Commentary Magazine


Topic: Michael Scheuer

Michael Scheuer Watch #5: The Danish Affair, Cont.

A couple of days ago, I started this new department devoted to monitoring Michael Scheuer. I don’t think it will be a long-term proposition. The television shows that regularly bring on this former CIA official as an expert in counterterrorism, I believe, will soon be getting wise, if they haven’t gotten wise already, that they’ve been dealing with a loose potato. Scheuer will soon fade even further to the margins, appearing not in the mainstream media but in far-out places that he has already begun to write for, like antiwar.com, where one of his recent pieces appears under the headline: Why Does Norman Podhoretz Hate America?

Scheuer has previously responded to some of my comments about him, which have appeared under the titles:

Michael Scheuer Watch, Vol 1, #1

Michael Scheuer: Innocent Until Proven Guilty 

Osama bin Laden’s Favorite Pundit 

The Jewish Conspiracy.

And his responses have consistently dodged the issues being raised. In my last post about him, with this record in mind, I posed some questions about his role in disclosing classified information that has ignited an anti-American firestorm in Denmark. I predicted that he would answer these questions “with either a telling silence or with even more telling and more irrelevant evasions.”

Scheuer has now answered:

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A couple of days ago, I started this new department devoted to monitoring Michael Scheuer. I don’t think it will be a long-term proposition. The television shows that regularly bring on this former CIA official as an expert in counterterrorism, I believe, will soon be getting wise, if they haven’t gotten wise already, that they’ve been dealing with a loose potato. Scheuer will soon fade even further to the margins, appearing not in the mainstream media but in far-out places that he has already begun to write for, like antiwar.com, where one of his recent pieces appears under the headline: Why Does Norman Podhoretz Hate America?

Scheuer has previously responded to some of my comments about him, which have appeared under the titles:

Michael Scheuer Watch, Vol 1, #1

Michael Scheuer: Innocent Until Proven Guilty 

Osama bin Laden’s Favorite Pundit 

The Jewish Conspiracy.

And his responses have consistently dodged the issues being raised. In my last post about him, with this record in mind, I posed some questions about his role in disclosing classified information that has ignited an anti-American firestorm in Denmark. I predicted that he would answer these questions “with either a telling silence or with even more telling and more irrelevant evasions.”

Scheuer has now answered:

Again, I thank Mr. Schoenfeld and COMMENTARY for drawing attention to my work. And here is what I have to say, as requested by Mr. Schoenfeld.

Regarding the subject at hand—rendition and my public comments thereon—I encourage Mr. Schoenfeld and his anti-American colleagues—that is the neoconservatives/Israel-firsters—to push every button and every friend they have to get me investigated so that I can testify under oath about the rendition program. Before either or both of the congressional intelligence committees would be ideal, as long as the session is under oath and public. The American public needs the truth about the effectiveness of the program, the debt they owe to the men and women of CIA, and the efforts of Mr. Schoenfeld and others to damage the CIA because its officers do not share their love for foreign powers. Press on, Mr. Schoenfeld, press on. Rather then rattling me, you are merely doing my bidding.

This is clearly not a telling silence. But is it a telling evasion? I would love to hear the telling opinions of readers. My own view is that it is sometimes tellingly easy to connect the dots.

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

 

 

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Michael Scheuer Watch: Table of Contents

Michael Scheuer Watch #1: The Jewish Conspiracy

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

Michael Scheuer Watch #3: Innocent Until Proven Guilty

Michael Scheuer Watch #4: The Danish Affair

Michael Scheuer Watch #5: The Danish Affair, Cont.

Michael Scheuer Watch #6: Bad Apples and Basic Questions

Michael Scheuer Watch #7: Heavy Medal

Michael Scheuer Watch #8: Please Pass the Truth Serum

Michael Scheuer Watch #9: AWOL

Michael Scheuer Watch #10: The Cheese Danish Affair and Ron Paul

Michael Scheuer Watch #11: The Danish Affair Is Not Yet Over

Michael Scheuer Watch #12: Expletive Deleted

Michael Scheuer Watch #13: Guilt By Association

In addition to posts here on Connecting the Dots, readers can also find my discussion of Scheuer’s book, Imperial Hubris, in What Became of the CIA in the March 2005 COMMENTARY.

