CIA history and modern politics.

"The requirement that someone publish anonymously is rare, almost unheard-of, particularly if the person is not in a covert position," says Jonathan Turley, a national-security-law expert at George Washington University Law School. "It seems pretty obvious that the requirement he remain anonymous is motivated solely by political concerns, and ones that have more to do with the CIA. While I’m sure some would argue that there’s some benefit to book sales in being anonymous because it’s mysterious and fuels speculation, the fact is that if his full name and history were known and on the book, it would get a lot more attention. It’s difficult for the media to cover an anonymous subject who has to abide by limits on what he can say about himself or anything that might reveal who he is."

Upon reviewing Scheuer’s manuscripts, the CIA could have done what national-security agencies have done in the past with employees’ works that were based on open (i.e., unclassified or publicly available) sources, but whose wide distribution might be problematic: stamp a "secret" or "top secret" classification on it so it never sees the light of day. Yet according to intelligence-community sources, this really wasn’t an option with Scheuer’s work, given the unusual origins of Through Our Enemies’ Eyes.

"That book actually started as an unclassified manual in 1999 for new counterterrorist officers working bin Laden and Sunni extremism," says one veteran CIA terrorism specialist. "Scheuer had written it at the request of his successor as Alec station chief, who specifically wanted it to be something that was drawn from open sources in the Arab and Islamic worlds for two reasons: one, so people could take it out of the building and digest it at their leisure, and two, because he wanted new officers to appreciate how much is actually out there that’s useful that isn’t classified, particularly if you have a context for it."

Given his in-house manual’s open-source-based, unclassified status, Scheuer figured it wouldn’t be much of a problem to cull more public material to recast the approximately 100 pages as a marketable academic manuscript — which he did over the course of late 1999 and early 2000, submitting the book to the CIA’s Publications Review Board (PRB) in the spring of 2000. According to Scheuer, the manuscript was at first denied release because the board took issue with the book’s brief favorable discussion of Samuel Huntington’s "clash of civilizations" theory, which posits that antagonism between Western and Islamic cultures (among others) will drive world conflict in the coming years.
"They wrote back saying our Arab friends would be upset, and ‘his views of Huntington’s paradigm bring into question his ability to perform official duties,’" Scheuer says. "That came back, and I thought it was beyond the pale, so I appealed directly to the seventh floor [higher-ups]. And it took the better part of a year to get permission to submit it for publication. I believe it was because of 9/11 that they suddenly became less concerned with what they first considered ‘areas of sensitivity.’ But the condition was that I remain anonymous and that there be no mention of my employer on the cover or anywhere else."

Some have speculated that "Anonymous" has been publishing with at least a measure of blessing from a CIA so angered by certain White House and Pentagon elements that it has taken the unprecedented step of allowing an active intelligence officer to inveigh against the administration — and is enjoying the fact that it can unleash a critic protected by the vagaries of national-security protocols. But the fact of the matter — as interviews with other intelligence-community officials and CIA correspondence show — is that while there might be an element of truth to that now, the agency has only reluctantly approved Scheuer’s books for release because he shrewdly played by the rules. And the unique nature of CIA rules has forced him into an unhappy compromise where, even when confronted with his own name, he has to publicly deny his identity unless the agency changes its mind. (The CIA did not acknowledge a call from the Phoenix, and "declined to comment on [Imperial Hubris] or its author" to the Associated Press on Friday.)

According to several long-time intelligence officers familiar with Scheuer’s situation, there’s no question that the agency’s conditional permission was grudging. "Think back to 2002, and imagine what would have happened if a book had come out that said ‘by Michael Scheuer, former chief of the CIA’s bin Laden unit’ on the cover — it would have been a bestseller overnight, reviewed and discussed all over the place," says one veteran spook. "But because it was ‘anonymous’ and didn’t even say what exactly he did, let alone what agency he worked for, it was destined to be what it’s become: a required read among people who work this stuff, but not much else. Ironically, it seems to be selling well in the agency gift shop at Langley, and everyone from the [National Security Agency] to [the Center for Strategic and International Studies] has had him over to lecture about it. But I don’t think it even got reviewed but a couple of places."

One doesn’t have to read the manuscript terribly closely to see how it provides some benefit to the CIA. Critical as Anonymous is of his own organization — as well as of the Bush and Clinton administrations — he absolutely blasts the FBI on pages 185 through 192. Many progressives may not cotton to the broad notion he advances here — namely, that the US should simply dispense with any sort of legalistic, law-enforcement approach to combating Al Qaeda and leave it entirely to the covert operators. But in the context of Washington’s political postmortems on 9/11-related intelligence failures, this is stuff that at least makes the FBI look worse than the CIA.

Among some in the intelligence community who have either obtained copies of the Imperial Hubris manuscript or heard about certain passages, the rough consensus is that a not-long-for-his-job George Tenet indicated to the PRB that the book’s publication should be allowed, as it might blunt or contextualize some of the scathing criticism likely to assail the agency in forthcoming 9/11 Commission and Senate Select Intelligence Committee reports — and also might aid the cause of intelligence reform. According to several intelligence-community sources, the manuscript was in limbo at least three months past the Review Board’s 30-day deadline earlier this year. Says one CIA veteran: "I think it’s possible that it got the approval around the time Tenet decided for himself that he was leaving."

WHATEVER THE PRB’s rationale, Scheuer — who in interviews with the Phoenix never explicitly said he works for the CIA, only an "intelligence agency" — says he’s agreed to the conditions because, regardless of any issues he may have with the agency, he truly enjoys what he does and has no desire to quit government service. "I could make more money if I left — I have contractors leave cards in my office and take me to lunch, and I have a marketable set of skills, and it would be better for the books if I could actually say who I was. But I really like working where I work and doing what I do. We do marvelous things and stupid things here, but this place is essential to the security of America, and I think we have been at the lead of making the country safer. I’m not disgruntled. If I was, I would have left already. I just want this information and perspective out there."

What he does not like, however, is the notion advanced by the agency that he’s agreed to be "Anonymous" based on safety concerns. According to Scheuer and his editor at Brassey’s, Christina Davidson, when Nightline wanted to interview Scheuer in 2003, the agency told the program that his anonymity was not compelled but his own choice — an assertion the agency also made in a 2002 note to Brassey’s. Davidson was so infuriated that she demanded the CIA state its actual position in writing, which it finally did in a May 25, 2004, fax signed by Paul-Noel Christian, chair of the agency’s PRB. The fax, obtained by the Phoenix, reads in part: "This letter is to confirm that it is the Agency, and not the author that insists that approval for the manuscript is predicated upon the author maintaining his anonymity and also that his association with the Agency is not disclosed."

In the wake of the June 23 New York Times story, Davidson sent a terse note to CIA spokesman Bill Harlow that has yet to receive a response. "To say that our author must be kept in the shadows because he has expressed fears about al Qaeda retaliation is patently false and impugns his courage," she wrote, adding the "respectful request that you cease and desist from spreading this falsehood and inform all members of your staff to do the same."

In an interview after the Times story came out last week, Scheuer sounded none too pleased. "I suppose there might be a knucklehead out there somewhere who might take offense and do something, but anonymity isn’t something I asked for, and not for that reason; it makes me sound like I’m hiding behind something, and I personally dislike thinking that anyone thinks I’m a coward. When I did the first book, I said it would be a more effective book if I used my name. And they said no."

Jason Vest is a contributing writer for the Boston Phoenix. Additional support for this article was provided by the Fund for Constitutional Government.

5:24 AM  
Blogger Management said...

Bin Laden Expert Steps Forward
Nov. 14, 2004

One of the Central Intelligence Agency's foremost experts on Osama bin Laden has stepped out of the shadows and joined the public debate over past mistakes and future strategy in the war on terror.

Michael Scheuer is the senior intelligence analyst who created and advised a secret CIA unit for tracking and eliminating bin Laden since 1996. He's also been at the center of a battle between the CIA and the White House over Mideast policy and the war on terror.

What is new for Scheuer - who resigned from the intelligence agency on Friday after 22 years - is commenting by name. This summer, he authored a book, "Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror," under the pen name Anonymous.

The book, written with the CIA's blessing, is critical of the Bush administration's counterterrorism policy, and was viewed by some at the White House as a thinly veiled attempt by the CIA to undermine the president's reelection.

In his first television interview, Scheuer talked to Correspondent Steve Kroft about his frustrations in the war on terror and his assessment of bin Laden's plans - including the al Qaeda founder's interest in nuclear weapons. Former CIA agent Michael Scheuer spoke to 60 Minutes in his first television interview out of the shadows.

After a 22-year career as a spy charged with keeping secrets, Scheuer decided it was more important to join the public debate on how to best attack Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.

"His genius lies in his ability to isolate a few American policies that are widely hated across the Muslim world. And that growing hatred is going to yield growing violence," says Scheuer. "Our leaders continue to say that we're making strong headway against this problem. And I think we are not."

In 1996, at a time when little was known about the wealthy Saudi, other than he was suspected of financing terrorism, Scheuer was assigned to create a bin Laden desk at the CIA.

"The uniqueness of the unit was more or less that it was focused on a single individual. It was really the first time the agency had done that sort of effort," says Scheuer.

