Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Hypocrisy and Naked Bigotry of Michael Scheuer

You will remember Michael Scheuer, the man who developed the "extraordinary rendition" program for the CIA and went on to become a critic of Israel, supporter of Ron Paul and world-renowned authority on hubris. This piece from Commentary reveals what may be the source of Michael Scheuer's anti-Israel bias (not really a shock). It also reveals a bit about both his hypocrisy about and his recklessness with classified information, which really is a shock, especially considering the following quote from an interview he did with Die Zeit in December 2005 (German here, English here):

Die Zeit: Did you not have doubts concerning the use of torture in these countries? [i.e. the countries prisoners were sent to by the CIA]

Michael Scheuer: No, my job was to protect American citizens by arresting members of Al-Qaida. The executive power of our government has to decide whether it considers this hypocritical or not. 90% of this operation was successful and only 10% could be considered as disastrous.

Die Zeit: Which part was the disaster?

Michael Scheuer: The fact that everything was made public. From now on the Europeans will diminish their assistance because they fear reading about it in the Washington Post. And then there is this troublemaker in the Senate, Senator John McCain, who virtually confessed, wrongly of course, that the CIA uses torture. And that is how the program will be destroyed.

In other words, Scheuer condemns Senator McCain for destroying the program by inadvertently embarrassing our allies. Set aside for the moment that Scheuer is dissembling by ignoring the fact that Senator McCain, like the rest of the sentient world, was forced to deal with several publicly revealed instances where the extraordinary rendition program sent innocent people to countries where they were tortured. Scheuer, perhaps motivated by vanity, is now deliberately embarrassing allies who deny knowledge about still secret aspects of the program.

While Schoenfeld may overstate the criminality of Scheuer's disclosure of classified material in that Scheuer only speaks in general terms about what "must have happened" with respect to the CIA renditions program in Denmark* (see footnote) as opposed to disclosing specific classified information, he understates Scheuer's hypocrisy and his destructiveness. Scheuer appears to want to damage U.S. interests, even as he continues to defend his program.

By the way, Schoenfeld prematurely confirms Michael Mukassey as Attorney General in this piece. I really don't know whether he'll be confirmed and I have doubts that, if he is, he'll pick the sort of political fight Schoenfeld would like to see. Frankly, after recent experiences, the next Attorney General would be wise to depoliticize that office as much as possible, especially with respect to issues relating to intelligence and national security. More germane to this question, as Scheuer is undoubtedly aware, the U.S. is not anxious to publicize Scheuer or give him a forum to do more damage.

For the record, let me say that the extraordinary rendition program should be fully investigated for legal and ethical violations. Since first hearing about it, I was struck both by its necessity and with its blatant illegality -- a very uncomfortable combination. I also thought that the word "extraordinary" was a euphemism for something that was soon to be, if not already, ordinary. "Extralegal deportation" would have been a more accurate term. If it was necessary, than it should have been rare and precise and I don't believe that it was rare or precise enough. While I assume that I disagree with Schoenfeld on that, his piece is a very interesting peak into mind of Michael Scheuer, a very vain man whose mask is starting to slip.

from Commentary: "Michael Scheuer Watch":

by Gabriel Schoenfeld

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.

*Note: Similarly, Scheuer spoke in 2005 about what the German government "must have known" with respect to the rendition from Morocco to Syria of German/Syrian citizen Mohammed Haydar Zammer, a member of the Hamburg cell which planned 9/11.

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