Michael Scheuer

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Michael F. Scheuer is a former CIA employee. In his 22-year career, he served as the Chief of the Bin Laden Issue Station (aka "Alec Station"), from 1996 to 1999, the Osama bin Laden tracking unit at the Counterterrorist Center. He then worked again as Special Advisor to the Chief of the bin Laden unit from September 2001 to November 2004.

Scheuer resigned in 2004. He is currently a news analyst for CBS News and a terrorism analyst for the Jamestown Foundation's online publication Global Terrorism Analysis.[1] He also makes radio and television appearances and teaches a graduate-level course on Al-Qaeda at Georgetown University. He also participates in conferences on terrorism and national security issues, such as the New America Foundation's December 2004 conference, "Al Qaeda 2.0: Transnational Terrorism After 9/11." [2]

Scheuer is now known to be the anonymous author of both Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror and the earlier anonymous work, Through Our Enemies' Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam, and the Future of America.[3]

Osama bin Laden stated in his September 7, 2007 message:

"If you want to understand what's going on and if you would like to get to know some of the reasons for your losing the war against us, then read the book of Michael Scheuer." [4][5]

His next book, planned for publication in 2008, is Marching Towards Hell: America and Islam After Iraq.

Not much is known about his personal history, though Scheuer was an analyst at the CIA and not a covert field operations officer. During a recent C-SPAN interview, he mentioned that he is a graduate of Canisius College. He also received a Ph.D. in British Empire-U.S.-Canada-U.K. relations from the University of Manitoba.[4]

In the 9/11 Commission Report, Scheuer is featured in Chapter 4, where his name is given only as "Mike". He is portrayed as being occasionally frustrated with his superiors' failure to aggressively target bin Laden.


Imperial Hubris

One of the theses of his most recent book, Imperial Hubris, a New York Times bestseller, was that from bin Laden's perspective, the U.S. was attacked on 9/11 and will continue to be attacked because of a number of grievances against the U.S. and other western countries. These grievances include: U.S. support of Israel and its indifference to the Palestinians, presence of U.S. and western troops on the Arabian Peninsula, occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan by the U.S. and its allies, the U.S. support of countries that oppress Muslims (such as Russia, India and China), U.S. political pressure on Arab states to keep oil prices low and U.S. support for tyrannical governments.

Scheuer describes his thesis this way: "Imperial Hubris is overwhelmingly focused on how the last several American presidents have been very ill-served by the senior leaders of the Intelligence Community. Indeed, I resigned from an Agency I love in order to publicly damn the feckless 9/11 Commission, which failed to find any personal failure or negligence among Intelligence Community leaders even though dozens of serving officers provided the commissioners with clear documentary evidence of that failure." [6]

In a videotape released around September 7, 2007 apparently by Osama bin Laden, he personally recommended that anyone who wants to understand why the United States is losing the war against him should read Imperial Hubris.

Through Our Enemies' Eyes

His first book, published under the pseudonym "Anonymous", is an analysis of the public discourse available on al Qaeda's ideology and strategy. In it, Scheuer explores the bin Laden phenomenon and its implications for U.S. security. He began the book in 1999 as an unclassified manual for counterterrorism officers. Due to the secrecy agreement he signed as an employee of the CIA, the book is based solely on unclassified intelligence or material available from open sources such as media reports. His main thesis in the work is that the view of bin Laden as a lunatic is a form of "myopia" that limits Western military thinkers' ability to respond to the bin Laden phenomenon. He writes that "the West's road to hell lies in approaching the bin Laden problem with the presumption that only the lunatic fringe could oppose what the United States is trying to accomplish through its foreign policy toward the Muslim world. Bin Laden's philosophy is slowly harnessing the two most powerful motivating forces in contemporary international affairs: religion and nationalism." (p. 27).

Scheuer describes his thesis: "[T]he crux of my argument is simply that America is in a war with militant Islamists that it cannot avoid; one that it cannot talk or appease its way out of; one in which our irreconcilable Islamist foes will have to be killed, an act which unavoidably will lead to innocent deaths; and one that is motivated in large measure by the impact of U.S. foreign policies in the Islamic world, one of which is unqualified U.S. support for Israel." [7] The book also documents a number of areas in which Scheuer believed Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein cooperated. [8]


Operation Iraqi Freedom

  • "I think Iraq is finished. We'll just find a way to get out. I frankly don’t think we ever intended to win there. We certainly didn't send enough troops to close borders, to control the country. [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld was obsessed, apparently with his new, lighter, faster military. The inflow of fighters is growing. The pace of the insurgency, both there and in Afghanistan, is increasing. I don't hold much of a brief for Sen. John McCain, but he’s right, in an unpalatable way: Unless we greatly increase the number of troops we have in Iraq, we're going to have to leave. I think the question is how do we leave? Do we leave with some dignity, or do we leave by flying off the top of the embassy as we did in Saigon?".