Scheuer subsequently responded to that piece, and I then responded to his response, both of which appeared in the correspondence pages of the June 2005 COMMENTARY.

More recently I examined Scheuer’s performance (or malperformance) as a counterterrorism official in The CIA Examines Itself in the September 17, 2007 Weekly Standard.

Michael Scheuer’s Wikipedia page can be found here. Resources and links to his writings and media appearances found here on the Michael Scheuer Watch can be used to keep it accurate and up to date.

Michael Scheuer Watch #1: The Jewish Conspiracy

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

Michael Scheuer Watch #3: Innocent Until Proven Guilty

Michael Scheuer Watch #4: The Danish Affair

Michael Scheuer Watch #5: The Danish Affair, Cont.

Michael Scheuer Watch #6: Bad Apples and Basic Questions

Michael Scheuer Watch #7: Heavy Medal

Michael Scheuer Watch #8: Please Pass the Truth Serum

Michael Scheuer Watch #9: AWOL

Michael Scheuer Watch #10: The Cheese Danish Affair and Ron Paul

Michael Scheuer Watch #11: The Danish Affair Is Not Yet Over

Michael Scheuer Watch #12: Expletive Deleted

Michael Scheuer Watch #13: Guilt By Association

In addition to posts here on Connecting the Dots, readers can also find my discussion of Scheuer’s book, Imperial Hubris, in What Became of the CIA in the March 2005 COMMENTARY.

Scheuer subsequently responded to that piece, and I then responded to his response, both of which appeared in the correspondence pages of the June 2005 COMMENTARY.

More recently I examined Scheuer’s performance (or malperformance) as a counterterrorism official in The CIA Examines Itself in the September 17, 2007 Weekly Standard.

Michael Scheuer’s Wikipedia page can be found here. Resources and links to his writings and media appearances found here on the Michael Scheuer Watch can be used to keep it accurate and up to date.

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Michael Scheuer Watch #4: The Danish Affair

An entry here entitled Michael Scheuer: Innocent Until Proven Guilty seems to have rattled the former CIA official’s cage. He has posted three separate comments in reply.

Herewith some comments about his comments.

In his 2004 book, Imperial Hubris, Scheuer made a point of stressing how vital it was for CIA analysts like himself always to “check the checkables”—a phrase he used incessantly in that volume. In writing about Imperial Hubris in COMMENTARY, I noted then that he himself had a very hard time with the checkables, not least in the realm of spelling. L. Paul Bremer III was rendered in the book as Paul Bremmer, General Curtis LeMay as General Lemay, the foreign-policy analysts Edward Luttwak and Adam Garfinkle as Lutwack and Garfinckle, etc.

In his comments posted here on Connecting the Dots, Scheuer still has trouble with the same class of checkables. And, along with misspellings, he does some far more noteworthy things.

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An entry here entitled Michael Scheuer: Innocent Until Proven Guilty seems to have rattled the former CIA official’s cage. He has posted three separate comments in reply.

Herewith some comments about his comments.

In his 2004 book, Imperial Hubris, Scheuer made a point of stressing how vital it was for CIA analysts like himself always to “check the checkables”—a phrase he used incessantly in that volume. In writing about Imperial Hubris in COMMENTARY, I noted then that he himself had a very hard time with the checkables, not least in the realm of spelling. L. Paul Bremer III was rendered in the book as Paul Bremmer, General Curtis LeMay as General Lemay, the foreign-policy analysts Edward Luttwak and Adam Garfinkle as Lutwack and Garfinckle, etc.

In his comments posted here on Connecting the Dots, Scheuer still has trouble with the same class of checkables. And, along with misspellings, he does some far more noteworthy things.

Thus, in one of his three replies, Scheuer suggests that I am disloyal to the United States: “only a small part of Mr. Scheonfeld [sic]…may be American.” He suggests that, along with me, Norman Podhoretz, Max Boot, James Woolsley [sic], someone simply identified as “Pipes” (Richard or Daniel?), and someone simply identified as “Horowitz,” have pushed the United States into wasting American “treasure” and getting our “soldier-children killed in fighting other peoples’ wars, especially other peoples’ religious wars.”

