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September 17, 2004

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There needs to be a disclaimer on posts of this nature..."Somewhere in this argument the author of another bestselling book will be quoted". We could then quickly skip to the next post or click on another blog for some real information.

Why are the authors of bestselling books automatically discounted? Scheuer is a career CIA officer; the fact that he also wrote a book does not, to my mind, matter one way or the other.

It's this simple, blogbudsman: is what Schuer says accurate or not? If it is, that would seem to be extremely troubling, and in need of correcting /right now/. Flippant dismissals of the allegations simply because they're from the author of a book are unpersuasive.

You don't sound too concerned about the possibility that it's true, though, though. I suggest that you re-prioritize, because it could give someone the impression that re-electing your president is more important than national security. I hope that's not the case--although it would give you something in common with the administration, at least.

Flippant dismissals of the allegations simply because they're from the author of a book are unpersuasive.

No, no Catsy - blogbudsman makes a good point. You can't take anything written in a book seriously. Look at the Bible for example - first Paul is for the presecution of Christians then he's against it. Talk about a flip-flop. Plus I have it on good authority that he even changed his name - he must have had something to hide.

Thank g*d we don't have to worry about domestic terrorism, like say 14 governers being sent letter bombs.

Fledermaus - LOL!

Hilzoy: Tell me again why this is the President who is supposed to be keeping us safe.

Style over substance. On another blog, a Bush supporter informed me (seriously or sarcastically, I couldn't tell) that Bush just looked so much more convincing as a military man than Kerry did, and that was what was important. Been reading William Goldman's Adventures in the Screen Trade, and I just got to the bit where he comments that American critics panned A Bridge Too Far as "unbelieveable" - even though ABTF is about as authentic as a movie can be. But events that really happened do not necessarily convince people: Bush has the advantage, if you can call it that, that his campaign is being run entirely as a fictional extravaganza. Kerry's stuck with pointing out the facts.

Shouldn't we be atleast sceptical with this report?

It seems that after the Plame affair and the writing of The Politics of Truth by Joe Wilson that turned out to be quite less than truthful it would only be prudent to wait before we go buying into stories like this one again.

Blue, why are you conflating the validity/importance of the Plame Affair with that of Joe Wilson's book? They're quite different.

And besides, what does any of this have to do with the question at hand? A person who ran the bin Laden unit for three years, and who is still at the CIA, wrote a letter to members of Congress, saying that the bin Laden unit is understaffed because of a hiring freeze, that people are being rotated in and out too quickly to gain expertise, and that there has been no systematic effort to develop al Qaeda expertise since 9/11. That letter was made public not by him, but by Dianne Feinstein. Since this person is neither Joe Wilson nor Valerie Plame, what do they have to do with the substance of what he said? And what does the fact that he wrote a book (which was initially written as a handbook for his successor at the bin Laden unit) have to do with anything? Why not just try to figure out whether what he said is true, especially since, if it is, it is a serious matter?

Mark,

I'm not conflating them... I just said that we don't know all the facts of the Plame affair... and knowing what we know now his book really didn't shed any light on many of the issues because it was misleading. It seems to me that his book conflated the issues.

But, if I wanted to conflate them it wouldn't be too difficult. Many people in the CIA have it out for this adminstration. So much so that they make it easy for family members to do the attacking... or possibly in this senario congress members.

Hilzoy says:

"Why not just try to figure out whether what he said is true, especially since, if it is, it is a serious matter?
"

I said:

Shouldn't we be atleast sceptical with this report?

and then

it would only be prudent to wait before we go buying into stories like this one again.


I honestly don't see that we disagree. I just said let's wait for the story to develop before we start the bashing. It seems like a reasonable approach to me.

And if the story _doesn't_ develop any further? If Scheuer says X and the CIA spokesman says Y, what then? Who do you believe? And why?

You say that we should be prudent before we go buying into these stories again, which implies that we have jumped onto certain stories too fast in the past, and gotten burned for our trouble. So which stories did you have in mind?

You also say that we should be skeptical a priori. Do you have any particular reason to justify skepticism, other that Moe's point that things that seem too good to be true usually are?

My guess is that Bin Ladin is dead already, although that is no reason to ignore Al Zawahiri.

The baddest terrorist player around seems to be Zarqawi, who may not technically be AQ, but if memory serves correctly, was involved in the Madrid bombings.

If nothing else is going right in Iraq, I hope the CIA is developing some human intelligence resources there. I think that this is a lesson that should not escape the Bush admin, ( and the Kerry administration if he should happen to be elected.)

One can make very accurate and telling observations about the politics of any given person based on when and where they decide to apply skepticism.

DaveC: My guess is that Bin Ladin is dead already, although that is no reason to ignore Al Zawahiri.

In the absence of evidence kind to back up this guess, there is no defensible reason to ignore Osama Bin Ladin.

