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 officials are rarely as vocal as Mike Scheuer, who wrote "Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror." He called the decision to leave the CIA 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 yesterday via e-mail.
Scheuer's assignments in the CIA included running the bin Laden unit from January 1996 to June 1999. He said he hopes that 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 commission, and the intelligence community overall.
During an 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 said that he does not think the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001, could have been stopped, but that the various commissions that have investigated the attacks should have better considered whether the intelligence community was working optimally.
For instance, Scheuer found 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 did not take it back to their headquarters. He said they were more interested in "travel overseas" and "war stories." Scheuer is also critical of how CIA resources and personnel are distributed to go after Al Qaeda.
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 will not be able to discuss classified information, and speeches, books and articles on intelligence subjects will have to be cleared by an agency review board.