Presumably, in referring to “religious wars,” Scheuer has in mind, as so often in the past, Israel’s conflicts with its neighbors. But my post had nothing to do with Israel. Nor were the names Podhoretz, Boot, Woolsey, Pipes, or Horowitz mentioned in it. The imputation that these individuals, including a former director of the CIA, are disloyal to the United States is naked bigotry (although I cannot of course defend “Horowitz” from Scheuer’s accusation, since I do not know who he is). 

I was writing not about religious wars but about Scheuer’s disclosure of information to the Danish newspaper Politiken concerning the extraordinary rendition to Egypt in 1995 of a terrorist plotter by the name of Abu Talal. Scheuer does comment on that episode, but in a way completely irrelevant to my charges. He says:

The CIA’s rendition program—which I helped author, and then managed for almost four years—continues to be the U.S. government’s single most successful, perhaps only sucessful [sic] counterterrorism program, and Americans are very much safer with the likes of Abu Talal off the street.

But the issue is not whether extraordinary renditions were successful, or whether Americans are safer because of them. I will stipulate for the sake of argument that he is right about both those things.

I was raising a different issue, concerning the U.S. laws governing leaks, and I raised five questions about whether the Politiken story indicates that these laws may have been broken:

1. Is the story accurate?

2. Assuming it is accurate, was the information about the rendition of Abu Talal classified?

3. Assuming it was classified, and that Scheuer was the primary source, did he have the CIA’s permission to talk about it?

4. Assuming he was the primary source and he did not have CIA permission, and that the two preceding questions are answered in the affirmative, was a crime committed here?

5. If the elements of a crime are in place, will be there an investigation? And is anyone at the CIA or the Department of Justice or in Congress paying attention?

It is notable that in his three responses, Scheuer does not address or answer even one of these five questions.

The CIA does things in secret for a number of very good reasons. One of them is to accomplish U.S. security objectives without creating political firestorms in friendly countries. But a firestorm has now been ignited in Denmark as a result of Scheuer’s leak.

All the opposition parties in the Danish parliament are demanding an investigation into whether the authorities cooperated with the CIA in the extradition. Amnesty International has joined the choir: “It should be clarified whether Denmark indirectly participated in the CIA’s prisoner program and therefore in the violation of human rights,” says Lars Norman Jorgensen, who heads the organization’s Danish branch.

Meanwhile, even as the Danish foreign minister, Per Stig Moller, is denying that he was ever informed that “any unlawful acts” had taken place on Danish territory, Michael Scheuer has been pouring more fuel on the fire. He has told Politiken that the Danish intelligence agency, the DSIS, must have known about the rendition program; he says, “I can’t imagine any situation where we would not have told Denmark this.”

In short, not only does Scheuer appear to be the source of a damaging leak, he appears to be intent on maximizing the damage.

Here are some more dots that I’m still trying to connect:

CIA officers have been indicted in Italy for taking part in extraordinary renditions there. Will Denmark now initiate a similar legal process?

How does Scheuer’s activity differ from the deliberate leaking of classified information by the renegade CIA agent Philip Agee, whose passport was revoked in 1979 and is now a fugitive living in Cuba?

What is the Justice Department doing about the disclosure? I predict that the incoming Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, will prove far more energetic in investigating and prosecuting leaks than was the feckless Alberto Gonzalez. I hope I’m right.

What does Scheuer have to say about any of this? I predict that, at this point, he will answer with either a telling silence or with even more telling and more irrelevant evasions.

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

 

 

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Michael Scheuer Watch #3: Innocent Until Proven Guilty

We already have incontrovertible evidence that former CIA officer Michael Scheuer, who is now busy with a career equally divided between casting aspersions on American Jews and making a fool of himself, was incompetent at his job running the agency’s Osama bin Laden desk in the 1990’s, and was seen as such by those in charge.

Do we now have evidence of something else?

The Danish daily Politiken ran a story on Sunday reporting that “CIA renditions in Europe date back as far as the mid-1990’s.” The term “renditions” refers to the agency’s highly secret practice, some details of which have previously leaked out, of extraditing terrorism suspects from one foreign state to another for purposes of interrogation and prosecution.