Osama bin Laden


  • "In 1993 Osama bin Laden began speaking in detail to Muslim and Western journalists about his beliefs, goals, and intentions, and began publishing commentaries on these matters in the media.... While bin Laden's words have not been a torrent, they are plentiful, carefully chosen, plainly spoken, and precise. He has set out the Muslim world's problems as he sees them; determined that they are caused by the United States; explained why they must be remedied; and outlined how he will try to do so. Seldom in America's history has an enemy laid out so clearly the basis for the war he is waging against it." (pp. 45-6).
  • "Bin Laden, of course, learned his military skills in Afghanistan, not on the Iran-Iraq border, and, as a result, his methodological approach to waging jihad is marked by a measured manner stressing patience, preparation, and professionalism." (p. 71).
  • "The data in the public domain suggest the truth about bin Laden's activities in Afghanistan is much closer to the picture of him as 'the great freedom fighter of the Islamic world" than to the Western experts' description of him as an Islamic do-gooder or an immature, irrational youth." Through Our Enemies Eyes (p. 92)
  • "The Afghan jihad confronted the theoreticians of democratic Islam with a hard reality. The Red Army was not defeated by a democratic revolution, but by an Islamist revolution grounded, guided, and steeled by God's words as found in the Koran and explained by the Prophet. Driven by their faith, the mujhadein [sic] uses bullets, not votes, to win one for Allah, and by so doing revalidated jihad as Islam's normative response to attack." (p. 106)
  • "Before the [1990 Iraqi] attack [on Kuwait], bin Laden angered Saudi authorities by making a public "prophecy... [that] Saddam was going to invade Saudi Arabia." Sa'd al-Faqih claims bin Laden also sent "secret confidential letters to the King" about the Iraqi threat; according to al-Faqih, "he [bin Laden] was giving talks about it in the mosques. He was giving speeches in the mosques and talking about the dangers of the Ba'ath... having ambitions to invade Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. And then his prophesy was correct. And he was never respected or rewarded for that. Instead he was advised to stay in Jeddah; he was put in sort of house arrest." (p. 113)
  • "In Sudan, Bin Laden decided to acquire and, when possible, use chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) weapons against Islam's enemies. Bin Laden's first moves in this direction were made in cooperation with NIF [Sudan's National Islamic Front], Iraq's intelligence service and Iraqi CBRN scientists and technicians. He made contact with Baghdad with its intelligence officers in Sudan and by a [Hassan] Turabi-brokered June-1994 visit by Iraq's then-intelligence chief Faruq al-Hijazi; according to Milan's Corriere della Sera, Saddam, in 1994, made Hijazi responsible for "nurturing Iraq's ties to [Islamic] fundamentalist warriors. Turabi had plans to formulate a "common strategy" with bin Laden and Iraq for subverting pro-U.S. Arab regimes, but the meeting was a get-acquainted session where Hijazi and bin Laden developed a good rapport that would "flourish" in the late 1990s." Through Our Enemies Eyes (p. 124)

