CIA’s former bin Laden chief resigns

Mike Scheuer, who had published books critical of the counterterror effort as “Anonymous,” wants to speak publicly.

The former chief of the CIA unit tracking Osama bin Laden said he would end his 22-year government career Friday so that he could continue to speak publicly about how the CIA and other government agencies have managed the fight against terrorists.

The official, Mike Scheuer, said in a statement Thursday, "My decision is entirely my own; I have been in no way forced to this decision by the CIA." Scheuer said he had a "cordial meeting with senior CIA officials Thursday" and decided it was in the best interests of the intelligence agency and the country to tender his resignation.

"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," he said.

Scheuer has published two books about bin Laden and Islamist terrorism under the pseudonym "Anonymous." The CIA agreed to let him publish the books only if he concealed his identity and didn't disclose where he worked. Scheuer gave several interviews about the books.

The second book, Imperial Hubris, contains several critiques of the Bush administration's counterterrorism strategy and the rationale for going to war in Iraq. Scheuer described the war as a distraction and a "Christmas present" to bin Laden.

As Scheuer came to be seen as the leading critic of the CIA within its own ranks, he was sought after to comment on the United States' counterterrorism strategy and the management issues that have troubled U.S. intelligence agencies. In a letter to the 9/11 Commission investigating pre-attack intelligence failures, Scheuer condemned the commission for not punishing "bureaucratic cowards" in those agencies, who, he said, failed to grasp the threat of bin Laden or work hard to counter it. That letter was disclosed in August by The New York Times, which also revealed Scheuer's identity.

In an interview in July with Government Executive, conducted before Scheuer sent his letter to the commission, he also blamed managers at the CIA and FBI for failing to grasp the threat posed by bin Laden and other terrorist groups. "No one seems … to be getting the message about what this struggle against bin Laden is about," said Scheuer, who has likened the fight against terrorists to a "clash of civilizations."

He said intelligence managers have misled Congress and the public in the past about the degree to which their agencies cooperated on terrorism matters. "Seamless community cooperation" never existed, Scheuer said. Many in the management ranks didn't protest the situation because, he said, "if you didn't get in line, your career was not promising."

Scheuer recently has given several on-the-record interviews with the media in which he was quoted by name. An investigation into pre-Sept. 11 intelligence in the current issue of Vanity Fair magazine quotes extensively from an interview with Scheuer. He also gave interviews this week to The New York Times and National Public Radio.