Councils of War

"Anonymous," the CIA insider who wrote Imperial Hubris, argues that we must annihilate our Muslim enemies, while heeding their point of view

By Elizabeth Shelburne
book cover

Imperial Hubris
[Click the title
to buy this book]

by Anonymous
Brassey's, Inc.
309 pages, $27.50

Who is the mysterious "Anonymous" whose controversial new book, Imperial Hubris, turns conventional wisdom about the war on terrorism on its head? Though his actual identity—CIA officer Michael Scheuer—has been outed by the media, who he is on a more abstract level, and where he's coming from, remains difficult to discern. Indeed, there is a duality to his prescriptions for dealing with terrorism that is hard to reconcile in one person. One representative passage from Imperial Hubris reads:

Progress [in our battle against terrorism] will be measured by the pace of killing and, yes, by body counts ... The piles of dead will include as many or more civilians as combatants because our enemies wear no uniforms.

But elsewhere he criticizes America's refusal to acknowledge Muslim grievances:

America's stubborn obtuseness in failing to see the counterproductive nature of its policies toward the Muslim world is a powerful force-multiplier for bin Laden and those he leads and inspires...

We can either reaffirm current policies, thereby denying their role in creating the hatred bin Laden personifies, or we can examine and debate the reality we face, the threat we must defeat,and then—if deemed necessary—devise policies that better serve U.S. interests.

So is he a bloodthirsty advocate of total war against Muslims? Or an ardent believer in the power of public discourse? The answer, forged in the CIA's halls for more than twenty years, seems to be that he is somehow both—a proponent of civilized debate as a first recourse, and an adherent of the notion that if we must go to war against the Muslim world, we need to do it all the way.

The questions about which he seeks to provoke debate are good ones, and ones that intelligence officials and intelligence watchers have been pointing to in these pages for a long time. (See for example James Fallow's "Blind into Baghdad," Kenneth Pollack's "Spies, Lies, and Weapons," and Robert Baer's "The Fall of the House of Saud.") How long can we remain disproportionately dependent on foreign sources of energy? Why do we continue to support corrupt regimes in the Middle East? Is our policy of nearly unconditional support for Israel worth the price we pay for it? In the context of such questions, Scheuer makes the disturbing point that, because of our past policies, we no longer have the choice between war and peace. Much as Scheuer would like for America to debate these questions in a constructive manner, he doubts that such discussion is politically feasible. While debate may be the ideal, war, unfortunately, is the reality.

Scheuer also seeks to encourage debate about intelligence and how it is gathered and disseminated. Though his first book on the subject, Through Our Enemies' Eyes (2002), went virtually unnoticed, his new book has attracted significant attention, and as a result the CIA seems to have gone on the defensive. According to United Press International, as of August 4, the CIA had officially banned Scheuer from speaking publicly about intelligence reform, and he is now required to give the CIA five days' notice of all interview questions that will be addressed to him, and his proposed answers.

We spoke by phone on July 22—two weeks before the CIA's new regulations about interviews went into effect.

Elizabeth Shelburne

Why is the book being published under the name "Anonymous"?

[laughs] It was at the insistence of my employer that I not reveal my name or my agency of affiliation. I had asked to publish it in my true name, but the answer was simply no. I received a two-line memo that said "go ahead, but remain anonymous." Several people have speculated that it was because I was afraid for my life or something, but that's not the case. I asked for permission and was refused—that's all.

In reading your book, one of the things I was struck by was this sense of disconnect between what agents and analysts in your agency were reporting and what was being told to elected officials. Why wasn't accurate information getting to the people for whom it was most important?

At the senior leadership level within the intelligence community there's a tremendous and deeply ingrained risk aversion. There's also a tremendous political correctness—an aversion to discussing religion or the differences between societies and civilizations. So it was very unlikely that someone was going to go to the President and say, "These guys were really not criminals—they were devout Muslims motivated by their religion." Another factor is that protecting Americans is very seldom the first concern of policy-makers or of elected officials when it comes to an opportunity to act against one of our enemies. The first questions are always, "What will the Europeans think if we use military force? If we bomb bin Laden and the shrapnel hits a mosque, won't the Muslims be mad at us? What if we attack bin Laden in the desert at his camp and we kill an Emirati prince? Maybe the Emiratis won't buy X-billion dollars-worth of F16s." Protecting America generally isn't one of the top concerns.

But isn't that the job of this community?

