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Scheuer on His Resignation

Michael Scheuer lands some blows against Richard Clarke and other Clinton-era national security policymakers in The Los Angeles Times, but it's hardly credible that disgruntlement over these individuals' actions in 1998-99 explains "Why [He] Resigned From the CIA" once all of those people were out of office and a new team was in place and had just been re-elected. Bill Cohen was also Secretary of Defense, not Secretary of State, but why quibble.

December 5, 2004 | Permalink


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I think he's kind of crazy ... he seemed downright unhinged at the AQ 2.0 Conference. My guess is that he feels deep personal guilt about 911 and is lashing out all over the place. It is shocking, though, that someone so obviously bizarre would have been in charge of something so important.

Posted by: praktike | Dec 6, 2004 12:07:42 AM

Bill Cohen was also Secretary of Defense

That's a strange mistake. Don't they have people who edit these things so that silly mistakes like this don't appear in print?

Posted by: Dan the Man | Dec 6, 2004 12:14:42 AM

Scheuer: "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..."

A bit of a loaded question, isn't it? It sounds like he's assuming that all these people had the capability to act on their own, without the permission of the President. And that's a false assumption in most of the cases he's talking about, right?

The CW, for what it's worth, is that the President was so distracted by the impeachment process that he couldn't devote as much energy as he otherwise might have to worrying about terrorism. So it seems perfectly possible that Clarke and the others *were* calling for heightened action, they just weren't being paid much attention. Add to that the fact that Clinton was damned if he acted and damned if he didn't (we'd probably still be hearing the echoes of Jonah Goldberg shrieking "Wag the Dog" if Clinton had put boots on the ground in Afghanistan), and I fail to see how singling out the Clinton national security team is justifiable.

Posted by: BW | Dec 6, 2004 12:27:44 AM

Isn't the answer simply that Scheuer is a wacked out freak -- just like Clarke?

I think the best explanation for 9/11 is that we have all of these wierdos -- Scheuer and Clarke and Joe Wilson and Scott Ritter and the rest -- conducting our foreign policy. Is it too much to ask our government simply to not hire freaks for the most sensitive foreign policy assignments?

Posted by: Al | Dec 6, 2004 12:27:58 AM

(Who says irony is dead?)

Posted by: bad Jim | Dec 6, 2004 12:47:20 AM

Bill Cohen was also Secretary of Defense

The failures of the "intelligence community" continue to mount...

Posted by: SoCalJustice | Dec 6, 2004 1:16:43 AM

First of all, I think it's worth noting that the article seems a lot more logically consistent if ignore its main title "Why I Resigned from the CIA" and just consider its subtitle "The agency did its job, but higher-ups endangered the nation". Did Mr. Scheuer choose the titles, or did some editor at the LA Times choose them? Alas, we may never know... of course, not knowing the answer to this question isn't really a great loss to posterity. :)

Second and more importantly, while I agree Mr. Scheuer himself often seems a bit (or more than a bit) unhinged, I think his implicit logic is defensible. Yes, the buck stops with the President. However, politicians generally can only be expected to personally initiate and shepherd significant, new policy initiatives on issues to which the electorate pays some minimal amount of attention. Before 9/11, the electorate paid almost no attention to the issue of Al Qaeda. Thus for this issue, one could well assign primary reponsibility to the senior career civil servants and the cabinet secretaries that managed them.

Posted by: Bill | Dec 6, 2004 7:52:59 AM

Assuming Scheuer is accurately representing the facts, his impassioned pleas would have been much effective if they were givenwith Scheuer's over the top presentation style.

Posted by: theCoach | Dec 6, 2004 9:07:23 AM

My,my, we are bitchy today. From his
testimony at various venues as seen on
C-SPAN, his complaint is that there were
10-12 chances to take out UBL, and not a
one was taken. You can blame it on the Clenis, but the Condiliar blew most of
those chances.

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr | Dec 6, 2004 9:33:47 AM

So is anyone under the delusion that if OBL had been killed in 1998, say, that the WTC attacks would have therefore been thwarted?