You know what else is less important? Letting teachers take a lousy $250 off their Federal 1040 for school supplies.

"Many people in the CIA have it out for this adminstration."

It's almost as if they didn't take an oath or something. Damn lefties.

I say the worst people of all to trust are those entrusted with our national security. It's only logical.

Catsy,

Mind reading foul...

I think we should be sceptical of most things we read in the press... until they stories have had time to develop.

Are you saying that we should just believe everything we read and not be sceptical?

I don't think that you should just assume everything that you read is true, no. But I had gotten the distinct impression that Scheuer had a decent amount of credibility as someone who's very hawkish re: Bin Laden, and doesn't have a partisan axe to grind. So I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt until there's evidence against.

I guess the level of skepticism that I bring to various news reports, etc, varies based on what's being said, who's saying it, and where it's appearing; I don't have time to check everything or rely on other people to fact-check, so I rely on that rough guide instead.

You seem to be arguing (at least from the beginning of this thread) that we should be doubtful that this story is true, and I'm still not sure why. Given Scheuer's track record, I don't think you could make a strong case that he's just making this stuff up (blogbudsman to the contrary). The best idea that I can come up with is is that the story might look slightly different in a full context (a little like the verification provisions of the nonproliferation treaty), but I'm at a loss to figure out what kind of facts could put a hiring freeze in the Al Qaeda ops unit in a different light. Do you see any?

Mark,

Your analysis is very thoughtful, but it seems to me the benefit of the doubt goes to the accused, not the accusor. I am only making a case for scepticism.

My scepticism comes from:

"...according to the letter, written by Michael F. Scheuer, the former chief of the agency's bin Laden unit and the author of a best-selling book that is critical of the Bush administration's handling of the war on terror."

His second book is called Imperial Hubris. This sounds like someone with an axe to grind to me whether partison or not I do not know. I could well be wrong.

(Please, there is no reason to respond that the publisher picks the title.)

I travel alot and as I go into the book stores at the airport and see all the Bush bashing books lined up in the front it is starting to look alot like a sport to me where there is alot of money to be made.

This sort of sounds like a Richard Clarke rehash... context and more details could shed alot of light on the situation.

He has an axe to grind, to be sure. But it's not a uniquely Bush-bashing axe, though. Scheuer has a particular vision of how we should be fighting the war on terror, and he doesn't think either the Bush Admin or the Dems are following it (if I remember right, TPM had an interview with him a while back). Does that mean that we should be more skeptical of how he _interprets_ facts? Sure. Obviously.

Does that mean we should be skeptical of his factual claims themselves, given his position, experience, and basic ideological orientation? I tend to doubt it, especially because he's making specific, detailed, and easily checkable (not to mention explosive) claims in a letter that he sent to _Congress_. It's not exactly hard to fact-check his ass in this case, which makes me more likely to think he's telling the truth. Contrast that for example with the Bush Administration's claims about WMDs, which were extremely difficult to check/verify, true or false.

Approaching it from a slightly different angle, why would he lie? What does he gain, exactly? More people on the bin Laden unit? But if he's lying, we have enough people or whatever there in the first place, so there's no problem. Bad publicity for the Bush Administration? But he's not a fan of the approach of Kerry or the Dems (he's _rather_ more hawkish in his prescriptions) _either_, so that doesn't make sense either. Publicity for himself? I suppose, but there's lots of easier ways to get free publicity.

It's not like the Richard Clarke situation, though, because that turned on things which were a) often difficult to check, b) open to multiple interpretations even when they were checkable, c) involved recriminations and blame assignment for 9/11. The Clarke situation involved varying interpretations of a given fact pattern. The Scheuer allegations _are_ a fact pattern.

It could be that like Clarke they haven't involved him in the decision making process. He could be in the dark about many things going on.

That's why I think we should be sceptical for now.

But Blue, the question isn't what the decision-making process is (whatever the deal was with Clarke). The question is what the decisions _are_. And do you really mean to tell me that the former head of the CIA's Bin Laden unit doesn't know who's in the unit now or what kind of hiring and personnel policies they have? I mean, if nothing else, the guy has contacts out the wazoo, no?

Mark,

For some reason you think I want to dismiss this issue. I don't think that it should be at all.

I think I will withhold my opinion until we get some more information about what is going on.

Given all the "facts" that have been screwed up it seems like there needs to be more research done.

So no, I am not going to go relating tax cuts to the rich with the CIA's efforts to find bin Laden.

Have we learned nothing from the last two years?

Blue: Don't you find it odd most top-level counter-terrorism experts in this appointed administration quit or are highly critical of the Bush Admin?

Or is it that counter-terrorism naturally attracts partisan Dems?

Maybe? What and who do you mean by most?

How many are we really talking about here?

5 experts, 10 experts 100. Maybe, it depends on who they are.

I would have to look at the individual cases.