It's the job and the accepted responsibility of the people who actually do the work—collecting the information in the field and doing the analysis. But at the leadership level, there's deep ambivalence because there are so many other considerations.

Are the very scathing criticisms of the intelligence community that have recently come out, like the 9/11 report, more relevant to the leadership level than they are to the analyst level?

I think that's exactly it. There are people out there risking their lives to collect information. But there's a feeling that the information is not being appropriately dealt with by the leadership. In a sense Mr. Tenet decided to let the whole intelligence community go down together instead of assigning responsibility where it's most due—which is not with the Central Intelligence Agency.

Who do you think will bear the brunt of the responsibility in the aftermath of reports like the 9/11 commission report?

It almost seems as though they're going to decide that nobody is responsible—that there's no personal accountability and that somehow we were victimized by a system that was dysfunctional. I think that's regrettable because many instances of human fault, either dereliction or just plain negligence, brought us to 9/11. There's no name-calling in this report, which would be okay if there weren't any names to call, but there has to be responsibility somewhere.

You write about several failures in intelligence gathering as we moved toward war in Afghanistan. I wondered if you could talk about some of those, and why missing those opportunities was so crucial.

It's not so much that we missed opportunities as that the intelligence community tends to have contempt for expertise that doesn't fall into the areas of hard science or satellites and things like that. The community also puts a high stress on generalists— people who move every two years, working first on Europe, say, and then on Japan, and then on narcotics. What happened with Afghanistan is that it was one of those rare cases where, because of the covert action program there in the 1980s, we had a deep cadre of expertise. But none of that expertise was called upon. It's the kind of expertise that tells you not so much what to do, but what not to do. You know what's been tried before and doesn't work. The fact that that information was not used is the responsibility of the intelligence community, not the President or the Vice President. In fact, I think they would find it hard to believe that the leaders of the intelligence community didn't try to gather all the Afghan expertise they could under one roof.

So this bias in the intelligence community outweighed concerns about getting things right?

Yes. In fact I know there were any number of people who worked on Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s who volunteered to come back, work at the headquarters, and support the field operations. But they were told they weren't needed.

After all that's happened, do you think maybe there will be a shift in emphasis?

No. Sadly enough, I think it will probably take another attack to get their attention. For example, right now we have only a very limited number of people with expertise on bin Laden and Islamism. That number hasn't grown significantly since 9/11. Fairly large numbers of officers with experience against bin Laden are being taken from the Counterterrorist Center and shifted to the new Terrorist Threat Integration Center. But the TTIC is just a voyeur of terrorist threats. They collect threat information and give it to the policy makers, but they have no action arm. The Counterterrorist Center is the one unit in the American government outside the military that can strike at the enemy overseas. The TTIC on the other hand can highlight threats, but it can't strike outside the country. America's clandestine service, for better or worse, has inflicted the most damage on al-Qaeda and bin Laden in the last decade—more than the military and more than any other organization. If you take away the support structure that allows those operations to function overseas, you weaken what has been the most successful attack arm of the American government. It just seems to me that that's a crying example of the lack of recognition of the need for expertise.

One contention you make, which I thought was really interesting, was that if there hadn't been a U.S. intervention after Ahmed Shah Massoud's death, the Northern Alliance would have been defeated, the Taliban would have consolidated power, and, in your words, we "would have seen the slow emergence of the first transfer of relative peace and security in Afghanistan for nearly a quarter century." What might that relative peace and security have looked like?

Afghanistan would have become a strong Islamic state that would have applied Islamic law with a certain harshness. The Taliban had already demonstrated an ability to terminate the banditry, criminality, and warlordism in much of the country. Afghans historically will always trade individual freedoms for the security of their families and farms and property. If the Northern Alliance had been defeated, we would have seen a government that over time would probably have brought a great deal of stability. It certainly would have brought more "law and order," albeit of a very rough sort. But it would have been a kind of law and order that was congenial to the culture. Of course, there would still have been problems, because the Pakistanis would have continued to interfere in Afghan affairs—as would the Uzbeks and the Russians and the Iranians. So there would always have been that ferment, but there would no longer have been a civil war.

Later in the book you talk about Islam needing a "core state"—kind of a home base. If Afghanistan had become that core state, would its peace and security have come at the expense of U.S. security?