Did he try to figure out where bin Laden was? "Where he was, where his cells were, where his logistical channels were," says Scheuer. "How he communicated. Who his allies were. Who donated to them... I think it's fair to say the entire range of sources were brought to bear."

Codenamed "Alec," the unit was originally made up of about a dozen agents. And in less than a year, they discovered that bin Laden was more than some wealthy Saudi throwing his money around - and that his organization, known as al Qaeda, was not a Muslim charity.

"We had found that he and al Qaeda were involved in an extraordinarily sophisticated and professional effort to acquire weapons of mass destruction. In this case, nuclear material, so by the end of 1996, it was clear that this was an organization unlike any other one we had ever seen," says Scheuer. Scheuer says his bosses at the CIA were initially skeptical of that information. And that was just the beginning of his frustrations.

In a letter to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees earlier this year, Scheuer says his agents provided the U.S. government with about ten opportunities to capture bin Laden before Sept. 11, and that all of them were rejected.

One of the last proposals, which he described to the 9/11 Commission in a closed-door session, involved a cruise missile attack against a remote hunting camp in the Afghan desert, where bin Laden was believed to be socializing with members of the royal family from the United Arab Emirates.

Scheuer wanted to level the entire camp. "The world is lousy with Arab princes," says Scheuer. "And if we could have got Osama bin Laden, and saved at some point down the road 3,000 American lives, a few less Arab princes would have been OK in my book."

"You couldn't have done this without killing an Arab prince," asks Kroft.

"Probably not. Sister Virginia used to say, 'You'll be known by the company you keep.' That if those princes were out there eating goat with Osama bin Laden, then maybe they were there for nefarious reasons. But nonetheless, they would have been the price of battle."

And that doesn't bother him? "Not a lick," says Scheuer.

"My understanding is you had a reputation within the CIA as being fairly obsessive about this subject," says Kroft. "I dislike obsessive," says Scheuer. "I think hard-headed about it."

Whatever you call it, in 1999, three years after he started the bin Laden unit, Scheuer's candor got him into trouble with his supervisors at the CIA. What were the circumstances under which he left the bin Laden unit?

"I think I became too insistent that we were not pursuing this target with enough vigor and with enough risk-taking - - an unwillingness to take risks," says Scheuer. "I got relieved of the position I was in. I had a lovely sojourn in the library and then had other sojourns since."

His exile ended shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, when he was brought back to the bin Laden unit as a special adviser. But by then, everything had changed.

His nemesis had gone underground, and the United States was on its way to invading Afghanistan and Iraq - creating, Scheuer says, the perception in the minds of 1.3 billion Muslims that America had gone to war against Islam.

"The war in Iraq - if Osama was a Christian - it's the Christmas present he never would have expected," says Scheuer.Right or wrong, he says Muslims are beginning to view the United States as a colonial power with Israel as its surrogate, and with a military presence in three of the holiest places in Islam: the Arabian peninsula, Iraq, and Jerusalem. And he says it is time to review and debate American policy in the region, even our relationship with Israel.

"No one wants to abandon the Israelis. But I think the perception is, and I think it's probably an accurate perception, that the tail is leading the dog - that we are giving the Israelis carte blanche ability to exercise whatever they want to do in their area," says Scheuer. "And if that's what the American people want, then that's what the policy should be, of course. But the idea that anything in the United States is too sensitive to discuss or too dangerous to discuss is really, I think, absurd."

Is he talking about appeasement?

"I'm not talking about appeasement. There's no way out of this war at the moment," says Scheuer. "It's not a choice between war and peace. It's a choice between war and endless war. It's not appeasement. I think it's better even to call it American self-interest."

Scheuer believes that al Qaeda is no longer just a terrorist organization that can be defeated by killing or capturing its leaders. Now, he says it's a global insurgency that's spreading revolutionary fervor throughout the Muslim world.

"Bin Laden's still at large. His most recent speech, I think, demonstrates that he's not running rock to rock, cave to cave. We are tangled in a very significant Islamic insurgency in Iraq," says Scheuer.

"Most dramatically, and perhaps least noticed, is the violence inside Saudi Arabia itself. Saudi Arabia was, until just a few years ago, probably one of the most safe countries on earth. And now the paper is daily full of activities and shootouts between Islamists who supported Osama bin Laden and the government there."

But if bin Laden is much stronger than he was, why haven't there been more attacks on the United States?

"One of the great intellectual failures of the American intelligence community, and especially the counterterrorism community, is to assume if someone hasn't attacked us, it's because he can't or because we've defeated him," says Scheuer. "Bin Laden has consistently shown himself to be immune to outside pressure. When he wants to do something, he does it on his own schedule."

"You've written no one should be surprised when Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda detonate a weapon of mass destruction in the United States," says Kroft. "You believe that's going to happen?"

"I don't believe in inevitability. But I think it's pretty close to being inevitable," says Scheuer.

A nuclear weapon? "A nuclear weapon of some dimension, whether it's actually a nuclear weapon, or a dirty bomb, or some kind of radiological device," says Scheuer. "Yes, I think it's probably a near thing."

What evidence is there that bin Laden's actually working to do this? "He's told us it. Bin Laden is remarkably eager for Americans to know why he doesn't like us, what he intends to do about it and then following up and doing something about it in terms of military actions," says Scheuer. "He's told us that, 'We are going to acquire a weapon of mass destruction, and if we acquire it, we will use it.'" After Sept. 11, Scheuer says bin Laden was criticized by Muslim clerics for launching such a serious attack without sufficient warning. That has now been given. And he says bin Laden has even obtained a fatwa, or Islamic decree, justifying a nuclear attack against the United States on religious grounds.

"He secured from a Saudi sheik named Hamid bin Fahd a rather long treatise on the possibility of using nuclear weapons against the Americans. Specifically, nuclear weapons," says Scheuer. "And the treatise found that he was perfectly within his rights to use them. Muslims argue that the United States is responsible for millions of dead Muslims around the world, so reciprocity would mean you could kill millions of Americans."

Scheuer says the fatwa was issued in May 2003, "and that's another thing that doesn't come to the attention of the American people."

Despite this threat, Scheuer insists the CIA doesn't have nearly enough trained analysts working on the Osama bin Laden unit today. At a time when Congress is considering revolutionary changes in the way the intelligence community is organized, Scheuer sees no major problems with the CIA or the product it produces.

He blames Sept. 11 on poor leadership from people like former CIA Director George Tenet, his chief deputy, Jim Pavitt, and former White House counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, who were invited, but declined, to appear on Sunday's 60 Minutes.

"Richard Clarke has said that you're really sort of a hothead, a middle manager who really didn't go to any of the cabinet meetings in which important things were discussed, and that basically you were just uninformed," says Kroft.

"I certainly agree with the fact that I didn't go to the cabinet meetings. But I'm certainly also aware that I'm much better informed than Mr. Clarke ever was about the nature of the intelligence that was available again Osama bin Laden and which was consistently denigrated by himself and Mr. Tenet," says Scheuer.

"I think Mr. Clarke had a tendency to interfere too much with the activities of the CIA, and our leadership at the senior level let him interfere too much," says Scheuer. "So criticism from him I kind of wear as a badge of honor."

Is there anything about bin Laden that Americans don't know, but should? "Yeah, I think there is. I think our leaders over the last decade have done the American people a disservice in continuing to characterize Osama bin Laden as a thug, as a gangster, as a degenerate personality, as some kind of abhorrent individual," says Scheuer.

"He surely does reprehensible activities, and we should surely take care of that by killing him as soon as we can. But he's not an irrational man. He's a very worthy enemy. He's an enemy to worry about."

"You wrote in your book that he's a great man," says Kroft.

"Yes, certainly a man, without the connotation good or bad, he's a great man in the sense that he's influenced the course of history," says Scheuer.

Does he respect bin Laden? "Until we respect him, we are going to die in numbers that are probably unnecessary," says Scheuer.

5:25 AM  
Blogger Management said...

CIA Insider Says Osama Hunt Flawed
WASHINGTON, Sept. 15, 2004

An experienced CIA counterterrorism officer tells Congress the agency is still failing to adequately staff the hunt for Osama bin Laden, a newspaper reports.

The officer claims that the headquarters unit assigned to bin Laden has fewer experienced case officers now than on Sept. 11, 2001.

The New York Times reports Michael Scheuer, who recently penned a book critical of the CIA's counterterrorism efforts called "Imperial Hubris," lodged his complaints in a letter to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

A 22-year CIA veteran who ran the bin Laden unit from 1996 to 1999, Scheuer also claims that the CIA is rotating inexperienced officers into the bin Laden unit for short stints of 60 to 90 days.

A CIA official who refused to be identified disputed Scheuer's account, saying there are more officers working on bin Laden worldwide now than there were three years ago.

"Our knowledge of and substantive expertise on al Qaeda has increased enormously since 9/11. The overall size of the counterterrorism center has more than doubled, and its analytic capabilities have increased dramatically," he said, according to The Times.

Scheuer also claims that the CIA had more opportunities to capture or kill bin Laden that has been reported previously. He says there were 10 such chances between May 1998 and May 1999. It was not clear who decided not to take those chances.

