WASHINGTON – A senior CIA officer who has become an outspoken critic of the fight on terrorism turned in his resignation this week, citing a desire to speak more freely about problems in the hunt for Osama bin Laden and the debate over intelligence reform.
Current government officials are rarely as vocal as Mike Scheuer, who wrote “Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror.” But he called the decision to leave the agency after 22 years “entirely my own.”
“I have concluded that there has not been adequate national debate over the nature of the threat posed by Osama bin Laden and the forces he leads and inspires, and the nature and dimensions of intelligence reform needed to address that threat,” Scheuer said in a statement sent to reporters Thursday via electronic mail.
Scheuer’s CIA assignments included running the bin Laden unit from January 1996 to June 1999. He hopes his experience and views will produce a more substantive debate.
This week, Scheuer ignored agency orders and began granting interviews about shortfalls in the hunt for bin Laden, the findings and recommendations of the Sept. 11 and the intelligence community overall.
During a wide-ranging interview Sunday evening, Scheuer was highly critical of the Sept. 11 Commission’s “refusal” to point fingers at senior government officials whose actions contributed to the attacks. Rather than changing the structure of government, as Congress is considering, he said a signal must be sent that people will be held accountable for their actions.
“No one seems to be capable or inclined to find anyone responsible for 9/11,” he said.
Scheuer doesn’t think the 9/11 attack could have been stopped, but believes the various commissions that have investigated the attack should have better considered whether the intelligence community was working optimally.
For instance, Scheuer finds flaws with the FBI agents who were sent to the CIA to work with the bin Laden unit under his watch. He said the CIA shared information with the agents, but they didn’t take it back to their headquarters. He said they were more interested in “travel overseas” and “war stories.”
“They were interested in doing everything but work,” he said. He could think of only limited exceptions.
Scheuer is also critical of how CIA resources and personnel are now being distributed to go after al-Qaida.
Spokespeople at the CIA and the FBI declined to comment.
Even after his resignation, Scheuer must abide by regulations that govern all former agency employees. He won’t be able to discuss classified information, and speeches, books and articles on intelligence subjects will have to be cleared by an agency review board.