Only if bin Laden had remained there. Afghans traditionally are pretty insular people. If they had rid their country of Massoud's forces, which they considered to be the last foreign interventionist force, slowly they would have returned to that two thousand-year history of insularity. It would not have become what we define as a rogue state, like Iraq or Iran. You have to remember that the Taliban were a very genuinely religious, devout group. So I think Afghanistan would have been deeply religious, but their own culture militates against "crusading," if you will.

You argue that unless the U.S. increases its troops and becomes ready to "kill liberally" and "remain in Afghanistan permanently," the current Afghan government will fail. It seems clear that the U.S. is not, and probably will not ever be, ready to take these steps. Where do you think that leaves the situation in Afghanistan?

Afghanistan is clearly a lose-lose situation for the United States. If we leave, it's a disastrous blow to our prestige and our power. If we stay, we will eventually come to the choice of either having to evacuate or greatly increase our military presence there. We're just stuck at the present time.

The mistake we made in the 1990s was not that we abandoned Afghanistan but that we didn't abandon it. We tried to put the same kind of government into power that we're trying to put into power in Kabul now; we tried to Westernize the Afghans who were marginally Islamic—who didn't fight the Soviets, and who spent most of their lives in exile. But it's a style of government that's foreign to almost all Afghans. So we're repeating the mistake we made in 1992-93. Afghanistan will be Afghanistan. At the end of the day the Afghans will install some sort of Islamist government in Kabul. They've been fighting for that for thirty years now, and they're hardly likely to give up that goal and start letting votes decide the issue.

So should we pull out all our troops and stop all aid to Afghanistan?

It's very hard to do that until we take care of the bin Laden problem. It's like a tar baby now. If you walk away, you just let the Taliban come back to power, and they'll probably continue to host Osama bin Laden. So then we would have to do the whole thing over again. But the longer you stay the deeper the problem becomes. It's really an intractable situation. I think we're well and truly stuck. Certainly it's something that needs debate in the United States, as opposed to assertions that things are getting better every day, and that somehow if an election occurs that will change everything. Democratic elections are foreign to the Afghans. You probably could have ten or fifteen elections, and in the long run it would still be tribal politics and clan relations dominating the politics of the country.

Your book makes a lot of references to America's Civil War. What lessons from that war are applicable to this one?

I used the Civil War references for several reasons. First, to try to drive home the idea that in the eyes of Muslims, Osama bin Laden is not a criminal or a gangster. I tried to use Robert E. Lee as an example in this case, since he was a man who probably came closest to destroying the United States as we know it and want it to be. I also used a lot of examples of Grant and Sherman saying, "No one wants to fight a war, but if you fight it, go ahead and do it and get it over with, and don't go halfway, because halfway measures will just lead to disaster." I used those quotes to convey to Americans that what we're doing militarily right now is not in our tradition.

The final reason I used the Civil War quotations was because of Abraham Lincoln. He fought a war that almost destroyed his country, yet he never condemned the other side as entirely evil. He left room open for debate within the country. There was the suspension of habeas corpus, so it's not all bright news, of course. But Lincoln kept in mind that other people had beliefs and perspectives that might be opposed to his, but that weren't necessarily evil. The quote at the end was about his frustration that McClellan didn't destroy the rebel army when he had the chance. He was under the impression that somehow people believed the war could be won without actually fighting. Similarly, our application of military power today has not been extensive or intensive, and so we have a bunch of half-fought wars that will continue to bleed us.

I noticed you compared Osama bin Laden to several well-known figures—Robin Hood, Robert E. Lee, St. Francis of Assisi—and there's even one part where you talk about him seeing the world, or the moral universe, in somewhat the same way as Lincoln might have. Could you talk a little bit about how he resembles those figures, and what kind of man he is?

There's no reason to believe he's other than what he seems—a very devout and pious man; a dependable and reliable family man; an excellent military guerrilla commander; a superb twenty-first century CEO-type officer; a man who has actually fought and been wounded four times. If he were on our side, he would be welcomed at the White House as a freedom fighter. The problem is he's our opponent, and because he is all those things and not a criminal or a gangster, he's that much more potent as a leader. He's just a remarkable individual. Until we accept that, we're going to underestimate his abilities and his endurance. Without making a judgement of good or bad, he's clearly a "great" person in terms of history. He has changed the course of history. If nothing else, someone like that has to be considered a worthy opponent—one you take seriously and don't simply dismiss as a criminal.

And at this point, we haven't taken him seriously?