2004 and Later

  • I happened to do the research on the links between al Qaeda and Iraq. (:MATTHEWS: And what did you come up with?) :SCHEUER: Nothing. (Hardball with Chris Matthews November 16, 2004)
  • It's always been hard for me to understand how we say people who support Osama Bin Laden or someone else like him – who are willing to give their lives to destroy the dictatorship in Saudi Arabia – how we can describe those people as people who hated freedom. It seems to me that their definition of freedom might be different than ours, but to oppose a dictatorship, one must want freedom in some kind of way. (Al-Jazeera TV on September 11 and 12, 2005)
  • I think that, you know, we just encountered – America encountered – a brilliant man, and in terms of being a noble cause, it wasn't that many centuries ago that killing in the name of God, or waging war in the name of God, was a major thing in Christianity. (Al-Jazeera TV on September 11 and 12, 2005)
  • I think the 9/11 Commission report, for example, is wrong. The 9/11 Commission report identifies bin Laden and his followers as takfiris, who kill Muslims if they don‘t agree with them. They‘re not takfiris. They‘re just very devout, severe Salafists and Wahhabis.
  • [Bin Laden has] already said publicly that you can have all the oil you want. I can‘t drink it. We‘re going to sell it to you at a marketplace.
  • "I don't consider Osama Bin Laden to be a terrorist. I consider him to be a resistance fighter" (Roundtable discussion on PBS regarding Islam, April 14th 2006, answering a question posed by Ray Suarez).
  • "The test of an intelligence officer is not so much the ability to accumulate information; it's to judge between different pieces of information, and not to take a piece of information and use it in a piece of analysis simply because it fits your case, but to use it because it either comes from a reliable source like signals intercepts, from a human source that has been vetted over time as a reliable person, or it comes from documentary information -- papers you've stolen from another government or some other organization. The work that came out of Feith's shop that I saw, especially on Al Qaeda and Iraq, was simply... finding pieces of information in the world of intelligence information that fit the argument they wanted to make. Tenet, to his credit, had us go back 10 years in the agency's records and look and see what we knew about Iraq and Al Qaeda. I was available at the time, and I led the effort. We went back 10 years. We examined about 20,000 documents, probably something along the line of 75,000 pages of information, and there was no connection between [Al Qaeda] and Saddam." The Dark Side, PBS Frontline Interview, (22 June 2006).
  • "Mr. Clarke, of course, was at the center of Mr. Clinton's advisers, who resolutely refused to order the CIA to kill bin Laden. In spring 1998, I briefed Mr. Clarke and senior CIA, Department of Defense and FBI officers on a plan to kidnap bin Laden. Mr. Clarke's reaction was that "it was just a thinly disguised attempt to assassinate bin Laden." I replied that if he wanted bin Laden dead, we could do the job quickly. Mr. Clarke's response was that the president did not want bin Laden assassinated, and that we had no authority to do so." [9], Washington Times Guest Editorial, July 5, 2006.
  • "The Iranians are no threat to the United States unless we provoke them. They may be a threat to the Israelis. They‘re not a threat to the United States. The threat to the United States, inside the United States, comes from al Qaeda....These people are going to detonate a nuclear device inside the United States, and we're going to have absolutely nothing to respond against." (Countdown with Keith Olbermann, February 19, 2006)

Civilian Casualties

Scheuer participated in the following exchange on the FOX News program The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: I'm bringing it up to be - to show the Islamic world and those Muslims who are watching us right now, the inconsistency of their thought that, if there was a - you know, a God that was actually wanting them to do whatever, how could he possibly want them to...
SCHEUER: No, I don't quite follow it, sir, because I -- as much as I'd like to believe that human life is sacred in all instances, war, whether it's conducted by Americans or by British or by Chinese or by Muslims, war is just war. And it kills innocent people. And that's the way it is.
O'REILLY: But there's a way to wage it. And the way that the al Qaedas are waging it is by killing civilians. They're not waging war in a conventional way, as you know. Now...
SCHEUER: Well, they are waging war in the conventional way that we waged war until 1945, sir, which is the last war we've won. Once we stopped waging war in the American fashion, we haven't won a war since....
O'REILLY: Is there anything we can do to win it?
SCHEUER: Yes, sir. We certainly have to kill more of the enemy. That's the first step.
O'REILLY: Any way we can?
SCHEUER: Anywhere we can, whenever we can, without a great deal of concern for civilian casualties. As I said, war is war. The people who got killed when they were hosting Zawahiri to dinner were not the friends of the United States.
O'REILLY: All right, Mr Scheuer, always a pleasure to talk with you.

From The O'Reilly Factor, 19 January 2006[10]

Israel and the Lobby

Michael Scheuer entered into the controversy surrounding the Mearsheimer and Walt paper on the "Israel Lobby". He said to NPR that Mearsheimer and Walt are basically right. Israel, according to Scheuer, has engaged in one of the most successful campaigns to influence public opinion in the United States ever conducted by a foreign government. Scheuer said to NPR that "They [Mearsheimer and Walt] should be credited for the courage they have had to actually present a paper on the subject. I hope they move on and do the Saudi lobby, which is probably more dangerous to the United States than the Israeli lobby."[5]

In February, 2005, Scheuer gave an interview in which he discussed, among other things, Israeli lobbying in the United States.[6] In the interview, the following exchange took place:

"QUESTIONER: I'm curious — Gary Rosen from Commentary magazine. If you could just elaborate a little bit on the clandestine ways in which Israel and presumably Jews have managed to so control debate over this fundamental foreign policy question.
SCHEUER: Well, the clandestine aspect is that, clearly, the ability to influence the Congress — that's a clandestine activity, a covert activity. You know to some extent, the idea that the Holocaust Museum here in our country is another great ability to somehow make people feel guilty about being the people who did the most to try to end the Holocaust. I find — I just find the whole debate in the United States unbearably restricted with the inability to factually discuss what goes on between our two countries."