Politiken went on, according to an AP summary, to provide specifics, including the fact that in 1995 U.S. agents seized an Egyptian by the name of Abu Talal, a senior member of the Egyptian terrorist organization al-Gama’a al-Islamiya, who had been granted political asylum in Denmark. He was reportedly nabbed while visiting Croatia and was turned over to Egypt, where he may have been executed. 

Along with other unidentified CIA officials, Politiken cites Michael Scheuer as a source for this information, which is now stirring up anti-Americanism in Denmark.

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We already have incontrovertible evidence that former CIA officer Michael Scheuer, who is now busy with a career equally divided between casting aspersions on American Jews and making a fool of himself, was incompetent at his job running the agency’s Osama bin Laden desk in the 1990’s, and was seen as such by those in charge.

Do we now have evidence of something else?

The Danish daily Politiken ran a story on Sunday reporting that “CIA renditions in Europe date back as far as the mid-1990’s.” The term “renditions” refers to the agency’s highly secret practice, some details of which have previously leaked out, of extraditing terrorism suspects from one foreign state to another for purposes of interrogation and prosecution.

Politiken went on, according to an AP summary, to provide specifics, including the fact that in 1995 U.S. agents seized an Egyptian by the name of Abu Talal, a senior member of the Egyptian terrorist organization al-Gama’a al-Islamiya, who had been granted political asylum in Denmark. He was reportedly nabbed while visiting Croatia and was turned over to Egypt, where he may have been executed. 

Along with other unidentified CIA officials, Politiken cites Michael Scheuer as a source for this information, which is now stirring up anti-Americanism in Denmark.

CIA officers sign an oath not to disclose classified information when they take employment in the agency. The oath holds for life. If they want to talk about things they learned in the course of their work, they need to obtain CIA clearance first.

The Politiken story thus raises a number of questions: 

1. Is the story accurate?

2. Assuming it is accurate, was the information about the rendition of Abu Talal classified?

3. Assuming it was classified, and that Scheuer, as opposed to the other unidentifiied CIA officials, was the primary source, did he have the CIA’s permission to talk about it?

4. Assuming he was the primary source and he did not have permission, and that the two preceding questions are answered in the affirmative, was a crime committed here?

Lawrence Franklin, a Defense Department official, was recently sentenced to more than twelve years in prison for leaking government secrets to two officials of AIPAC. Scheuer’s retired status would not seem to alter the basic elements of the crime. Title 18, Section 793 (d) of the United States Code makes liable for punishment “whoever . . . willfully communicates, delivers, [or] transmits” national-defense information “to any person not entitled to receive it.”

So here is a brace of final questions:

5. If the elements of a crime are in place, will be there an investigation? And is anyone at the CIA or the Department of Justice or in Congress paying attention?

If any readers can help me connect these dots, I would welcome hearing from them. Either post a comment below or, for private correspondence, write to letters@commentarymagazine.com and put Connecting the Dots in the subject line.

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

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Rising Star

The leftwing blogosphere has found its next star. He is an articulate champion of a modern leftist sensibility:

• He says that the war in Iraq has failed to produce democracy and has only created “civil war” that is “getting out of [Bush’s] control.”

• He calls the war in Iraq “unjust” and says it was launched based “on deception and blatant lies.”

• He says that the war has made a mockery of our “slogans of justice, liberty, equality, and humanitarianism”—instead replacing them with “fear, destruction, killing, hunger, and illness.” He goes on to say that “more than 650,000 of the people of Iraq” have died “as a result of the war and its repercussions.”

• He says that the “vast majority” of the American public wants the war to stop and “elected the Democratic Party for this purpose, but the Democrats haven’t made a move worth mentioning,” leading to the “vast majority” of the American electorate “being afflicted with disappointment.”

• Why haven’t the Democrats done what they were supposed to? He has an explanation: “they are the same reasons that led to the failure of former President Kennedy to stop the Vietnam War. Those with real power and influence are those with the most capital. And since the democratic system permits major corporations to back candidates, be they presidential or congressional, there shouldn’t be any cause for astonishment—and there isn’t any—in the Democrats’ failure to stop the war.”

• He bemoans that the White House is focused on Iraq rather than on the real dangers facing all mankind, such as “global warming resulting to a large degree from the emissions of the factories of the major corporations,” “the burden of interest-related debts, insane taxes, and real estate mortgages,” and of course “the abject poverty and tragic hunger in Africa.”