No, I don't think we have. We continue to say that this war has nothing to do with religion—that bin Laden represents the far lunatic fringe of the Islamic world. If we were taking him seriously, we would be much better off in terms of recognizing that he is indeed a threat to our national security and to the way we live our lives. We have to attack him more vigorously across the board, not just militarily, but with economic policy. At the very least we have to review the policies he's identified as being attacks on Islam. Whether we decide to change them or not, it's an open question until the debate occurs. The problem is that there have been no debates. The policies he focuses on have been on auto-pilot in this country for thirty years. As long as we don't realize that those policies are really his only indispensable allies in the world, we have not yet begun to fight this war.

In your characterization of him you issued a caveat. You write: "Before everyone gets irate, greatness, at least in my view, does not mean good, positive, valuable, or any other such accolade." To me, that caveat illuminated one of the big problems that we have: we seem unable to allow ourselves to acknowledge what he is, and what al-Qaeda is. Which means we can't even begin to effectively analyze the group. Why do you think it is that we can't get past that?

I think part of it is political correctness. We don't talk about religion in a way that might suggest that people could be motivated by it to attack us. Within the intelligence community, certainly under Mr. Tenet, we became a kind of a temple of political correctness. But even more than that, Americans have a hard time believing that there could possibly be a malignant force in the world. We have a naïve belief that what we do is always beneficial for the world and for the good of all. And we have a hard time believing that people don't want to be exactly like us. So when somebody attacks us we immediately assume they must be nuts.

We seem to have an inability to see how we're perceived. I'm not saying we're evil. I'm saying we're perceived as evil. Until we understand that perception and its strength in the Islamic world, I don't see how we can emerge victorious in this struggle.

So what we have is a perception problem?

Perception is reality. Bin Laden speaks very persuasively about America as bent on attacking Islam. That notion was believed by many people even before the war in Iraq, and it certainly seemed to be validated by our invasion and occupation of that country.

Is that why you refer to our invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan as "gifts" for al-Qaeda?

Yes. We had to invade Afghanistan because that's where the enemy was. I'm no expert on Iraq, or on weapons of mass destruction or Saddam, but whatever threat they posed to us, there should have at least been a counter-presentation about the force-multiplier effect for Osama that an attack on Iraq would have. I don't know if there was that discussion in the intelligence community or not. I do know that the people who have worked on al-Qaeda for four or five years, every day, month in and month out, knew that any attack on Iraq could only benefit bin Laden. They knew this kind of attack would not only slow our efforts against al-Qaeda, but set it back. But how much of this information was delivered to the President is another question, which I think can only be answered by the Director of Central Intelligence.

In terms of numbers on how good Iraq was for al-Qaeda, does anyone have a sense of how many new recruits that they've gotten from this?

The numbers are difficult to ascertain, but they're less important than the fact that the invasion of Iraq seemed to validate so many of the claims that bin Laden made—that we're willing to smash any Muslim country that defies us, that we're eager to control Muslim energy resources, that we would destroy any country that's the slightest threat to Israel. These are all things bin Laden's been claiming over the last decade, and they were validated and reinforced by the twenty-four-hour-a-day news coverage people saw of our invasion of Iraq. So I think what's more important than the numbers—which have grown but are not yet quantifiable—was the strengthening of the perception among Muslims that, You know, bin Laden may be right about this.

One difference between your analysis and that of elected officials and the media is that you seem to be according some real credibility to bin Laden's words. For you, it seems that listening to his message is more important than focusing on what clues we can pick up about where he might be as he's speaking. Is that the case?

Yes. I argued in my first book that America has never had an enemy who was more clear in what he objected to, why he objected to it, what he intended to do—and then did what he said he was going to do. There's a very close correlation between what he's told us publicly and what he's done. For whatever reason, maybe because we in the West just don't listen to our leaders anymore (sometimes with good reason, I suspect) we simply aren't listening. But bin Laden is not only preeminently a man of words, but also a man of his word.

I was intrigued by the quotes you cited where bin Laden said to President Bush and to other Americans, "If you'll convert to Islam, I'll be your teacher, and we'll cease this war." If bin Laden is, as you say, a man of his word, how literally should we take something like that?