I rather think that they would have gone ahead as scheduled and some other Al Qaeda wackjob would be issuing video tapes explaining how the attacks were a response to

1) Our friendship with Israel
2) The presence of out troops in Saudi
3) The Iraqi sanctions
4) The fact that we killed their Great Leader(s). (No doubt any successful strike on Bin Laden would have killed more than one upper level Al Qaeda guy)

Four would be especially resonant had Flight 97 hit its target.

I can just see Senator Patty 'day care center' Murry on CNN now, lecturing to us about how foolish it was to kill OBL and painting him as a peacemaker by pointing to some obscure conciliatory sentence in one of his hateful rants. It was our decision to assassinate Bin Laden that drove Al Qaeda to commit such an act, don't you know?

"We've got to kill Bin Laden" and "So-and-so has failed to kill Bin Laden" are useful political soundbites for domestic consumption (by members of either party) but I would think that Scheuer, were he interested in furthering the more serious half of this debate, would stay away from those soundbites.

Or maybe he really does believe that, had Bin Laden been offed in the 90s, the course of the Middle East would have been substantially altered.

Posted by: MattJ | Dec 6, 2004 10:23:36 AM

In hindsight, if one knew that Osama bin Laden was going to kill 3,000 people on 11 September 2001, killing him sometime before he could plan that attack would have excused almost any undertaking. If Scheuer was so certain in the years 1996-1999 that a mass murder of that kind was in the making, and he wasn't getting his certainty through to his superiors, why didn't he resign and speak out publicly, then? Or 2000, when he could have challenged Gore regarding Clinton's ineffeciency against non-state terror and Bush on why his foreign policy (as proposed in writing by Condoleeza Rice) utterly ignored Afghanistan, the Taliban, and al-Qaida in favor of Iraq? His concerns might have been real and well-founded, but they evidently weren't urgent enough for him to place his career and credibility at risk in a challenge to the very upper levels of the state apparatus that he now excoriates. And if he weren't willing to lay his personal interests on the table for his certainty, why would the United States government bet our national interest on it?

Posted by: Brian C.B. | Dec 6, 2004 10:31:43 AM

Michael Scheuer is a lot like Maureen Dowd to me. If I find they hold the same opinions I do, I fell an intense ickiness all over.

Posted by: Rob | Dec 6, 2004 11:07:04 AM

Well, it seems to me his main problem with Clarke would be that Clarke really takes CIA (and FBI) out to the woodshed in his book for downright incompetence, so it would seem to me at first glance that Scheuer is trying to defend the CIA against said attacks. However, given the known track record at the CIA, it's pretty apparent that Clarke's account of incompetence is accurate (at least until a more incompetent execeutive took over, but that's another story).

Posted by: Kangaroo Jack | Dec 6, 2004 11:15:24 AM

Scheuer's obviously hoping to keep people from talking about stories like this:

According to Clarke, Rumsfeld the PNAC Platoonie wanted to go after Iraq immediately after 9/11 -- even though everyone at State knew that Osama was in Afghanistan, NOT Iraq.

Posted by: Phoenix Woman | Dec 6, 2004 2:20:12 PM

In hindsight, if one knew that Osama bin Laden was going to kill 3,000 people on 11 September 2001, killing him sometime before he could plan that attack would have excused almost any undertaking. If Scheuer was so certain in the years 1996-1999 that a mass murder of that kind was in the making, and he wasn't getting his certainty through to his superiors, why didn't he resign and speak out publicly, then?

Especially since Clinton, unlike Bush, didn't make a hobby of summarily sacking whistleblowers. I mean, come on! Linda Tripp was at the Pentagon long after Clinton left the White House. If she'd tried her little games on Shrub the Dauphin, she'd be long gone and nobody in the press would have cared.

Posted by: Phoenix Woman | Dec 6, 2004 2:26:45 PM

I mean, come on! Linda Tripp was at the Pentagon long after Clinton left the White House.

Actually, Clinton fired Tripp on his last day in office in January, 2001. Her lawyers claim in was a vindictive firing, and the Clinton people claim it was normal administrative procedure due to her failure to resign: http://archives.cnn.com/2001/ALLPOLITICS/stories/01/19/tripp.fired.03/

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