"The pattern of decision making I have witnessed seems to indicate a want of moral courage, an overwhelming concern for career advancement, or an abject inability to distinguish right from wrong," he said.

Scheuer says the bin Laden unit was slated for elimination in the spring of 1998, but then-CIA director George Tenet blocked the move.

The report of the Sept. 11 commission says the U.S. government missed a few chances to capture or kill the al Qaeda leader.

In May of 1998, after months of planning, officials called off a CIA plan to have Afghan allies capture bin Laden and send him out of Afghanistan for trial. The plan was apparently scrapped because of worries about the chance of killing bystanders, and even bin Laden himself, as well as concerns over the strength of the legal evidence against bin Laden.

After the August 1998 African embassy bombings, President Clinton ordered cruise missile strikes on Afghanistan that failed to kill bin Laden.

The Sept. 11 report identifies three other occasions on which there was intelligence on bin Laden's location but not attempt to kill him: December 1998 in Kandahar, February 1999 in his desert camp and back in Kandahar in May 1999.

Questions about the CIA's capabilities are part of a larger debate over reforming U.S. intelligence, reflected on Capitol Hill in the confirmation hearings for President Bush's nominee to head the CIA, Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla.

The CIA's last director, George Tenet, earlier this year told the Sept. 11 commission that it would take five years to have in place the kind of clandestine service needed to deal with international terrorism and other threats.

Without being specific, Goss said at a confirmation hearing on Tuesday that it would take longer to hire train and place all the operatives that are needed. The good news, he said, is that some would be ready soon. But "it is a long build-out."

Goss, a former CIA officer, also backed away from a controversial provision he included in an intelligence reform bill in June, which would have loosened long-standing restrictions on the agency's ability to operate inside the United States.

He said he was trying to start a debate then on an important issue — the blurring of the lines between foreign and domestic intelligence. As the CIA's director, he said he would come to policymakers for guidance on intelligence and law enforcement capabilities.

Goss' political past came up at the outset of his confirmation hearing Tuesday. The Senate panel's senior Democrat, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, questioned whether Goss displayed a willingness to use intelligence issues as "a political broadsword" against Democratic lawmakers.

"Having reviewed your record closely, I have a number of concerns about whether your past partisan actions and statements will allow you to be the type of nonpartisan, independent and objective national intelligence adviser our country needs," Rockefeller said.

As recently as this summer, Goss criticized John Kerry's voting record on intelligence. Last October, explaining why he did not want to launch an investigation of a White House official's possibly illegal leaking of a CIA officer's name to the press, Goss made reference to the Clinton impeachment saga.

"Somebody sends me a blue dress and some DNA, I'll have an investigation," Goss said.

Goss promised Tuesday to provide Congress and the president with independent, objective intelligence.
"I have made a commitment to nonpartisanship," retiring Rep. Porter Goss, a Florida Republican, told the Senate Intelligence Committee. He conceded that during his 16 years in Congress he may — "at times" — have engaged in debate with too much vigor.

In his testimony, Goss outlined a series of commonly cited priorities for the U.S. intelligence community. They included improving human intelligence and analytic capabilities, expanding intelligence sharing with state and local law enforcement agencies and enhancing foreign language capabilities at the CIA.

Tenet resigned as head of the CIA in June, just before the intelligence committee and the Sept. 11 commission released reports criticizing the agency's performance during much of his tenure.

5:25 AM  
Blogger Management said...

Michael Scheuer on the 'War on Terror'

Michael Scheuer served in the CIA for 22 years before resigning earlier this year. He is the once anonymous author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror and Through Our Enemies' Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam, and the Future of America. He served as the Chief of the bin Laden Unit at the Counterterrorist Center from 1996 to 1999. He resigned from the CIA in 2004. This interview was conducted on 10 December 2004 by the Jamestown Foundation's Terrorism Monitor Editor Mahan Abedin.

Mahan Abedin: You have often said that bin Laden is a worthy enemy, but do you think he has an Achilles heel?

Michael Scheuer: Bin Laden's Achilles heel is our foreign policy. It is up to us to unsettle the basis of his support in the Islamic world. Moreover, he is being chased by the world's greatest power and there is always the chance that we might just get lucky. But other than these factors, everything else seems to be going his way.

MA: Where do you think he is sheltering right now?

MS: Along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

MA: You are absolutely sure about that?

MS: As sure as I can be; where else would he go? I can't imagine a safer place on earth for him than that border area.

MA: How about Pakistani urban centers, like Karachi, Quetta, Islamabad, Lahore…?

MS: There is always that chance, but he is unlikely to be doing that since he does not feel comfortable in cities. Bin Laden has not been a city dweller since he left Saudi Arabia.

MA: How important is bin Laden to al-Qaeda and its offshoots from an operational perspective? More generally how relevant is he to the war on terror?

MS: I think he is central to it. For better or worse there are no real leaders in the Islamic world; certainly there are very few heroes. Very few would qualify Mubarak, King Fahd or King Abdullah as leaders. Bin Laden is a man blessed with talents and charisma and currently his leadership status in the Islamic world is unchallenged. He is clearly very important but he is no longer indispensable. I think we are seeing bin Laden becoming bin Ladenism and this process was accelerated by the invasion of Iraq.

MA: What do you mean by bin Ladenism?

MS: Primarily the ability to focus much of the anger in the Islamic world on the United States in terms of our policies and not in terms of our society and freedoms. This intensive concentration of frustrations and hatred has been so successful that even if bin Laden was killed today, the movement will continue to thrive.

MA: Focusing on the operational mechanisms of al-Qaeda, how central is bin Laden to that whole structure?

MS: In terms of the day-to-day operational aspects of planning attacks on the continental United States, he is absolutely essential. All evidence points to him being almost a micro-manager of all operational matters pertaining to the United States. For instance, regarding the 9/11 attacks, he surrendered control over the precise timing of the attacks to Mohammad Atef, but other than that bin Laden was in complete control.

MA: How about other areas?

MS: I think his main interest is the continental United States. Al-Qaeda's cells have traditionally operated very autonomously and would usually only become directly subordinate to bin Laden when an operation was planned against the United States. Bin Laden has never aspired to be anything more than the command and control man for al-Qaeda.

MA: Given the limitations of his circumstances right now, do you think he exercises significant influence on operational matters?

MS: I think these "limitations" are largely the product of western imaginations. I mean he is living in a place where the terrain is almost impossible to penetrate and where the populations on both sides of the border are very sympathetic for both cultural and religious reasons. Moreover the U.S. army has been very inactive in Afghanistan.

MA: They have been largely static, right?

MS: Pretty much, yes. For instance in 2004, the offensive activities in Afghanistan have been overwhelmingly undertaken by the Special Forces and the Clandestine Service. The military said they were going to conduct a big spring offensive, but nothing came of that as far as I am aware. In fact, the Pakistani military has been far more active than the U.S. military.

MA: Do you think the Pakistani military are genuinely and seriously engaging al-Qaeda and its sympathizers?

MS: I think Musharraf is walking a fine line between doing nothing and keeping us happy. They genuinely went into the border areas to hunt down al-Qaeda and Taliban elements. Nonetheless, the last thing they want to do is turn Osama bin Laden over to the United States, because that would earn the enmity of much of the Muslim world and would probably cause a lot of disorder inside Pakistan. However, overall I can't see how anyone can say they are not genuine in their efforts. The Pakistanis have lost over 200 military personnel to this campaign just since August 2004. These casualties far surpass those of the U.S. military over the past 3 years.

MA: Given that bin Laden's freedom of movement and action is far greater than many in the west realize, how realistic is it to expect his demise in the near future?

MS: I think it is going to be serendipitous. Given all the favorable factors to his advantage, if we do get him, it is basically going to be a case of "when he zigs we zag" and we end up cornering him. But I really don't think we can count on that.

MA: You are saying that his entrapment depends on the convergence of several serendipitous events, right?

MS: Basically we are going to need some extraordinarily good luck, like somebody coming forward with information, as in the case of Ramzi Yousef. There is always that possibility, but because there is no real pressure on bin Laden right now, he is probably not moving that much. And if he is not moving then his risks are greatly reduced.

MA: I have been told by sources that are politically and ideologically sympathetic to al-Qaeda that Ayman al-Zawahiri has been with bin Laden throughout the past 3 years. Is this correct?

MS: I don't think we know that one way or another. There was some speculation back in 2002 that he was moving around frequently and had even traveled to Iran. But my understanding of Zawahiri is that he is a sedentary guy. I suspect that Zawahiri and bin Laden are together, but that is merely speculation and I just don't know.

MA: Does anybody in the U.S. intelligence community know?

MS: Well, I left three weeks ago and up to that point nobody knew.

MA: And nobody has any precise information on bin Laden's current whereabouts, aside form that general geographic area that you outlined earlier?

MS: We have him trapped in South Asia! (laughs) We are fairly confident of that!

MA: How would you characterize the relationship between bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi?