After the 9/11 attacks bin Laden was accused of three things by Muslims: one, not giving us enough warning; two, not allowing us to convert; and three, killing too many people, because he didn't have religious justification for it. Since 9/11, he's dealt with the first criticism by warning us in many different venues, many different times. And al-Zawahiri has done the same thing publicly. So when the next attack comes there's no way for us to say we weren't warned. As for the second criticism, the prophet Muhammad said that before you attack anyone you must always give them a chance to convert to Islam, the one true faith. Bin Laden's offer to President Bush to lead us to Islam satisfies that. To address the third criticism, he procured from a very prominent Saudi cleric a religious justification for using weapons of mass destruction against the United States. So massive casualties now are sanctioned by a religious edict. Now this all sounds silly from the secular American viewpoint. But from the Muslim viewpoint he has checked the three boxes that have been established in Islamic history—through the Koran, and through the sayings of the prophet—to stage a very big attack on the United States. He's warned us, he's given us a chance to convert, and he has religious guidance that says an attack causing large numbers of casualties is okay.

So not only is he a brilliant commander, but he's a brilliant PR person also?

We laugh about bin Laden offering us the chance to convert. But this all shows, I think, how deeply Muslims live their religion. All of these points would be relevant to a Muslim—whether he was a well-educated cleric or an illiterate peasant. The teachings of the prophet and the teachings of the Koran are so integral to the daily lives of Muslims that this would be treated very, very seriously.

What would you say has been the single worst mistake the U.S. has made in this war on terror?

Not taking the opportunities we had in the 1990s to kill Osama bin Laden.

What were those opportunities?

The ones that were discussed before the Kean commission—the opportunity either to capture him or to ask to have the military use their tools to attack him. The Director of Central Intelligence and all of the other intelligence officials have said that the intelligence wasn't good enough, but the decision not to go after him was always made in the context of, "What will the Europeans think?" or, "Are we gonna accidentally kill an Arab prince if we do this?" It was never made in the context of "What will happen to Americans if we don't do this?" It seems to me that the best opportunities we had to take care of the bin Laden problem were prior to 2000. We haven't had nearly as good opportunities since.

This may not be a great analogy, but in 1998 and 1999, Osama bin Laden was still just a parish priest. If you killed him it would have had repercussions, but it wouldn't have had a worldwide impact. Now he's more or less the Pope. It would have a huge impact if you killed him now. Yet you're faced with a situation where you have to try to do exactly that.

In all likelihood is there another bin Laden coming up through the ranks?

I think there's probably another one out there, but we've created such a bin Laden mystique that I'm not sure we know who else there is. In a sense, al-Qaeda has changed from being an organization to being a movement. I think now you can discuss "bin Ladenism" as much as bin Laden. So while he still needs to be personally dealt with, the impact of his death or capture on the ability of al-Qaeda to function as a movement would not be nearly what it was six or seven years ago.

You maintain that we need to wage an all-out war on Muslims, in which progress is measured by the pace of the killing, and those killed will "include as many or more civilians as combatants because our enemies wear no uniforms." You also acknowledge that this kind of bloody-mindedness is neither admirable nor desirable. Is this really what we have to do in order to "survive," as you put it?

Well, in order to live the way we want to live (as opposed to how we have to live), I think we have to take some defensive measures. Unfortunately, because our policies are so negatively perceived in the Muslim world, we've left ourselves with only the military option. I think it's a bad option over time. Right now, however, we don't have much of an audience in the Muslim world regarding our protestations that we just want to be helpful and that our policies are benign. So unless we rethink those policies, the military option is all we have.

Where would a military option like that put us? How many people or how many countries would it put us at odds with?

We're at odds with much of the Muslim world as it stands. One of the mistakes our leaders make is in thinking that there's much more room to offend Muslims. Muslims are pretty offended already. Polls taken by Western companies like the Pew Trust and Gallup show that 80 or 90 percent of respondents in Muslim countries oppose the same policies that bin Laden opposes, and perceive them as attacks on Muslims—whether or not they support bin Laden's actions. At the same time, the majority indicate an admiration for American society: its basic equality, the ability of parents to educate their children and provide them with health care, and the concept of social mobility. So the only really scientific evidence we have belies the assertion that the Muslim world is intent on destroying our society.

You mention several times that the U.S. needs to rethink its relationship with Israel. How do you think that relationship should be retooled?

No one's arguing that we should dump the Israelis. But we have to come to a position where it doesn't look like the tail is wagging the dog. Right now we're perceived as giving the Israelis and Mr. Sharon a free hand to do whatever they want vis-à-vis the Palestinians. Even though we do make some remarks at times that are critical of Israeli actions, we continue to end up in situations where we alone support the Israelis—like with the wall they're building now. One problem we have now that we didn't have a decade ago is the presence of Arabic-language satellite television. As long as al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya are broadcasting live every day from the West Bank and Gaza, showing Palestinians being killed, we are not going to make any dent in the Muslim belief that we're supporting whatever the Israelis want to do.

