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Last Updated: Monday, 15 November, 2004, 14:38 GMT
CIA whistleblower sees 'long war'
World Trade Center tower burns on 11 Sept 2001
US leaders 'missed 10 chances to avert 9/11'
The CIA agent who headed the hunt for Osama Bin Laden in the late 1990s has called for a national debate in the US on the cost of support for Israel.

Mike Scheuer quit the CIA last week, as did CIA deputy director John McLaughlin, fuelling rumours of serious internal rifts and low morale.

In a BBC interview, Mr Scheuer said US policies risked "an extraordinarily long and bloody war" against al-Qaeda.

He said he had resigned to speak out over US government security failings.

Mr Scheuer, who has written two books anonymously, said he finally decided to leave the CIA after being told to stop publicising his worries about policy failings.

He said the CIA's executive director had presented him with ways to stay on during a "very cordial, friendly" talk, but "all of them included not speaking out any more".

Blind spot

Mr Scheuer, who began tracking Osama Bin Laden in the mid-1990s during the Clinton administration, said the White House had consistently failed to understand the threat from al-Qaeda or to take it seriously, and was still doing so.

Osama Bin Laden in an undated file photograph
Osama Bin Laden: 'professional' and determined

"I don't think they get it now," he told BBC Security Correspondent Gordon Corera, warning of al-Qaeda's "high degree of professionalism" in seeking out weapons of mass destruction and nuclear material.

Al-Qaeda's antagonism to the US was based on "a specific set of US policies that have been in gear for 30 years and have not been reviewed, have not been debated, have not been questioned", he said.

Instead, both contenders in the recent US presidential election had told voters that al-Qaeda was opposed to American values on women's rights or the sale of alcohol, warnings that sidestepped many major issues.

Al-Qaeda's hostility stemmed from US government's "unqualified support for Israel" and desire "to manipulate the price of oil" in favour of Western consumers, he said.

Al-Qaeda also views US-supported Arab regimes like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan as "Muslim tyrannies".

Confronting big issues

In his view, "there should be a debate over support for Israel", alternative energy and how the US manages its relationship with the Muslim world.

Aftermath of Israeli attack on a Hamas office
US backing for Israel angers Muslims

He offered no policy blueprint, saying that US citizens might decide to continue to support existing strategy, but would then be able to do so knowing the risks.

"The American people would be going into the future knowing that they were faced with an extraordinarily long and bloody war to be fought because of those policies", he said.

Mr Scheuer also lambasted US administrations for being soft on terrorism, missing chances to attack Osama Bin Laden, and being over-concerned about public opinion in Europe and the Muslim world.

Infighting

The 9/11 commission's report had shown that US intelligence services "had presented the government with at least 10 different occasions on which Osama Bin Laden could've been captured or attacked by the US military", he said.

Report
The 9/11 report embarrassed the CIA

"The decisions were not taken on the basis of defending American citizens...(they) were always made on the basis of not offending Muslim opinion, not offending European opinion," he added.

The 9/11commission's report published in July criticised the CIA for faulty intelligence and poor co-operation with other government agencies.

Many commentators believe its revelations drove CIA director George Tenet to resign in June, ahead of publication.

His deputy, Mr McLaughlin, stepped in to run the agency on a temporary basis, until Porter Goss took over the top job two months ago. Now Mr McLaughlin has also gone, amid rumours of bitter divisions about the agency's role and future direction.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Former CIA agent Mike Scheuer explains why he quit



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