• He is particularly peeved that President Bush “insists on not observing the Kyoto accord.”

• He decries the entire process of “globalization,” which he sees as nothing more than the attempts of “the capitalist system . . . to turn the entire world into a fiefdom of the major corporations.”

• He cites the growing consensus of thinkers who “have declared the approach of the collapse of the American Empire.”

• And he recommends that anyone who wants to know what’s really going on in the world read the works of MIT professor Noam Chomsky and former CIA official Michael Scheuer.

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The leftwing blogosphere has found its next star. He is an articulate champion of a modern leftist sensibility:

• He says that the war in Iraq has failed to produce democracy and has only created “civil war” that is “getting out of [Bush’s] control.”

• He calls the war in Iraq “unjust” and says it was launched based “on deception and blatant lies.”

• He says that the war has made a mockery of our “slogans of justice, liberty, equality, and humanitarianism”—instead replacing them with “fear, destruction, killing, hunger, and illness.” He goes on to say that “more than 650,000 of the people of Iraq” have died “as a result of the war and its repercussions.”

• He says that the “vast majority” of the American public wants the war to stop and “elected the Democratic Party for this purpose, but the Democrats haven’t made a move worth mentioning,” leading to the “vast majority” of the American electorate “being afflicted with disappointment.”

• Why haven’t the Democrats done what they were supposed to? He has an explanation: “they are the same reasons that led to the failure of former President Kennedy to stop the Vietnam War. Those with real power and influence are those with the most capital. And since the democratic system permits major corporations to back candidates, be they presidential or congressional, there shouldn’t be any cause for astonishment—and there isn’t any—in the Democrats’ failure to stop the war.”

• He bemoans that the White House is focused on Iraq rather than on the real dangers facing all mankind, such as “global warming resulting to a large degree from the emissions of the factories of the major corporations,” “the burden of interest-related debts, insane taxes, and real estate mortgages,” and of course “the abject poverty and tragic hunger in Africa.”

• He is particularly peeved that President Bush “insists on not observing the Kyoto accord.”

• He decries the entire process of “globalization,” which he sees as nothing more than the attempts of “the capitalist system . . . to turn the entire world into a fiefdom of the major corporations.”

• He cites the growing consensus of thinkers who “have declared the approach of the collapse of the American Empire.”

• And he recommends that anyone who wants to know what’s really going on in the world read the works of MIT professor Noam Chomsky and former CIA official Michael Scheuer.

The only area in which this bold thinker seems to differ from modern Western leftist orthodoxy is in his prescription for all these ills: “To conclude, I invite you to embrace Islam, for the greatest mistake one can make in this world and one which is uncorrectable is to die while not surrendering to Allah, the Most High, in all aspects of one’s life—i.e., to die outside of Islam.”

So perhaps Osama bin Laden won’t be blogging for DailyKos anytime soon. After all, hardcore leftists don’t look kindly on fundamentalist religion (though they tend to be more suspicious of Baptist preachers than of Muslim terrorist leaders). But the overlap between bin Laden’s world view (at least as it’s expressed in his most recent videotape) and that of many Western leftists is uncanny. This does not mean, I should stress, that leftists support al Qaeda. It does seem to mean, however, that bin Laden is trying to rally the “antiwar” crowd to his side in language they understand.

The Occam’s Razor explanation is that, like the North Vietnamese Communists during the 1960’s, he is attempting to manipulate public opinion among his enemies, and that he is good at doing so because his ideology is not that of traditional Islam, but rather a weird amalgam of Islamic teaching and modern totalitarian ideologies. That is, he probably believes the rants he spews out.

Of course, conspiracy theorists will posit that this all just a big ruse, and that precisely because bin Laden is posing as a man of the Left, this is a transparent attempt to discredit the Left and thereby to keep in power Bush, Cheney, et al., who are supposedly doing so much good for bin Laden’s cause. No doubt the works of bin Laden’s favorite American commentators will provide chapter and verse for this argument.

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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.

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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.

*Corrected.