But, if we are talking about Clarke, I can completely understand why no one in the Bush adminstration wanted to work with him.


BTW, what's an appointed administraiton?

Blue, two questions for you. What if we get no more information? What if this is all there is: Scheuer makes his charge, the Bush Administration claims it's false, and that's it? What position would you then take?

Second, you refer to "all the 'facts' that have been screwed up," in the context of the need for skepticism and further research. Which facts did you have in mind, beyond the obvious case of the memos? (What lesson are we supposed to have learned from the last two years?)

Which facts did you have in mind, beyond the obvious case of the memos?

...which still haven't been proven to be forgeries. I'm just saying.

How about the Niger documents? Now there's an instance where "facts" were screwed up and there needed to be more research done...

BTW, what's an appointed administraiton?

It's the sound of a dead horse being beaten.

Mark,

"Which facts did you have in mind, beyond the obvious case of the memos? (What lesson are we supposed to have learned from the last two years?)"

Well, the list is quite long...

1) Major new networks hid info about Hussein so they could have access to him

2) Iraq had stockpiles of WMD

3) Bush said Iraq was an "imminent" threat

4) Our military is bogged down in the desert

5) Bush lied. (For the sake of simplicity, I won't list all the accusations of lies.)

6) The overhyped strength of the Sadr militia

The list just goes on and on. The media and people in general are so quick to try and jump on a scoop that it often turns out to be inaccurate.

Lessons learned... just a quick thought... we shouldn't be so quick to jump to conclusions about a situation until we have more facts.

Slarti: It's the sound of a dead horse being beaten.

Not when the appointed administration is coming up to another Presidential election... ;-) If Bush wins outright, that's one thing. If, once again, he loses the election but gets himself re-appointed... that's another.

Oh, hell. *slaps forehead* General apologies to all. Marguerite, can you do a double exorcism on self and Slarti?

Now, back to thread-topic...

2) Iraq had stockpiles of WMD

You're blaming that one on the media? That's just laughable...

Blue: Are you serious? Each of your 'points' are largely bogus or demand a certain degree of misinterpretation to be considered valid.

Point by point:

1. Do you seriously believe Saddam enjoyed a favorable image abroad? Additionally, I'd remind you that when Saddam gassed Halbja--it was the Reagan administration (including some officials currently in this appointed administration)who ran interference for Saddam.

2. Claim made by Bush, Powell, Rumsfeld, Cheney, etc.

3. The fact is many members of this appointed administration made the claim. No, they didn't use the term "imminent threat" but they used terms identical in meaning. For example, I'm sure you understand one can call someone a 'thief' without ever actually using the word.

4. They were bogged down temporarily.

5. Sorry, Blue; Bush lies like others breathe.

6. Virtually every article I've read on Al Sadr note he is considered a minor cleric with fairly limited support. However, pretending he is inconsequential or doesn't exist within the political framework of Iraq is a big, big mistake. Unless, of course, you decide to write off Shiite support. You have to understand it's not the size of Al Sadr's militia that's important; his militia is probably less than 10,000 men. OTOH, Al Sadr has hundreds of thousands of followers and millions of sympathizers.

Marguerite, can you do a double exorcism on self and Slarti?

Heh. Indeed.

8/

Anarch,

I didn't blame the media for the WMD issue. It's laughable for you to assume that. It's safe to say that almost everyone in the world faults our intelligence agencies.

I was talking about FACTS in general that have not been quite FACTS.

Mark asked me what facts...I made a list of those type of issues that we have gotten wrong. I didn't assign blame.

And then I made a comment about the media and people in general.


Jadegold,

"Do you seriously believe Saddam enjoyed a favorable image abroad?"

I didn't say that. I just said the media was dishonest in order to gain his favor.

"2. Claim made by Bush, Powell, Rumsfeld, Cheney, etc."

I was trying t acknowledge that many people have made mistakes on both sides of the fence. But, we could also add every major intelligence organization in the world.

" The fact is many members of this appointed administration made"

Again, what's an appointed administration? And I also noticed you really didn't have a comment about all the terrorism experts that have quit. How many has it been?

"4. They were bogged down temporarily."

And the media over played it big time.

"5. Sorry, Blue; Bush lies like others breathe."

And apparently so do many others.

"However, pretending he is inconsequential"

He's not inconsequential, he is a media darling for sure. But who's really doing the pretending. It seems the media was talking about the armed rebellion that died before the ink was even dry.


I'm having a difficult time understanding your point:

"every article I've read on Al Sadr note he is considered a minor cleric with fairly limited support"

" Al Sadr has hundreds of thousands of followers and millions of sympathizers."

Come now, which is it?

4. They were bogged down temporarily.

Nah, that one the media blew completely. We were never "bogged down" on the road to Baghdad in any meaningful sense of the term; only ridiculously high expectations could allow one to report otherwise.

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