Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Bloglines - Michael Scheuer's Glass House

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Michael Scheuer's Glass House

By Larry Johnson

Larry C Johnson

Former CIA analyst, Michael Scheuer hit the hypocrisy trail last week with his attack op-ed on the credibility of Richard Clarke and the FBI. According to Scheuer:

Media teasers about the mini-series have said that Mr. Clarke -- the former "terrorism czar" -- and a senior FBI officer, the late John O'Neill, will be the heroes of the saga. If true, and if ABC's fact-checkers are not diligent in verifying Mr. Clarke's stories and claims, the mini-series will be the September 11 commission's dream come true: The Bush administration will be blamed for September 11, the feckless moral cowardice of the Clinton administration will be disguised and Mr. Clarke and Mr. O'Neill -- in my view, two principal authors of September 11 -- will be beatified.

Mr. Clarke's book, on the basis of my involvement to varying degrees in the issues it covers, is a mixture of fact, fiction and cover-up. Mr. Clarke seems to get most names and dates right, and is correct in damning the early Bush administration for obliviousness to the al Qaeda threat. We must also take him at his word on his touching, if sycophantic, tales of Mr. Clinton instructing a young boy to be good to his mom and Hillary Rodham Clinton's secluded moment praying on her knees.

Scheuer, in case you forgot, authored Through Our Enemies Eyes as Anonymous. He later acquired a measure of fame and condemnation for his subsequent book, published in 2004, that was very critical of George Bush. Maybe Scheuer is trying to get back into the good graces of the Bush crowd or is miffed that Hollywood didn't recognize his genuis.

I personally think Scheuer is completely full of shit. To characterize Clarke and O'Neill as the "principal authors of 9-11" is idiotic and wrongheaded. No U.S. person or official was the author of 9-11. Khalid Sheik Mohammed enjoys that distinction. An FBI buddy, who worked at the Counter Terrorism Center with Scheuer has some great details on Scheuer's tenure at CTC.

In an article dated July 5th, 2006, authored by Mike Scheuer, he once again took the opportunity to criticize the FBI and its personnel. This theme has been repeated by him in his books, articles and interviews aired on television. Also, as usual, Mr. Scheuer paints himself and the members of his former bin Laden Unit, in the best light. To my knowledge, no one from the FBI has challenged Mr. Scheuer’s views. I worked in the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center (CTC) with Mr. Scheuer, so I speak from experience.

CTC was compromised of exceptional, collegial, talented, and dedicated men and women from many disciplines within the Agency. It also had in its ranks equally talented men and women representing other Agencies within the federal government. All with one purpose; “to prevent disrupt and defeat” terrorism. My comments below are not directed at CTC; just Mr. Scheuer and a handful of individuals who served in his Unit.

In my view, Mr. Scheuer was the single most important obstacle to the CIA and FBI working together against al Qaeda. He did not believe in sharing information and working with the FBI. He more than once told me that the FBI had no business working terrorism matters overseas; that was CIA’s territory. Even more important than Mr. Scheuer not being a collegial partner, he negatively influenced several of his subordinates which polluted the atmosphere in his Unit among those subordinates against the FBI. If he was not actively opposing the FBI, he merely did not support their mission. This opinion is shared by every FBI Agent that ever served in his Unit.

Mike was and is an extremely intelligent and talented individual. He was a CIA treasure in the fight against terrorism. However, he failed to understand the concept that although intelligence and law enforcement come from different cultures, America was best served by the CIA and FBI working together against terrorist targets. A CIA disruption of a terrorist plot overseas is a tremendous success, however it can be even a bigger success if the terrorist plotters are prosecuted and put behind bars. Putting them behind bars requires more coordination; more working with the FBI; and, administratively a much more difficult operation. In the end, Mr. Scheuer’s intransigence outweighed his value.

It could be said that Mike Scheuer and John O’ Neill were viewed as the faces of the CIA and FBI in their respective agency’s efforts against bin Laden and al Qaeda terrorists. Of course, so many others in each organization contributed much to the fight and arguably played equal or more significant roles. Mr. Scheuer’s quote in his article, “Mr. O'Neill was interested only in furthering his career and disguising the rank incompetence of senior FBI leaders”, is not only an inaccurate assessment; it is, petty and juvenile. Mr. Scheuer’s jealousy of John O’Neill is apparent and reprehensible. It further demonstrates that Mike viewed counterterrorism efforts as a contest rather than a coordinated cooperative effort.

Mr. Scheuer further states in his article, “Mr. Clarke's claim that ‘the CIA had taken months to tell the FBI’ several hijackers were in America is a lie. FBI officers sat in the unit I first commanded and then served in and they read the same information I did. If the data did not get to FBI headquarters it is because the FBI then lacked, and still lacks, a useable computer system.” Mr. Scheuer is accurate in his criticism of the FBI computer system; however he is disingenuous in using that as the reason for the FBI not obtaining the information referred to in a timely fashion.

By January 2000, Mr. Scheuer had been relieved of command of the bin Laden Unit. According to unclassified documents, early in January 2000, the CIA was aware that Khalid al-Mihdhar, one of the future 9/11 hijackers, was an al Qaeda operative; met with other operatives in Malaysia; and had a multiple entry US visa. By March 2000, they were also aware that Nawaf al-Hazmi, another future hijacker was at the same meeting and was in the US. However, as stated above, Mr. Scheuer’s legacy lived on with his closest analytical subordinates who continued Mr. Scheuer’s practice of non cooperation with the FBI. When an FBI Agent assigned to the Unit, learned of the meeting in Malaysia, and that one of the participants held a multiple entry US visa, he drafted a communication from the CIA to the FBI. This communication was not released, being withheld by one of Mr. Scheuer’s former subordinates; the Deputy Chief of the bin Laden Unit.

During June 2006, the US Department of Justice released a report from the Office of the Inspector General which stated in part, “In sum, the evidence shows that in January and March 2000, the CIA uncovered important intelligence information about Mihdhar and Hazmi…..Yet, we found that the CIA did not share significant pieces of this information with the FBI….” Further, “An FBI detailee at the CIA drafted a CIR (Central Intelligence Report) to share with the FBI, but the information was not released by the CIA to the FBI.”

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