We need to somehow foster the impression that we once again might become the broker between Arabs and Israelis that we were thought to be forty years ago. What the exact content of that policy would be, I have no idea. And I very sincerely doubt there will ever be a debate about that. Our country is full of politicians who have been emasculated for simply suggesting such a thing; they are immediately labeled anti-Semitic. But we need a debate on Israel. We also need a debate on energy self-sufficiency. But it's hard to imagine a politician arguing a position that might require higher prices in the short-term. It's a real problem that in America—a country that prides itself on freedom of speech—there are so many angles of political discourse that are taboo.

Suppose that everyone in the U.S. were to read your book and be persuaded by it, and that these debates you're asking for were to happen, and radical changes were made, reversing our policies that are offensive to Muslims. What would happen?

I should preface my response by saying that I'm not urging that these policies necessarily be changed. What I'm urging is that we at least have the debate to see whether they're in the best interest of America. My interest is in defeating Osama bin Laden and protecting Americans—not in appeasing him. I think the best we can do at the moment is make the choice between war and endless war. There's no choice of war and peace here. I think one way we might be able to slow the growth of bin Ladenism over the longer term is by trying to cut his appeal. And one way to cut his appeal might be with a more even-handed approach toward Israel, while still being its major ally. If it weren't for oil, I can't imagine America having a single interest in the Arabian peninsula. And if we weren't, from the Muslim view, exploiting Muslim resources, I think bin Laden's rhetoric would have much less appeal. So to me it's a choice of status quo and pursue the military option or pursue the military option, and over time craft a set of policies designed to undercut support for bin Laden in the Muslim world.

And you hope that the U.S. would pursue the second option?

Personally I think our policies are due for a revision. But the important thing for me is the democratic nature of this business. The American people ought to be given the opportunity to know where they're headed. Somebody ought to say, "Status quo policies means endless war, continuous loss of blood and treasure. Is that what you want?" Then, if the American people want status quo policies to remain in place, at least they're going into it knowing what the costs of those policies are. Because we pay no attention to what Osama says and to what the polls say is driving Muslim anger, we continue to say they're out to destroy our liberties and our voting and other things like that. I don't think the American people have a grip yet on the real nature of this war. We continue to describe this problem as terrorism, and we continue to identify these people as gangsters or criminals. It would take a major revision of that perception—someone with the wisdom of Mr. Lincoln to see that evil is never concentrated all on one side. I'm not sure we have that kind of wisdom anywhere in the country at the moment, or have for the last fifteen years.

So in some ways it again goes back to that perception problem of being unable to acknowledge what it is we're dealing with.

Right. What I tried to do in my first book was look at the problem through our enemies' eyes, which was the book's title. I've tried to do the same thing in this one. This book has attracted a lot of attention, but not from my superiors or from any elected official or politician. So I'm not sure if it will have an impact or not.

In one part of the book, you talk about being disgusted with some of the high level generals who haven't resigned or spoken out against the policy of waging quick wars that we just can't win. If you hadn't been able to publish this book and still keep the professional position you were in, would you have resigned to try to get this message out?

I was tempted to resign in 1999. But the history of CIA officials or intelligence community officials who resign is that they become identified as whistle-blowers. They have their fifteen minutes of fame, they make some money, and then it blows over and they haven't affected the system. I decided to try to work within the system. I'm not sure whether it was the right decision at this point. I haven't had very much effect on the nature of the discourse about this problem in America. Maybe it was cowardly not to resign in 1999, but it was a conscious decision, and it was certainly discussed with my wife and others. But we decided to try to work inside the system, and I've gotten my message out. If it doesn't work, maybe the message is wrong. But certainly the criticism is due me for not resigning.

Do you find it disturbing that you had to write a book to get your message out? That there wasn't the culture or the forum that would have allowed you to make these points within the intelligence community?

There's very little room for this kind of discussion, that's correct. But—and I know this sounds corny—but I looked at it as a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak to my countrymen. In a sense they've paid the freight for my career over the last twenty-two, twenty-three years. So in some ways I hope the books are viewed as a kind of repayment for that investment.

Is it frustrating that these things can't be discussed within the system? Absolutely. But I found a way to do it, and I hope the book is received in the spirit in which it was intended—which is to be helpful.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2004/08/councils-of-war/303474/