MS: Zarqawi is in some ways like Abu Zubaydah inasmuch as his focus differs slightly from that of al-Qaeda. Abu Zubaydah wanted al-Qaeda to focus on Israel. While Zarqawi agrees with bin Laden's plans to attack Americans in their homeland, he wants to attend to business in Iraq first. It suits Zarqawi to associate himself to al-Qaeda. My assumption on Zarqawi's recent pledge of loyalty is that it signifies al-Qaeda's and bin Laden's strength. Zarqawi stopped killing Iraqi Shi'as gratuitously after his attack in Karbala. It was only after that cessation that al-Qaeda and Zarqawi joined forces. Bin Laden has long opposed the idea of targeting Shi'as in that manner and believes that America should be defeated before sectarian scores in Islam are settled.

MA: Do you think people in al-Qaeda take Zarqawi seriously?

MS: Yes, and I think the range of resources that are available to al-Qaeda will be made available to Zarqawi in order to enhance his organization's capabilities in Iraq. Al-Qaeda has a record of providing such assistance; for instance support across a range of operational, ideological and administrative expertise was made available to Sunni Islamist Kurdish groups in Iraq before the war.

MA: Moving on to al-Qaeda generally, how would you describe the nature and capabilities of the organization as we speak?

MS: I think al-Qaeda is probably in good shape. One of the problems facing the U.S. intelligence community is that it continues to regard al-Qaeda as a terrorist group rather than an insurgent organization and we have never really constructed an order of battle for the organization. We only know of the leadership. And when U.S. politicians say that we have destroyed two thirds or three quarters of the leadership, what they are really alluding to is al-Qaeda's casualties based on the information available in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. There are a lot of people who we just don't know about and moreover al-Qaeda has demonstrated a remarkable capability to replenish its losses.

MA: What you are describing mirrors the kind of analysis that I have heard from people who are sympathetic to al-Qaeda. For instance, they tell me that the war in Afghanistan was not altogether very important in the wider scheme of events. Basically you agree with them, right?

MS: Yes, absolutely, I think they are right. When they attacked us on 9/11 we probably had 24-48 hours to hit them as hard as possible before they completely dispersed.

MA: But surely the fact that they lost Afghanistan as a safe command and control and training center must have been a very grievous blow.

MS: That is probably an assumption rather than a fact. I don't think Afghanistan and Pakistan are denied areas to al-Qaeda. There are very few U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the warlords control many of the areas. The tribal areas in Pakistan, save for South Waziristan, are not controlled by the Pakistani government. You can make the assumption that Afghanistan and Pakistan are denied areas but really the only thing you can be sure of is that they are not where U.S. forces or Pakistani forces are. I mean al-Qaeda and the Taliban can operate with relative ease in the tribal areas of both countries. And because a lot of national reconnaissance systems have been focused on Iraq, we don't have that many resources to track these people from space.

MA: But given the fact that a range of security tools has been intensively and consistently directed at them over the past 3 years, surely their own perceptions of their operational environment has been adversely affected.

MS: Certainly in Pakistani cities and Kabul that is the case. But I don't think their movements are constrained in the countryside. I had a discussion last weekend with Hamid Mir from Pakistan's Jang publications; Mir had gone to Afghanistan to cover the recent elections. He told me he traveled through at least 15 districts in southern Kandahar that were openly controlled by the Taliban. I think the reality on the ground in Afghanistan is very different than what we perceive it to be.

MA: That may well be the case but the central question to ask here is whether there is still a symbiotic relationship between the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

MS: Sure! We in the West did not take bin Laden's pledge of allegiance to Mullah Omar very seriously but in actual fact that pledge of loyalty is very important to bin Laden. I think bin Laden intends to restore the dominance of Mullah Omar and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

MA: You really think bin Laden's pledge of loyalty to Mullah Omar and his gratuitous praises of him in the past had real substance?

MS: I am not an expert on Islamic theology but I talked to some Muslim clerics and scholars and they told us that before the Caliphate can return it needs to establish and consolidate itself in a country under a widely recognized leadership. Therefore Mullah Omar and Afghanistan covered the waterfront for these people. I told them that Mullah Omar is not the most educated man in terms of scholarly achievement, but they said that is not necessarily a decisive factor.

MA: In short, you believe that the relationship that developed between the Taliban and al-Qaeda from 1996 to 2001 still continues and moreover has many of the same distinguishing features, right?

MS: Yes, I think it does and in some ways the fact that they have survived this war against the U.S. has probably brought them closer.

MA: There was some speculation back in 2001 that the Taliban's support for al-Qaeda was not unanimous and that there were influential elements within the leadership who wanted to sever relations; do those divisive internal dynamics within the Taliban still exist?

MS: As I recall the leadership of the dissenters you allude to was centered on Mullah Rabbani and he is dead and I am not sure there is anyone with the same stature to replace him. In any case, if that internal contradiction within the Taliban still exists it is surely tempered by the presence of the occupiers in their country.

MA: How would you characterize the operational and organizational division of al-Qaeda today? I have been told by an Islamist source that al-Qaeda today is effectively 3 networks, comprising of Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the world; what do you make of this assessment?

MS: I think it is probably a little too neat and projects more than we actually know. Clearly there is a semi-independent al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Bin Laden still controls the center of al-Qaeda and according to various reports the organization still has a presence in over 60 countries.

MA: Why do you say that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is autonomous?

MS: It appears to be autonomous insofar as it has an autonomous organizational structure, drafts its own operational plans and has a plan for leadership succession. It appears able to survive without any day-to-day contact with the center of al-Qaeda.

MA: How about al-Qaeda in Iraq?

MS: I am not sure how formal their organization is in Iraq. I know they have had a presence in the northern Kurdish areas of Iraq since 1999. But clearly al-Qaeda has sent insurgents/terrorists into Iraq since the invasion and I suspect the autonomous al-Qaeda organization in the Peninsula is largely responsible for that transit. I suspect the transit works in both directions and Iraq being such a large country helps them in that respect. I mean they have probably established training facilities in Iraq and are using them to train members from the Peninsula. The Saudi members might even participate in some fighting in Iraq, then rest a little and finally return back to the Peninsula.

MA: You have vigorously dismissed suggestions of a relationship between al-Qaeda and the former Iraqi regime, but how about a relationship between the organization and Iran? In all your years in the bin Laden unit did you ever come across any reliable information that pointed towards a relationship?

MS: Trying to ascertain whether there are operational links between Iran and al-Qaeda is something we pursued with great vigor since Iran is such an obsession of American policy-makers. What is indisputable is that until last year the Iranians turned a blind eye to al-Qaeda transit. We also know that some Jamaat Islamiyah and Egyptian Islamic Jihad cadres lived in Tehran. There are also some unconfirmed reports that Seif al-Adel and one of bin Laden's sons are under house arrest in the country. That said we never found any evidence of a formal connection whatsoever. Bin Laden does not have a favorable view of Shi'as and does not really have much use for them. Moreover, bin Laden has been very careful to avoid dependence on any state. But more consequentially, perhaps, the Iranians are not stupid. They know that any connection to al-Qaeda—however limited in scope—could have very adverse consequences. In any case, whatever al-Qaeda does in the Middle East and beyond benefits the Iranians and Hezbollah without them having to do anything.

MA: Why is that?

MS: Because al-Qaeda attacks make it difficult for the U.S. to maintain its presence in that region in the long-term.

MA: People also talk of very profound ideological friction between Iran and al-Qaeda.

MS: Yes, absolutely. And this is going to get worse over time as a civil war begins to take shape in Iraq. But bear in mind that bin Laden has very rarely criticized the Iranians in public over the past decade. His policy is to let sleeping dogs lie; in other words let us eject the U.S. from that region first before we take on the Iranians and the Shi'as.

MA: But what al-Qaeda has done is to shift the focus of attention—insofar as terrorism is concerned—away from Iran and Hezbollah and onto the violent Sunni Islamists. Do you see it that way?

MS: I think in terms of real importance and substance that is the case. But in my experience there are a lot of people who are itching to get at the Iranians. Much of this debate is influenced by the Israelis and hence there is a lot of political motivation to link the Iranians to al-Qaeda.

MA: But looking at these issues from a purely security perspective, I mean in your former career as a senior intelligence officer did you form the impression that the pre-eminent threat now hails exclusively from certain Sunni Islamist quarters?

MS: I think that has always been the case. Hezbollah was never more than anything than a lethal nuisance to the U.S. and even Israel. Israel held onto large chunks of southern Lebanon in order to defeat Hezbollah's paramilitary forces, not because they faced threats from Hezbollah overseas. I have always been of the opinion that it is both a qualitative and quantitative difference. Hezbollah has never been anything more than a nuisance whereas the Sunni organizations, in particular al-Qaeda, pose a potent national security threat to the United States.

MA: How do you see al-Qaeda's strategy in relation to the Saudi regime? The general assumption is that they want to topple it but I have spoken to some well-informed Saudis who say that the aim—at least for now—is to merely discredit the regime.

MS: I think al-Qaeda walks a very fine line in the Kingdom. Bin Laden and his lieutenants see that regime as a very fragile entity and they don't want to push hard enough to effect their fall, because that would force the Americans to occupy the Kingdom. Therefore the attacks are designed to discredit the regime and not to engineer its immediate demise.

MA: Basically you share the view that al-Qaeda does not want to topple the al-Sauds at this time because that would just prompt a U.S. invasion.

