Commentary Magazine


Michael Scheuer Watch #2: Osama bin Laden’s Favorite Pundit

Osama bin Laden’s latest video is very peculiar, and not only because he is sporting a fake beard.

One of the oddest moments comes when he recommends that Americans read the works of two authors, Noam Chomsky and Michael Scheuer. Scheuer, who ran the CIA’s al-Qaeda unit from 1996 to 1999, has been making a great name for himself as a counterterrorism expert since leaving the agency in 2004. Among other high-visibility perches, he serves as a “consultant” to both CBS and ABC News and is cited frequently by leading journalists.

The question is: is bin Laden’s endorsement of Scheuer’s books good for this pundit’s career? Although one should never underestimate the media’s lack of curiosity, my own guess is that it is going to hurt, and hurt badly.

Bin Laden’s endorsement is not the direct reason. Rather, the increasing attention it will bring him will also bring him increasing scrutiny. And scrutiny is not something Scheuer will easily withstand.

Along with a number of others, Scheuer has endorsed the findings of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt about the extraordinary influence wielded in the United States by the “Israel Lobby.” But Scheuer, explicating his views on a show called Antiwar Radio, goes much further than even they do. He believes that the machinations of the Israel Lobby are supplemented by the efforts of Israeli intelligence, which is “very active in the United States.” In fact, Israeli spies are “popping up all over” and they “do whatever they want inside of America and no one carries them to task for it.” Indeed, because both the Democratic and Republican parties are “owned by AIPAC,” the U.S. government “consistently tries to suppress any kind of publication” of information pertaining to the Israeli espionage.

This is already lunatic-asylum territory, but there is more. According to Scheuer, there is an ongoing “Israeli covert-action program” under way to silence defenders* of the Mearsheimer-Walt book. The results, says Scheuer, have been “stupendous.” In public, the Israelis didn’t have to raise a word—that’s the way covert action works, he helpfully explains—but the result of their behind-the-scenes manipulation is clear: in the attacks on Mearsheimer and Walt, “Americans are savaging other Americans in defense of a foreign country.”

I have previously written about Scheuer’s bizarre ideas and behavior in the pages of COMMENTARY. In the latest Weekly Standard, I examine how the CIA’s own Inspector General has evaluated Scheuer’s work as a counterterrorism operative. It turns out that as the CIA officer charged with the principal responsibility for countering Osama bin Laden, Scheuer was a walking calamity.

Osama bin Laden has a collection of excellent reasons, it would seem, for praising this American spy turned pundit.


A complete guide to other items in this Michael Scheuer Watch series can be found here.