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

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Michael Scheuer Watch #1: The Jewish Conspiracy

Are Jews running U.S. foreign policy from behind the scenes? This is a question lately on many lips, from those of Jimmy Carter to professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, respectively of the University of Chicago and Harvard, on down to David Duke, Ph.D., of the Ku Klux Klan.

One of the pioneers in resurrecting this idea, first put into wide circulation in this country in the early part of the 20th century by the industrialist Henry Ford in his tract The International Jew, is Michael Scheuer. Formerly of the CIA, where he ran the unit responsible for tracking down Osama bin Laden, Scheuer has not only kept himself occupied writing books—see my discussion of one of them in What Became of the CIA—he has also been busy on the lecture circuit.

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Are Jews running U.S. foreign policy from behind the scenes? This is a question lately on many lips, from those of Jimmy Carter to professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, respectively of the University of Chicago and Harvard, on down to David Duke, Ph.D., of the Ku Klux Klan.

One of the pioneers in resurrecting this idea, first put into wide circulation in this country in the early part of the 20th century by the industrialist Henry Ford in his tract The International Jew, is Michael Scheuer. Formerly of the CIA, where he ran the unit responsible for tracking down Osama bin Laden, Scheuer has not only kept himself occupied writing books—see my discussion of one of them in What Became of the CIA—he has also been busy on the lecture circuit.

Two years ago, speaking before the Council on Foreign Relations, Scheuer explained that Israel is engaged in what is “probably the most successful covert-action program in the history of man,” the object of which is to control not just policy but political debate in the United States. When pressed to identify some of these “covert” activities, Scheuer came up with only one example: the establishment of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

More recently, as we learn from today’s New York Sun, Scheuer addressed the taxpayer-funded Center for Naval Analyses in Alexandria, Virginia, where he explained that “U.S. citizen Israel-firsters . . . dominate the American governing elite” where they act to ensure that those like himself “who question the nature and benefit of current U.S.- Israel ties are slandered as pro-Nazi, anti-Semites.”

Up until now, I have never seen a shred of evidence, or even heard the allegation—except from Scheuer himself—that he is in any way “pro-Nazi.” But is Scheuer anti-Semitic, or do Jews just call him that as part of a covert operation to silence him? I am not sure what the proper answer is; I need to resume my clandestine communications with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and get further instructions.

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

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Bill Keller, Secret Agent

In 1978, back when I was working for him on Capitol Hill, Senator Pat Moynihan propounded what he called “the Iron Law of Emulation.” The basic idea was that organizations in conflict with one another come to resemble one another. Because he was drawing on the work of the 19th German sociologist Georg Simmel, some on his staff used to call it, somewhat mockingly, the Iron Law of Simmelation.

But Moynihan’s point was a good one. And today, with former New York Times reporter Judith Miller on the witness stand in the trial of Scooter Libby, we can see the iron law at work in the fiercely adversarial relationship between the Times and the U.S. intelligence community.

The editors and reporters of the New York Times believe they are covering the CIA–and in fact they are–but they are also in competition with the spy agency and the resemblances between the two institutions are striking.

Both, to begin with, have a remarkably similar mission. The CIA is charged with trying to inform its clients (the White House and the rest of the executive branch) about the world around it: what is going on where, what are the looming dangers, what are the facts, and how do reliably do we know them? Much of what the New York Times does is precisely the same, except its client is not the government but the newspaper-buying American public.

Because they are caught up in certain characteristic American dysfunctions, both institutions carry out their functions with mixed results.

The CIA and the Times, for one thing, are both charter members of the cult of “diversity.” In 1995, the spy agency created an internal body called the Resources Oversight Council aimed “at improving the agency’s efforts to hire and provide career development for women, minorities, the deaf, and people with disabilities,” leading the CIA to hire more Hispanics at the very moment when it really needed more Arabic speakers.

The Times has been doing something quite similar, and damage has demonstrably been done. In 2006 the paper announced with much fanfare that an internal body known as “the diversity council” had concluded that “diversity is essential to our business future and our journalism.” But the emphasis on diversity had been in place for decades, and it was to figure in one of the worst debacles (see below) the newspaper ever endured.