MS: I think they believe that should the regime fall before the U.S. is driven out of the region the Americans would move very quickly to occupy the oil fields.

MA: This is exactly what the Saudi oppositionist Dr. Saad al-Faqih says!

MS: Well he is a very smart man and I am glad to be associated with his analysis!

MA: What about al-Qaeda's strategy in the Peninsula in the long-term?

MS: I think bin Laden has a real problem in containing the motivation, enthusiasm and activities of his followers in the Peninsula. They want to be more active and aggressive than he wants them to be. Therefore he has to strike a balance between keeping them happy and ensuring the regime does not fall.

MA: Do you believe there is support for al-Qaeda within the regime?

MS: I think there is. So many Saudis traveled to Afghanistan and also bear in mind that bin Laden is not an aberrant character in the Peninsula, he is in fact the poster boy of their educational system.

MA: I am talking of support in the highest echelons of the regime.

MS: I doubt that people like Prince Nayef or Prince Sultan are associated with bin Laden. More likely they are anxious to offer financial inducements to al-Qaeda in order to avoid further attacks. But that regime is so large and so rich that it would be naïve to assume that al-Qaeda has not penetrated most of its layers. Moreover aside from the al-Sauds there are the prominent merchant families whose ranks are filled with bin Laden supporters.

MA: How important is Yemen to al-Qaeda?

MS: It is quite important. There was that attack on a senior al-Qaeda member two years ago.

MA: You are referring to the assassination of al-Harithi in November 2002?

MS: Yes, Hairithi and an American citizen that was with him. But other than that there has not been much movement in Yemen. In fact, recently the Salih government has been grappling with a Shi'a rebellion. However, overall I think al-Qaeda is pretty strong in Yemen and bin Laden has a lot of affection for the country.

MA: Based on the intelligence material that you had access to over the years what is the ratio of Saudis to Yemenis in the hard core of al-Qaeda?

MS: There are more Saudis than Yemenis. I would say it is 5:2, but that is a rough estimate.

MA: Based on that rough estimate, the Yemeni constituency in al-Qaeda is clearly very important.

MS: They are important and I think it is instructive that a lot of Saudis and Yemenis have been identified amongst the dead insurgents in Iraq.

MA: If you were to break down al-Qaeda's human resources according to the nationalities of its hard core, would the pecking order of Saudis, Yemenis, Egyptians and Algerians roughly reflect the reality?

MS: I would say that is correct. But bear in mind that we have not done too many order of battle assessments so I don't know the exact figures. But as a general impression I would agree with your break down.

MA: Let us discuss wider issues. You have said that a catastrophic attack on the U.S.—most likely involving WMD—is probable. What makes you so sure?

MS: I was not too sure until I heard U.S. politicians during the Presidential campaign discussing whether Soviet era nuclear assets will be under effective control in 2007 or 2010. People in the intelligence community have known since the end of 1996 that bin Laden has a very professional procurement network involving scientists and engineers. They have the money and they have shown the ability to work with unlikely people, like the Mafia. If a weapon is out there they will do their utmost to secure it. Bin Laden is not looking for a deterrent; he is looking for a first strike weapon.

MA: But even states have difficulties accessing the kind of weapons you refer to, let alone insurgent organizations.

MS: I think that is generally right, but from what I have heard you can get almost anything you want from the stockpiles of the former Soviet Union. It is not too difficult to get a weapon, the challenge lies in detonating it.

MA: But people have been making these ominous predictions since the day the Soviet Union unraveled, and none of these predictions have been proven right. Given the experience of the past 13 years, what makes you so sure that it is relatively easy to access weapons from the old stockpiles of the former Soviet Union?

MS: I think it is credible to assume that it is possible to access these weapons as long as they are not fully secured.

MA: Would al-Qaeda use these weapons immediately upon acquiring them?

MS: I think there is no doubt about that. They would prefer to use a nuclear weapon, since chemical and biological weapons would be difficult to control. Moreover using such a weapon enhances their chances of winning this war. People in the West assume that these people are only interested in fighting; they are wrong inasmuch as bin Laden and his people are fighting in order to achieve their geopolitical objectives, which primarily center on the ejection of the U.S. from their region.

MA: But would they not be concerned about the reaction of the U.S. to a nuclear attack?

MS: I don't think they care about that.

MA: Your analysis is that they are fighting to eject the U.S. from the Middle East. My query is whether a nuclear strike on the U.S. would bring them closer to achieving that goal, given that the U.S. response is likely to be disproportionate.

MS: I don't know, what do you think? I think al-Qaeda is confident that the U.S. will be unable to find a target that would ensure their demise. And as for launching a nuclear attack on Mecca or some other target, they are still confident that the Americans are not ruthless enough to do something like that.

MA: But there has to be some kind of massive response by the U.S. to such an attack.

MS: There has to be but I was in the government for a long time and I saw how cowardly people can be when it comes to responding.

MA: What should be the response to an attack of that magnitude?

MS: I don't know.

MA: There are very few targets, aren't they?

MS: There are very few indeed. The real problem is that by virtue of being the most powerful military in the world, the U.S. has convinced its enemies that its response will always be measured and proportionate. Bin Laden and his people study these things closely and factor them into their planning and decision-making. I think the beginning of the end for American military prestige was when the U.S. refused to destroy the Iraqi intelligence service in its headquarters after they had tried to assassinate George Bush senior in Kuwait in 1993. A lot of people, including Saddam Hussein, drew some important conclusions from that; namely that you can even try to kill a (former) U.S. President and still you will not be punished accordingly.

MA: You really think that event was that significant?

MS: It affected people's perceptions of our willingness to use our overwhelming power in a very ruthless and bloody way. I think many of our enemies in the Islamic world are impressed by the brutal use of overwhelming power. And to many people in that region the U.S. has not really used its power in a manner that would impress them.

MA: How does this square with your contention that the roots of Islamist terrorism are U.S. policies in the Muslim world?

MS: The policies form the basis upon which the Jihadists recruit and indoctrinate. Bin Laden does not focus on Western society or culture but on our specific policies in that region.

MA: But some of the policies that you have highlighted--in particular U.S. support for Israel and the constant effort to keep oil prices down--constitute the gospel of American foreign policy; surely you don't envision their modification in the foreseeable future?

MS: You are right, they are immutable. I am not even arguing that they should be changed; all I am arguing is that we should at least talk about them.

MA: But what would that achieve?

MS: I suspect that these policies are in place because the elites don't want to talk about them. For instance if there was a discussion on our support for Israel, some people would question the one-sidedness of the relationship. They would argue that we should restructure that relationship, without necessarily abandoning the Israelis. But right now the view is that we take orders from the Israelis. I think these issues are critical in the long-term and I just don't know what else to suggest.

MA: Let us assume that some of the policies you mention were modified tomorrow; do you think that would make the U.S. more popular in that region? And if so would that newly found popularity be really material in the fight against the Jihadists?

MS: This is perhaps my wishful thinking, but I think if we made some tangible changes to our relationship with Israel, started a serious discussion on securing alternative energy resources and refused to gratuitously support Putin's actions in Chechnya, that would give America an opening. Maybe then people would actually start listening to what we are saying. The problem is we don't even have an audience in that part of the world right now.

MA: If I understand correctly, you believe that starting a debate over aspects of U.S. foreign policy constitutes the first step in addressing the Islamist threat in the very long term?

MS: I think America needs to figure out what is in its best interests in the very long term.

MA: You have often criticized U.S. policies in Afghanistan, what precisely should have been the U.S. response to 9/11?

MS: I think we should have been more ready and should have had the military resources in place to strike them immediately after they attacked America. We should have really begun bombing 24-48 hours after 9/11. Of course we did not do that and they had more than 3 weeks to disperse their people. Those 3 weeks were of critical importance.

MA: What about your critique of the U.S. led political process in Afghanistan; what would you have done differently?

MS: First and foremost we should not have allowed the Northern Alliance to dominate Karzai's government.

MA: Do you believe that the current political process in Afghanistan headed by Karzai is going to crumble eventually?

MS: I think yes and I also believe that a civil war will erupt in Afghanistan in due course.

MA: But the evidence on the ground does not support your argument. If you were talking about Iraq you would be on solid ground since by all accounts that country is currently wracked by very serious levels of violence, but in Afghanistan the situation is relatively quiet.

MS: I think the western perception of the situation in Afghanistan does not really reflect the reality on the ground. Karzai's regime, aside from not having much control beyond Kabul, has a serious legitimacy problem. Moreover, the factors on the ground in Afghanistan have not changed much since 3 years ago. The country is still largely controlled by warlords and Islamic militants. In due course the Karzai regime will crumble.

MA: Do you believe that the U.S. will be defeated in Afghanistan?

MS: The way things are going, I think that is an inevitable prospect.

MA: Going back to the question of policies, do you think waging a much more concerted and enthusiastic ideological/propaganda war against the Jihadists could yield dividends in the long-term? I mean would it not be a good idea to establish much more proactive and forceful relationships with certain institutions and people in the Muslim world in the hope that over a generation this will undermine Islamic radicalism?

MS: I think all these efforts would be meaningless without tangible policy changes by the United States.