Islamic media

  • "On balance, the Islamic media's taste for what the West terms sensationalizing and conspiracy mongering is less than meets the eye. Based on my research, it is apparent that the Islamic media's correspondents and editors work harder, dig deeper, and think more than most of their Western counterparts. This is not to say that the Islamic media do not suffer from sensationalized conspiracy theories, but they probably are no more prone to those faults than their Western colleagues." (Through Our Enemies' Eyes, p. 280)

Richard Clarke

  • "Clarke's book [Against All Enemies] is also a crucial complement to the September 11 panel's failure to condemn Mr. Clinton's failure to capture or kill bin Laden on any of the eight to 10 chances afforded by CIA reporting. Mr. Clarke never mentions that President Bush had no chances to kill bin Laden before September 11 and leaves readers with the false impression that he, Mr. Clinton and Mr. Clinton's national security adviser, Sandy Berger, did their best to end the bin Laden threat. That trio, in my view, abetted al Qaeda, and if the September 11 families were smart they would focus on the dereliction of Dick [Clarke], Bill [Clinton] and Sandy [Berger] and not the antics of convicted September 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui."[7]
WALLACE: Mr. Scheuer, as the man in charge of what was called "Alec Station," the CIA unit in charge of hunting down Usama bin Laden, you say the Clinton administration missed at least 10 chances to get him. I don't want to go into all 10, but what was the problem?
FORMER CIA UNIT CHIEF MICHAEL SCHEUER: Well, the president is correct, in that he got - President Clinton is correct that he got closer than anyone, but, of course, he always refused to pull the trigger. And in addition, we were never authorized, while I was the chief of operations, to kill Usama bin Laden. In fact, Mr. Richard Clarke definitely told us we had no authorization to kill bin Laden.
Why they didn't shoot, of course, is, at least from Mr. Tenet's viewpoint it was because one time they were afraid to have shrapnel hit a mosque when they killed bin Laden. And two other times I think they were afraid they actually would have to do something, so they warned the emirates on one occasion, the princes from the United Arab Emirates, to move so we couldn't attack bin Laden.
WALLACE: They were on a hunting trip with bin Laden.
SCHEUER: Yes, sir. And Richard Clarke called the emirates and warned them that they should get out of that area, which cost us the chance to kill him.
WALLACE: In your opinion, as somebody who was up close and personal, why didn't the Clinton administration go after Al Qaeda after the USS Cole?
SCHEUER: Mr. Wallace, my opinion is not all that important. I went to a little Jesuit school in Buffalo called Canisius, and the priests taught us never to lie, but if you had to lie, never lie about facts. Mr. Richard Clarke, Mr. Sandy Berger, President Clinton are lying about the opportunities they had to kill Usama bin Laden. That's the plain truth, the exact truth.
Men and women at the CIA risked their lives to provide occasions to kill a man we knew had declared war and had attacked America four or five times before 1998. We had plans that had been approved by the Joint Operations Command at Fort Bragg. We had opportunities, many opportunities to kill him.
But that's the president's decision. That's absolutely the case. It's not a simple, dumb bureaucrat like me; that's not my decision. It's his. But for him to get on the television and say to the American people he did all he could is a flat lie, sir.[8]

Ron Paul

In the Republican Presidential Debate on May 15, 2007, presidential candidate Ron Paul stated that American foreign policy was a "contributing factor" in anti-Americanism in the Middle East. Rudy Giuliani denounced this as "absurd" and that he'd never heard such a thing before. In an interview on May 18, Michael Scheuer defended Paul, stating: "I thought Mr. Paul captured it the other night exactly correctly. This war is dangerous to America because it's based, not on gender equality, as Mr. Giuliani suggested, or any other kind of freedom, but simply because of what we do in the Islamic World – because "we're over there," basically, as Mr. Paul said in the debate."[9]

On May 24, 2007, Ron Paul and Scheuer held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. about the causes that led up to 9/11, American foreign policy and its implications on terrorism, security and Iraq.[10] Paul and Scheuer argued that Rudy Giuliani is wrong on security and foreign policy and provided documentation about the unintended consequences of interventionism - known to many in the intelligence world as blowback - and assigned Giuliani a reading list of foreign policy books, including Dying to Win, Blowback, Imperial Hubris and the 9/11 Commission Report.[11]

On Larry King Live, September 7, 2007, Scheuer alluded to the Fox News Republican Debate of Sept 5, 2007, where a Fox News moderator accused Ron Paul of taking "marching orders" from Al Qaeda. Scheuer said, "The truth of the matter is that it is all of the Democrats and the Republicans, except perhaps for Mr. Paul and Mr. Kucinich, who are marching to Osama Bin Laden's drum." Larry King Live