Like any large elite organization the CIA and the Times must contend with mediocrity creeping in and gumming up the works. Thus, the CIA has kept incompetents in its ranks, including “anonymous”–a.k.a. Michael Scheuer, its top expert on Osama bin Laden, who despite his insistence on always “checking the checkables,” has enormous difficulty spelling proper names and who characterized bin Laden as “the most respected, loved, romantic, charismatic, and perhaps able figure in the last 150 years of Islamic history.” And “gentle,” too.

The Times, for its part, keeps an impressive daily log of its errors, spelling and otherwise, which despite an army of editors, it cannot seem to contain. For more serious instances of bias and misinterpretation, one need only recall the reporting by Walter Duranty of Stalin’s show trials and artificial famine in the 1930’s, the placement of the Holocaust on the back pages during the 1940’s, its depiction of the North Vietnamese defeat in the Tet offensive as a major victory, or turn to watchdog outfits like CAMERA for an array of contemporary documentation.

Both institutions, over the years, have had worse than bad apples in their ranks. The CIA has suffered outright turncoats like Soviet mole Aldrich Ames, who despite internal evaluations of egregious misbehavior was steadily promoted upward until he was in a position to give away the CIA’s most precious assets.

The New York Times has had its outright traitors, too, like the diversity-hire Jayson Blair, whose fictional reporting the paper was to call “a profound betrayal of trust.” During his five-year career progressing from intern to national reporter, the management of the Times received numerous warnings that the rising star was actually a comet waiting to crash. Despite such cautions, Blair steadily advanced, like Aldrich Ames, eventually reducing the Times to what it itself called “a low point in the 152-year history of the newspaper.”

But in both institutions, it is not deliberate bad faith that typically creates malfunction but something else. The CIA notoriously failed to foresee the attacks of September 11 and then issued an erroneous “slam-dunk” assessment that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. The problem was simply that agency analysts placed too much stock in Iraqi émigré sources who were telling them what they wanted to hear. The New York Times’s credulous treatment of Saddam Hussein’s WMD arsenal fell into the same trap.

Judith Miller was front and center. In reporting on Saddam’s burgeoning (but non-existent) WMD program, she too placed too much faith in sources who were telling her what she wanted to hear. Strikingly, in both cases, the chain of command in the CIA and the New York Times failed to ask critical questions, which only became utterly obvious–and the subject of much sanctimonious handwringing–in the incandescent glow of hindsight.

Ironically, one of the factors underpinning such maladaptive behavior is that both institutions operate behind a veil of secrecy. The CIA assiduously keeps both its methods of intelligence gathering and its internal deliberations under wraps: sources and methods, in particular, are treated as ultra-sensitive matters, disclosure of which is punishable by law.

So too with the New York Times, which, even as it calls for greater openness by the U.S. government jealously conceals its own internal workings. As with the CIA, sources and methods are treated by the Times as a matter of extraordinary sensitivity, with some of its operatives ready and willing to go to jail (Judith Miller once again!) rather than reveal who has told them what.

All of which makes the Scooter Libby trial so very compelling. A window is being opened into the internal operations of news- and intelligence-gathering at once. It is only confirming that in many of their essentials, and despite the loud protestations such a claim would elicit from both sides, the iron law of emulation holds. The Times and the CIA are becoming more similar with each passing year.

To apply for employment with the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, click here.

To apply for employment as a New York Times‘s reporter, editor, or deliveryman, click here.

In 1978, back when I was working for him on Capitol Hill, Senator Pat Moynihan propounded what he called “the Iron Law of Emulation.” The basic idea was that organizations in conflict with one another come to resemble one another. Because he was drawing on the work of the 19th German sociologist Georg Simmel, some on his staff used to call it, somewhat mockingly, the Iron Law of Simmelation.

But Moynihan’s point was a good one. And today, with former New York Times reporter Judith Miller on the witness stand in the trial of Scooter Libby, we can see the iron law at work in the fiercely adversarial relationship between the Times and the U.S. intelligence community.

The editors and reporters of the New York Times believe they are covering the CIA–and in fact they are–but they are also in competition with the spy agency and the resemblances between the two institutions are striking.

Both, to begin with, have a remarkably similar mission. The CIA is charged with trying to inform its clients (the White House and the rest of the executive branch) about the world around it: what is going on where, what are the looming dangers, what are the facts, and how do reliably do we know them? Much of what the New York Times does is precisely the same, except its client is not the government but the newspaper-buying American public.