MA: Do you think America is at war with Islam?

MS: No, but I think we are at war with a substantial number of Muslims. An increasing number of Muslims seem to hate America. I am not sure whether we can affect this battle by waging an "ideological" war on the Jihadists. I think there are very serious structural problems in the Muslim world that simply have to run their course. I am speaking here as an historian. In order to gain a strategic advantage over the enemy we need to craft policies that are really in the U.S. national interest.

MA: Where do you think we would be in 10-15 years time if the policies you allude to were left unchanged?

MS: I think we can expect greater destabilization in the Muslim world. We can also expect Jihadist activities to accelerate markedly. In fact the war in Iraq has gone a long way in doing exactly that.

MA: You are clearly against the war in Iraq, but don't you think it has had some benefits, not least because the U.S. has now very forcefully inserted itself physically in the heart of that region and consequently has much greater leverage to control events on the ground?

MS: What leverage? As far as I can see it has only created more targets for the Islamists.

MA: Having read much of your material I note that you often display a very interesting historical perspective on events. Do you think 100 years from now people would look back at events and conclude that bin Laden and the Jihadists caused the irreversible decline of America as the world's pre-eminent power?

MS: More than that, because I think they have already had a very adverse impact on our way of life. The liberties of Americans have been eroded as a result of all this and the American lifestyle has begun to change for the worse. In the very long term the security costs will become increasingly confining.

MA: That is a very bleak assessment. Does your pessimism derive from the fact that you were dealing with intelligence material concerning these people for so long?

MS: No, it derives from the fact that I am an historian by training.

MA: You have placed yourself in criticism of the content failure between primary resources and the actual product communicated to the policy-makers. Do you have any advice for Jamestown on where we can best serve the goal of informing policy-makers of important data and analysis that is not getting to them through the filtered political process?

MS: I think public foundations and other organizations have a great opportunity to utilize information available in the public square to "de-mystify" terrorism. Unfortunately, the intelligence community and their political masters have a disparaging view of unclassified information and this is really strange since the best way to understand bin Laden is to analyze what he says in public.

MA: What do you think of the material that the Jamestown Foundation and Terrorism Monitor have been providing on terrorism over the past year?

MS: I have not read everything the Jamestown Foundation has published on terrorism during the past year. What I have read struck me as well-written and thoughtful, although generally a shade too optimistic.

MA: Do you think this kind of material makes a real difference to the policy making process?

MS: I believe that we are in a period where the publication of a diversity of views and opinions on Islamist militancy in the media and especially from Think-Tank organizations is very valuable. We appear to be in a temporary phase where the current Administration looks at the world as it wants it to be and not as it is. Likewise, the Administration seems to be making it clear that it is not interested in analysis from its intelligence community if that analysis doesn't mesh with or support the Administration's views, policies, and perceptions. As a result, open-source publications have become by default the conveyor to the public of information and analysis on what is really happening in the world. America's citizens certainly need this information. I also believe that many professional intelligence officers will welcome such publications because they themselves are unable to present the world as it is to senior government officials.

This article was originally published by The Jamestown Foundation in Washington, DC., at ( The Jamestown Foundation is an independent, nonpartisan organization supported by tax-deductible contributions from corporations, foundations, and individuals.

5:26 AM  
Blogger Management said...

Washington - A former CIA analyst took off his disguise to say on Sunday that the United States must respect Osama bin Laden for the enemy he is, or many more will die.

"Until we respect him, we are going to die in numbers that are probably unnecessary," former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer told CBS's "60 Minutes" programme.

Scheuer spoke for the first time without a disguise, as the author of "Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror," which a few months ago shook up Washington.

Scheuer wrote the book anonymously with permission from the Central Intelligence Agency. He quit on Friday and revealed his identity.
Bin Laden is "a great man in the sense that he's influenced the course of history," Scheuer said.

"I think our leaders over the last decade have done the American people a disservice by continuing to characterize Osama bin Laden as a thug, as a gangster," he said, calling bin Laden a rational, formidable enemy.
Scheuer had been tracking bin Laden since the mid-1980s, and from 1996 to 1999 headed the CIA's bin Laden desk, which he said was the only such desk dedicated to a single person at the CIA.

But Scheuer was removed from the desk, he told CBS, because he became too strident in demanding that something be done about him.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, which bin Laden led, Scheuer was brought on as a special adviser to the head of the bin Laden unit.

He told the network that bin Laden is more dangerous than ever, because now he may use a nuclear weapon, if he has it, with religious authority.

"Bin Laden secured from a Saudi sheik a rather long treatise on the possibility of using nuclear weapons against the Americans," Scheuer said.

The fatwa "found that he was perfectly within his rights to use them. Muslims argue that the United States is responsible for millions of dead Muslims around the world, so reciprocity would mean you could kill millions of Americans," Scheuer said. - Sapa-AFP

5:27 AM  
Blogger Management said...

Michael Scheuer: Osama Now has Permission to Nuke America

Matt Drudge is pedaling the story that Michael Scheuer, the (now supposedly former) CIA employee who wrote a best-selling book on the agency under the nom de guerre “Anonymous,” is a renegade critic taking George Tenet to task and complaining about a flabby intelligence service more interested in their “diversity and multi-cultural office” than going after Osama bin Laden and the Afghan cave dweller terrorists who managed to coordinate the hijacking of airliners with boxcutters all on their lonesome.

If you believe Scheuer was allowed to violate protocol and the CIA has nothing to do with his histrionics—carefully plotted misinformation and theatrics the corporate media eats up and calls for seconds—I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

“No one in the West knows more about the Qaeda leader than Scheuer, who has tracked him since the mid-1980s,” writes Drudge, always a useful and faithful tool for the Bushcons. “The CIA allowed him to write the books provided he remain anonymous, but now is allowing him to reveal himself [without disguise] for the first time on Sunday’s [the CBS program 60 Minutes] broadcast.”

So what will Scheuer tell America on the popular TV show? “Osama bin Laden now has religious approval to use a nuclear device against Americans,” according to Drudge. Naturally, this is pure nonsense, but nonsense the CIA and Bush want to convey to easily frightened Americans who know little about nuclear weapons and less about Islam and the Quran.

“[Bin Laden] secured from a Saudi sheik … a rather long treatise on the possibility of using nuclear weapons against the Americans,” Scheuer warns, obviously at the behest of his former employer. “[The treatise] found that he was perfectly within his rights to use them. Muslims argue that the United States is responsible for millions of dead Muslims around the world, so reciprocity would mean you could kill millions of Americans,” Scheuer will tell 60 Minutes’ Steve Kroft. Drudge continues:

Scheuer says bin Laden was criticized by some Muslims for the 9/11 attack because he killed so many people without enough warning and before offering to help convert them to Islam. But now bin Laden has addressed the American people and given fair warning. “They’re intention is to end the war as soon as they can and to ratchet up the pain for the Americans until we get out of their region….If they acquire the weapon, they will use it, whether it’s chemical, biological or some sort of nuclear weapon,” says Scheuer.

We are expected to believe this drivel because “[n]o one in the West knows more about the Qaeda leader than Scheuer,” who was “the head of the CIA unit charged with tracking bin Laden from 1996 to 1999.” Of course, there was really no tracking required since the CIA knew exactly where their former asset was—he was in Afghanistan, a guest of the Taliban (another CIA-ISI contrivance). Gwynne Roberts interviewed the Evil One in 1996 and CNN interviewed him the following year. Even though journalists apparently had no problem locating and interviewing Osama, we are expected to believe the United States could not get at Osama, even after a thousand mercenaries were supposedly dispatched with black Land Cruisers (and two helicopters) in July, 1997, assigned with the task of killing the Wily (or untouchable) One. Isn’t it odd that two suicide bombers posing as journalists were able to assassinate Ahmed Shah Massoud, the military leader of the Northern Alliance, and yet the most powerful military and intelligence agency in the world was unable to kill Osama and his band of cave dwellers? (See Osama Bin Laden: A Chronology of His Political Life.)

Of course, Drudge fails to mention that it is really a no-brainer that the CIA knows all about Osama (even though they were unable to capture or kill him) because he is one of their all-star operatives. “Osama bin-Laden is in a place where CIA can’t reach him right now and I bet they want it that way. Like so many other terrorists, from the World Trade Center, to Pan Am 103, he is one of their own creations,” notes Michael C. Ruppert. Osama is our Freddy Kruger, dragged every so often out of the closet to scare kids and adults alike, but lately he has been overshadowed by another veteran of the CIA’s war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a more effective asset since few people (if anybody) has seen him for years and yet we are told every day he is running the resistance in Iraq. Is it possible al-Qaeda has cornered the market on invisibility?

