Monday, August 22, 2005

Just barely missed him... 10 times

One of the CIA's foremost authorities on bin Laden tells of the numerous opportunities the U.S. had to take out the terror mastermind in the 90's and how we took for granted just how dangerous the man was:

"We had found that he and al-Qaida were involved in an extraordinarily sophisticated and professional effort to acquire weapons of mass destruction," Michael Scheuer told CBS News. "In this case, nuclear material, so by the end of 1996, it was clear that this was an organization unlike any other one we had ever seen."

Scheuer was one of the CIA's foremost authorities on bin Laden. He was the senior intelligence analyst who created and then advised a secret CIA unit for tracking and eliminating bin Laden beginning in 1996.

Scheuer said his bosses at the CIA were skeptical of the information about bin Laden's nuclear ambitions and ability.

In a letter to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees earlier this year, Scheuer says his agents provided U.S. government officials with about 10 opportunities to capture bin Laden. All of them were rejected.

Hmmmmm... my memory fails me... who was our President at the time? And who was it that just last week told us how acutely aware he was of the bin Laden threat during the "let the good times roll" 90's?

One of the last proposals, which he described to the 9-11 Commission in a closed-door session, involved a cruise missile attack against a remote hunting camp in the Afghan desert, where bin Laden was believed to be socializing with members of the royal family from the United Arab Emirates.

Ah, yes. You're nobody until you've been to a bin Laden party. I heard the Sheikh makes a fondu that's to die for.

Scheuer told CBS News he wanted to level the entire camp.

"If those princes were out there eating goat with Osama bin Laden, then maybe they were there for nefarious reasons," he said. "But nonetheless, they would have been the price of battle."

Scheuer in `08!

By 1999, Scheuer was in trouble at the CIA because of his persistence about getting bin Laden.

"I think I became too insistent that we were not pursuing this target with enough vigor and with enough risk-taking an unwillingness to take risks," said Scheuer. "I got relieved of the position I was in. I had a lovely sojourn in the library and then had other sojourns since.

I hope he checked out a copy of the Ken Starr Report while stationed there -- it starts slow but it really picks up toward the end.

In any event, it sounds to me like we had President in the 90's who understood the threat -- to his popularity. If he suddenly were to do something senseless and silly like bombing Afghanistan, people over here and around the world might think he was mean. And what would that do to his legacy?

"What", you say? This article is about the CIA and had nothing to do with the former Prez? Maybe you have a point there. Information did tend not to be shared as much back then...