Because they are caught up in certain characteristic American dysfunctions, both institutions carry out their functions with mixed results.

The CIA and the Times, for one thing, are both charter members of the cult of “diversity.” In 1995, the spy agency created an internal body called the Resources Oversight Council aimed “at improving the agency’s efforts to hire and provide career development for women, minorities, the deaf, and people with disabilities,” leading the CIA to hire more Hispanics at the very moment when it really needed more Arabic speakers.

The Times has been doing something quite similar, and damage has demonstrably been done. In 2006 the paper announced with much fanfare that an internal body known as “the diversity council” had concluded that “diversity is essential to our business future and our journalism.” But the emphasis on diversity had been in place for decades, and it was to figure in one of the worst debacles (see below) the newspaper ever endured.

Like any large elite organization the CIA and the Times must contend with mediocrity creeping in and gumming up the works. Thus, the CIA has kept incompetents in its ranks, including “anonymous”–a.k.a. Michael Scheuer, its top expert on Osama bin Laden, who despite his insistence on always “checking the checkables,” has enormous difficulty spelling proper names and who characterized bin Laden as “the most respected, loved, romantic, charismatic, and perhaps able figure in the last 150 years of Islamic history.” And “gentle,” too.

The Times, for its part, keeps an impressive daily log of its errors, spelling and otherwise, which despite an army of editors, it cannot seem to contain. For more serious instances of bias and misinterpretation, one need only recall the reporting by Walter Duranty of Stalin’s show trials and artificial famine in the 1930’s, the placement of the Holocaust on the back pages during the 1940’s, its depiction of the North Vietnamese defeat in the Tet offensive as a major victory, or turn to watchdog outfits like CAMERA for an array of contemporary documentation.

Both institutions, over the years, have had worse than bad apples in their ranks. The CIA has suffered outright turncoats like Soviet mole Aldrich Ames, who despite internal evaluations of egregious misbehavior was steadily promoted upward until he was in a position to give away the CIA’s most precious assets.

The New York Times has had its outright traitors, too, like the diversity-hire Jayson Blair, whose fictional reporting the paper was to call “a profound betrayal of trust.” During his five-year career progressing from intern to national reporter, the management of the Times received numerous warnings that the rising star was actually a comet waiting to crash. Despite such cautions, Blair steadily advanced, like Aldrich Ames, eventually reducing the Times to what it itself called “a low point in the 152-year history of the newspaper.”

But in both institutions, it is not deliberate bad faith that typically creates malfunction but something else. The CIA notoriously failed to foresee the attacks of September 11 and then issued an erroneous “slam-dunk” assessment that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. The problem was simply that agency analysts placed too much stock in Iraqi émigré sources who were telling them what they wanted to hear. The New York Times’s credulous treatment of Saddam Hussein’s WMD arsenal fell into the same trap.

Judith Miller was front and center. In reporting on Saddam’s burgeoning (but non-existent) WMD program, she too placed too much faith in sources who were telling her what she wanted to hear. Strikingly, in both cases, the chain of command in the CIA and the New York Times failed to ask critical questions, which only became utterly obvious–and the subject of much sanctimonious handwringing–in the incandescent glow of hindsight.

Ironically, one of the factors underpinning such maladaptive behavior is that both institutions operate behind a veil of secrecy. The CIA assiduously keeps both its methods of intelligence gathering and its internal deliberations under wraps: sources and methods, in particular, are treated as ultra-sensitive matters, disclosure of which is punishable by law.

So too with the New York Times, which, even as it calls for greater openness by the U.S. government jealously conceals its own internal workings. As with the CIA, sources and methods are treated by the Times as a matter of extraordinary sensitivity, with some of its operatives ready and willing to go to jail (Judith Miller once again!) rather than reveal who has told them what.

All of which makes the Scooter Libby trial so very compelling. A window is being opened into the internal operations of news- and intelligence-gathering at once. It is only confirming that in many of their essentials, and despite the loud protestations such a claim would elicit from both sides, the iron law of emulation holds. The Times and the CIA are becoming more similar with each passing year.

To apply for employment with the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, click here.

To apply for employment as a New York Times‘s reporter, editor, or deliveryman, click here.

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