Back in 2002 Paul L. Williams, an FBI consultant on international terrorism, claimed Osama purchased 20 suitcase nuclear weapons from former KGB agents in 1998 for $30 million. “By 1990 bin Laden had hired hundreds of atomic scientists from the former Soviet Union for $2,000 a month—an amount far greater that their wages in the former Soviet republics,” Williams writes in his book, Al Qaeda: Brotherhood of Terror. “They worked in a highly sophisticated and well-fortified laboratory in Kandahar, Afghanistan” (possibly one of those complexes or tunnels built by the CIA). Obviously, it took a long time for Osama to get religious permission to use these so-called suitcase nukes against the Great Satan and its freedom-loving people who believe the United States (and the CIA) only do good in the world. “I expect such an attack would come between now and the end of 2005,” Williams told NewsMax. “Williams’ contention is not far from what U.S. intelligence believes, a source close to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has told NewsMax. The source said Ridge claimed that U.S. intelligence believes terrorists already have smuggled into the U.S. actual atomic devices, as opposed to so-called ‘dirty nukes’ that simply are conventional bombs that help spread radiation.”

Be afraid, very afraid—that is if you don’t know anything about so-called suitcase nukes.

“A short maintenance schedule is an intriguing feature of portable nuclear devices, which is particularly important from the counterterrorism perspective: If that information is correct, such devices would be useless or have limited utility after only a few years, begging the question of whether terrorists would envision the same purpose for such devices as the Soviet Union. The period between routine maintenance—only six months—might seem very short, but short maintenance periods appear to be a typical feature of all Soviet warheads,” explains the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

Without detailed knowledge of the design of Soviet warheads, it would be impossible to know which components needed replacement at what time intervals. Two potential candidates are tritium and the neutron generator, which may use radioactive materials that decay over time. It seems possible, for example, that Soviet designers balanced on the threshold, using only just enough plutonium to achieve critical mass and relied on tritium to generate required yield. In that case, even modest degradation of tritium could have resulted in a significant drop of yield. Thus, it would be safe to assume that without proper maintenance, portable nuclear devices might still produce chain reaction, but yield would be minimal, and with time, possibly non-existent.

“Maxim Shingarkin, a former major in the Russian military’s secretive 12th Department, which is in charge of strategic weapons, said suitcase nuclear bombs, if they are still in Russia’s arsenal, were too difficult to maintain and had too short a lifespan to make them feasible as terrorist weapons,” reports the San Francisco Gate. “He said Russia only had built about 100 suitcase bombs and had not produced any new ones since the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union.”

Not that Drudge or Fox News (or NewsMax or WorldNdetDaily) would bother to report such doubts about the efficacy of the Evil One’s nukes. After all, Osama, as our Emmanuel Goldstein, can perform miracles, or maybe he has a few dozen Russian scientists squirreled away in a cave somewhere with a large supply of tritium. Believe the truth is out there.

Problem here is the American people don’t bother to do their homework. If a former CIA employee making the corporate media rounds says Osama has nukes, and has gained “permission” (a ludicrous assertion) to use them, who are they to ask questions? After all, this guy is an Osama “expert,” even though his expertise did absolutely nothing to prevent 9/11—that is if we accept the assertion (minus evidence) that Osama is responsible for that horrific event. But then millions of Americans believe Saddam is responsible for 9/11, so go figure.

On the other hand, we have ample evidence that the CIA created al-Qaeda, or what the corporate media calls al-Qaeda (and in fact misattributed the name al-Qaeda to Osama and his band of fundie cave dwellers), and that Osama bin Laden worked for the CIA, he met with a CIA agent in Dubai in July 2001 (as Le Figaro reported on October 31st, 2001), and his family, who supposedly has disowned him, were close business associates of Dubya and the Bush crime family (as Michael Moore sufficiently documented).

Is it possible Michael Scheuer will mention any of this on Sunday? Nope. Not a chance. Because Scheuer works for the CIA and the CIA works for the Bushcons, even though we are told there is a Hatfield-McCoy feud going on between the CIA and the Strausscons (centered primarily on the Valerie Plame affair). “The CIA is an independent agency, responsible to the President through the DCI, and accountable to the American people through the intelligence oversight committees of the U.S. Congress,” explains Disinfopedia (of course, the last part of this statement is pure fantasy).

None of this should be surprising, considering the origins of the CIA and, indeed, the fascist composition of the Republicans, who now control the government and have a “mandate,” thanks to a rigged election (a CIA specialty). “The Nazi agenda did not die along with Adolph Hitler,” writes Carla Binion, citing the work of investigative reporter Christopher Simpson. “It moved to America (or a part of it did) and joined the far right of the Republican Party. … Simpson shows how the State Department and the CIA put high-ranking Nazis on the intelligence payroll ‘for their expertise in propaganda and psychological warfare,’ among other purposes…” If you believe the United States government would not collaborate with Nazis, think again—and then check out Martin A. Lee’s article (The CIA’s worst-kept secret: Newly declassified files confirm United States collaboration with Nazis).

All of this makes perfect sense, in a perverse sort of way, especially now, considering Dubya’s daddy is a former CIA director and the Bush crime family has a history of supporting Nazis.

5:36 AM  
Blogger Management said...

THE C.I.A.'S USAMA BIN LADEN UNIT IS WEAKER TODAY THAN ON 9/11: Yesterday, The New York Times reported that Michael Scheuer, the longtime CIA counterterrorism official who headed the agency's Usama Bin Laden Unit from 1996 to 1999, sent a letter to the congressional intelligence oversight committees that discussed, among other things, how the unit has grown weaker in the three years since 9/11. Here is the relevant section of Scheuer's letter:

September 2004: In the CIA's core, U.S.-based Bin Laden operations unit today there are fewer Directorate of Operations officers with substantive expertise on al-Qaeda than there were on 11 September 2001. There has been no systematic effort to groom al-Qaeda expertise among Directorate of Operations officers since 11 September. Today, the unit is greatly understaffed because of a "hiring freeze," and the rotation of large numbers of officers in and out of the unit every 60-to-90 days--a process in which experienced officers do less substantive work and become trainers for officers who leave before they are qualified to support the mission. The excellent management team now running operations against Al Qaeda has made repeated, detailed, and on-paper pleas for more officers to work against the al-Qaeda--and have done so for years, not weeks or months--but have been ignored.

5:37 AM  
Blogger Management said...

Why I Resigned from the CIA
By Michael Scheuer
The Los Angeles Times

Sunday 05 December 2004

The agency did its job, but higher-ups endangered the nation.

The Central Intelligence Agency is the best place to work in the United States. No federal agency has a smarter, more dedicated or harder-working set of individuals than the CIA's women and men. I had intended to work at the CIA for the duration of my career, and I left it with deep regret and a great sense of personal loss. I was neither forced out nor pressed to resign. Resigning was my decision alone.

I cannot state these facts more clearly, and I fiercely deny the accusations that I am a disgruntled former employee. I am, however, a disgruntled American - one who decided that being a good citizen was no longer compatible with being a good member of the CIA's Senior Intelligence Service.

I do not profess a broad expertise in international affairs, but between January 1996 and June 1999 I was in charge of running operations against Al Qaeda from Washington. When it comes to this small slice of the large U.S. national security pie, I speak with firsthand experience (and for several score of CIA officers) when I state categorically that during this time senior White House officials repeatedly refused to act on sound intelligence that provided multiple chances to eliminate Osama bin Laden - either by capture or by U.S. military attack. I witnessed and documented, along with dozens of other CIA officers, instances where life-risking intelligence-gathering work of the agency's men and women in the field was wasted.

Because of classification issues, I argued this point only obliquely in my book "Imperial Hubris," but it is a fact - and fortunately, no American has to depend on my word alone. The 9/11 commission report documents most of the occasions on which senior U.S. bureaucrats and policymakers had the chance to attack Bin Laden in 1998-1999. It is mystifying that the American public has not been outraged over these missed opportunities.

In the most memorable and cloying moment of the 9/11 commission's public hearings, former White House terrorism advisor Richard Clarke apologized to the American people for the failure of the U.S. intelligence community to protect them. This statement has become, like the 9/11 report, American scripture - carved in stone, literally true and unquestionable.

Clearly, Clarke had the duty to apologize for the government's ineffectiveness as regards terrorism, but I reject his intimation that the clandestine service failed the nation.

Now, I must add that I was never charged with deciding whether to act against Bin Laden. That decision properly belongs solely to senior White House officials. However, as a now-private American citizen, it is my right to question their judgment; I am entitled to know why the protection of Americans - most selfishly, my own children and grandchildren - was not the top priority of the senior officials who refused to act on the opportunities to attack Bin Laden provided by the clandestine service.

Each of these officials have publicly argued that the intelligence was not "good enough" to act, but they almost always neglect to say that they were repeatedly advised that the intelligence was not going to get better and that Bin Laden was going to kill thousands of Americans if he was not stopped.

At each opportunity provided by the clandestine service, senior bureaucrats and policymakers decided not to act. The 9/11 report documents the fact that the chances to capture or attack Bin Laden were passed by because there were worries that shrapnel might hit a mosque and offend Muslim opinion; that a United Arab Emirates prince meeting Bin Laden clandestinely in the Afghan desert might be killed; and that the CIA might be accused of assassination if Bin Laden was killed in an effort to capture him.

Of course, it is not my opinion but that of the American people that counts. Perhaps a starting point is for Americans to ask why no member of Congress' Graham-Goss investigation or the Kean-Hamilton commissioners ever directly asked Clarke, former national security advisor Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger, CIA Director George J. Tenet, former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, former Secretary of State William S. Cohen or any of the rest of the witnesses why they never erred on the side of protecting Americans; why international opinion was ultimately more important than the Americans who leaped from the World Trade Center; and why the intelligence was "good enough" to save the life of an Arab prince dining with bin Laden, but not "good enough" to cause the government to act on behalf of Americans.