Iraq and al-Qaeda

Thomas Joscelyn of Weekly Standard wrote a highly critical piece on Scheuer and an interview Scheuer did on Chris Matthews Hardball. [11] Joscelyn wrote:

"When Michael Scheuer, the first head of the CIA's bin Laden unit, first emerged into public view almost a year ago, it was a curiosity how he could appear in the media--time after time--claiming that there was no evidence of a relationship between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and al Qaeda. It was curious because, in 2002, Scheuer wrote the book Through Our Enemies' Eyes, in which he cited numerous pieces of evidence showing that there was, in fact, a working relationship between Saddam and al Qaeda. That evidence directly contradicted his criticism of the intelligence that led this nation into the Iraq war, which he called a 'Christmas present' for bin Laden."

Scheuer wrote about the relationship between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda in his 2002 book (see above, 2002). Yet when interviewed in 2004 he stated that he had found no evidence of a Saddam/al-Qaeda connection. Tim Russert asked Scheuer to explain the seeming contradiction on Meet the Press (30 November 2004):

MR. SCHEUER: I certainly saw a link when I was writing the books in terms of the open-source literature, unclassified literature, but I had nothing to do with Iraq during my professional career until the run-up to the war. What I was talking about on "Hardball" was, I was assigned the duty of going back about nine or 10 years in the classified archives of the CIA. I went through roughly 19,000 documents, probably totaling 50,000 to 60,000 pages, and within that corpus of material, there was absolutely no connection in the terms of a--in the terms of a relationship.
MR. RUSSERT: But your [2002] book did point out some contacts?
MR. SCHEUER: Certainly it was available in the open-source material, yes, sir.[12]

Scheuer explains more fully in the revised edition of his 2002 book the exhaustive study of the evidence of Iraq-al-Qaeda cooperation that eventually led him to the conclusion that there was no relationship between the two forces:

For a number of reasons, I was available to perform the review of Agency files on Iraq and al Qaeda, and the chief of the bin Laden unit handed me the assignment. I was delighted with the task, eager to begin, and sure that my research would support the analysis I had presented in Through Our Enemies' Eyes. For about four weeks in late 2002 and early 2003, I and several others were engaged full time in searching CIA files -- seven days a week, often far more than eight hours a day. At the end of the effort, we had gone back ten years in the files and had reviewed nearly twenty thousand documents that amounted to well over fifty thousand pages of materials. I was both pleased and embarrassed by the results of the research. I was pleased because CIA's position was reaffirmed and the analysis of Mr. Feith's unit was discredited. There was no information that remotely supported the analysis that claimed there was a strong working relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. I was embarrassed because this reality invalidated the analysis I had presented on the subject in my book.[12]

Criticism of George Tenet

In a Washington Post editorial on Sunday, April 29, 2007 (Page B01) entitled "NOW HE TELLS US - Tenet Tries to Shift the Blame. Don't Buy It.", Scheuer strongly criticized George Tenet's behavior before and after both 9/11 and the war in Iraq. Scheuer also points out untruths in the way Tenet recounted his role in those situations.

"It's impossible to dislike Tenet, who is smart, polite, hard-working, convivial and detail-oriented. But he's also a man who never went from cheerleader to leader."




External links

Notes and references

  1. Global Terrorism Analysis.
  2. [1]
  3. The authorship of these books is now widely known, and advertised as such. See [2] Council on Foreign Relations, Transcript of Interview Winning or Losing? An Inside Look at the War on Terror by Nicholas Lemann Dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism , February 3, 2005. Also see: The Phoenix
  4. Georgetown Bio
  5. Paper on Israel Lobby Sparks Heated Debate, Deborah Amos, National Public Radio, April 21, 2006
  6. Council on Foreign Relations,[3], February 3, 2005
  7. Michael F. Scheuer, "Bill and Dick, Osama and Sandy," Washington Times (5 July 2006).
  8. Transcript: Counterterror Experts Debate Clinton Claims on 'FNS'. October 01, 2006.  Fox News
  9. http://www.antiwar.com/blog/2007/05/19/former-head-of-cias-osama-unit-backs-up-rep-ron-paul/
  10. http://upcoming.yahoo.com/venue/62008/
  11. Reuters: N24342743.htm U.S. candidate Paul assigns reading to Giuliani. May 24, 2007.
  12. Michael Scheuer, Through Our Enemies' Eyes (revised edition). Washington, DC: Potomac Books, 2006) p. 136.