At day's end, it may be worth pausing the intelligence reform process long enough to determine what role personal failure, bureaucratic warfare - which the Department of Defense continues waging today - and a lack of moral courage played in getting the United States to 9/11. Lacking this accounting, the debate over intelligence reform will, I believe, simply lock into place a bureaucratic mind-set that believes intelligence is never "good enough" to take a risk to protect the lives of Americans.

5:38 AM  
Blogger Management said...

No, they really hate us for what we do.


A syndicated column appeared last week in the local paper by a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Victor Hanson, titled, “They hate us for who we are, not what we do.” While I do not take up keyboard to joust with every bit of noisome effluvia I read, I want to deconstruct this one because our President repeats this canard ad nauseum and sans reasoning, and it clearly underlies our “war on terror” strategy. Since Hoover is the figurative and literal ivory tower of the Right, this piece is probably the closest we will get to an exegesis of the logical basis, such as it is, for this belief.


Mr. Hanson starts from an observation that few would dispute – that there are strong antipathies between Islamic fundamentalists and Western society. This issue is well-documented and well-understood – I highly recommend Karen Armstrong’s “The Battle for God,” recommended in turn to me by a reader of an earlier piece, which explains both more and less than Mr. Hanson would like. Armstrong talks at length about the history of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, and about how each of them has reacted over time to the Enlightenment and the threat it posed to religion. Armstrong shows the antipathy of all fundamentalists to logic and reason. But her enumeration of the policies and actions of the colonial powers in the Muslim world are also highly relevant to an understanding of Islamic hatred – it is not merely antipathy to abstractions, but is grounded in concrete injustices.

Hanson also observes that the sins of the average American cannot justify the events of September 11 – an observation few would gainsay. But Mr. Hanson’s argument quickly goes off the rails from there. Hanson makes five specific arguments:

1. The “Islamofascists” cannot be believed because they “neither allow criticism nor tolerate self-reflection.” Putting aside the name-calling and oversimplification (as far as I know, Osama and his gang have not governed – terrorists, by definition, are outside the nation-state system), and granting that the Taliban were a despicable lot, what does this have to with the price of tea in Kabul? If we dismiss the opinions of all societies because they disclaim our views on introspection, we are in for a very long fight.

And would this be a good place to point out that it has been widely reported that these faults apply to our own solipsistic commander in chief as well?

2. Our “alleged sins against Islam transform monthly.” In other words, if the Muslims cannot make up their minds about which of our sins they are dying for, none of them are worth serious introspection. To restate this absurdity is to refute it. Must we choose between Pearl Harbor and the rape of Nanking to find fault with WWII-era Japan? Should we apply the same test to the 23 separate justifications given by this Administration for invading Iraq? And do we have to remind anyone that the Declaration of Independence lists (by my count) nearly 30 separate grievances against the King of England, none of which come close to the deaths of perhaps as many as 100,000 Iraqis? Mr. Hanson’s logic puts him the company of not only our own current King George, but his logical predecessor and spiritual namesake.

3. “Bin Laden and various mujahadeen distort history.” This claim is likely as true as it is meaningless. All history is distortion; as if to prove the point, in the very next sentence Mr. Hanson refers to American “beneficence” in “saving” Kuwaitis, as if it was beyond all possible interpretation to wonder if the first Bush war might have been about something other than the freedom of the Kuwaiti people. The fact is that the history we tell ourselves about American foreign policy is, in the view of much of the rest of the world, itself horribly distorted – does that invalidate our conclusions about the war on terror?

4. Because “terrorists still imperil liberal Europe, which subsidized Hamas, (and) armed Saddam,” what the US does cannot be at issue. The fact that Muslims hate what the US does not preclude them from hating what Europe has done in the Middle East. Though we have taken a leading role in the Gulf over the last 50 years or so, we are following in well-worn European footsteps there. Britain in particular has a sordid imperial past in the region, which continued right up to the time the sun set on the Empire after WWII. The bombings in Spain were unconscionable and indiscriminate in their destruction, but from a political standpoint were almost surgical in their purpose, timing and effect. It was well known that the war was widely reviled by the Spanish public. The ruling party lost the election that came only three days later, and the new government announced that Spain was pulling out of the coalition immediately after. (The situation in Spain, which was largely under Muslim control for a time, and which has its own ethnic troubles, is more complicated than can be covered here.) And Mr. Hanson should be made to write “terror is a tactic, not an enemy” 100 times on the blackboard – Europe is home to myriad terrorist organization with innumerable agendas, most of which have nothing to do with Al Qaeda.

5. Al Qaeda is under-inclusive because it does not target an oil-hungry and “cutthroat nuclear China.”

Mr. Hanson, a classics professor, seems to have forgotten the 1998 riots in Indonesia, in which Muslims raped and killed members of their ethnic Chinese minority. More to the point, though China is undoubtedly “oil hungry,” it has never occupied a Gulf state or overthrown a government there. And if Gulf state citizens hate oil-hungry nations, I submit that their anger is less about who pays and more about who benefits.

In closing, Mr. Hanson claims that the U.S. has a “rational strategy against Islamic Fascism: Kill the terrorists, remove illegitimate regimes that aid the extremists…” To unpack this dense concatenation of falsehoods is to expose its absurdity: (1) while the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was brutal, totalitarian and reprehensible, a fair reading of Lawrence Britt’s 14 characteristics of Fascism makes the term a loose fit at best; (2) while we have had a dismal record in capturing, prosecuting, and killing actual terrorists, according to a report from the Pentagon, we seem to be doing a magnificent job of imprisoning and killing innocent civilians, thereby creating far more people who hate us, whatever the claimed reason; and (3) was Saddam’s regime less legitimate than the puppet we placed in Iran, or the ones we are now installing in Iraq? And do we have to point out, yet again, that Saddam had nothing to do with Al Qaeda? Unless the theory employed is that “two wrongs make a right,” it is hard to see how this string of nonsense is either rational or a strategy.

In unraveling the specific arguments Hanson makes, I have of course left for last the most obvious and damning flaw. The dishonesty of the whole endeavor becomes clear when we parse the phrase “they hate us for who we are.” The assumption seems to be that “who we are” is somehow dissociated from what we do, and that abstractions like “freedom” are so odious that people turn kamikaze to lash out at them. But that assertion is unacceptable for a number of reasons. First, it is simply too self-serving: it gives us a pass on all possible excesses, because, what the hell, they’re going to hate us anyway. There has long been a particularly ugly strain of American patriotism that says that we are above the law because we are uniquely above reproach; this circular reasoning can, and should, infuriate the rest of the world.

Most important of all, “who we are” is what we do – we are not merely the myths we believe about ourselves. To Iranians, who we are is colored by the way we installed and helped to maintain a puppet dictator on the throne of their country, and ignored legitimate challenges to his myriad excesses – and then armed Saddam Hussein to the hilt in an effort to defeat them again. To ordinary Saudis, who we are has a lot to do with our support of the rapacious House of Saud and our blind eye toward the suffering of its subjects. And to ordinary Iraqis, we are the occupiers who leveled Fallujah, backed criminals like Chalabi and CIA stooges like Alawi, and tortured ordinary Iraqis for sport.

This point was reinforced months ago by no less an authority than our own Department of Defense, which published a report that squarely rebuts Hanson’s argument. Among the report’s conclusions:

• Muslims do not “hate our freedom,” but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf states.

• Thus when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy. Moreover, saying that “freedom is the future of the Middle East” is seen as patronizing, suggesting that Arabs are like the enslaved peoples of the old Communist World — but Muslims do not feel this way: they feel oppressed, but not enslaved.

• Furthermore, in the eyes of Muslims, American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, but only more chaos and suffering. U.S. actions appear in contrast to be motivated by ulterior motives, and deliberately controlled in order to best serve American national interests at the expense of truly Muslim self-determination.

• Therefore, the dramatic narrative since 9/11 has essentially borne out the entire radical Islamist bill of particulars. American actions and the flow of events have elevated the authority of the Jihadi insurgents and tended to ratify their legitimacy
among Muslims. Fighting groups portray themselves as the true defenders of an Ummah (the entire Muslim community) invaded and under attack — to broad public support.

I do not mean to suggest that men like Osama bin Laden are rational actors. Religious fundamentalists – all of them – are irrational. Reason is antithetical to absolute belief. On some level, I agree that they do hate at least some of what we believe in. But they didn’t attack Canada, or Germany, or France. Until terrorists crash an Air Canada jet into the CN Tower in Toronto, I think we ought to be willing to take a hard look at how the United States behaves in the world in general and the Gulf in particular.

There is of course a sense in which what we believe is an important aspect of who we are. But if what we believe is that Saddam was in cahoots with Al Qaeda; if we believe both that we went to war in Iraq because it had WMDs and that it does not matter that they in fact didn’t; if we believe that our actions are irrelevant to how the world feels about us and that America can do no wrong, then who we are is stark, raving bonkers.

8:55 PM  

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