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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 July 2004, 15:31 GMT 16:31 UK
'Anonymous'
'Anonymous'
Newsnight had the first British broadcast interview with the top level CIA operative, known only as 'anonymous'.

He has savaged the American administration and intelligence services for their failures over 9/11 and Iraq in a soon to be published book entitled Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror.

DAVID SELLS:
A rare event in any land, a serving spook goes into print. Sharply critical of his government's policies on Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda. The book's title speaks for itself. The author remains anonymous but the CIA have vetted his book and he still works for them.

'ANONYMOUS': (AUTHOR, 'IMPERIAL HUBRIS')
Last 19 years I have worked on issues related to Islamic militancy from the insurgency in Afghanistan against the Soviets to the traditional forms of terrorism to most recently within the Bin Laden issue.

SELLS:
A senior intelligence official, he headed the CIA's Osama Bin Laden units set up in 1996. He says the unit's warnings ahead of September 11 2001, the World Trade Center's day of doom, went largely unheeded. He sees the Bush administration's subsequent Iraq adventure as a culpable distraction from the fight against al-Qaeda.

'ANONYMOUS':
Iraq was a gift of I think epic proportions to Osama Bin Laden and those who think like him and act like him. Iraq is the second holiest place in Islam, and as a result we now occupy all three of the holiest places in Islam. The Americans in Saudi Arabia, the American led coalition in Iraq, and the Israelis holding Jerusalem. More than that, our invasion appeared to validate much of what Bin Laden said about America being an aggressor state against any Muslim country willing to stand up against America. And it doesn't take a genius to see what the invasion of Iraq was going to do in terms of helping Bin Laden. It's simply a matter of knowing a bit about history.

SELLS:
As for allegations that Saddam Hussein, Iraq's secular Ba'athist dictator, had teamed up with Bin Laden our CIA man is blunt.

'ANONYMOUS':
I have not found anything that could be said to be a relationship, an ongoing, operationally active co-operation between Iraq and al-Qaeda. Indeed from Bin Laden's perspective Iraq's intelligence service was a third-rate organisation.

SELLS:
A report last week by the US Senate Intelligence Committee praised the CIA for largely discounting theories of Saddam-Bin Laden co-operation. But its view overall of CIA intelligence on Iraq was damning, "a blistering critique" said Time magazine. What do you think now is necessary to rebuild faith in the intelligence community?

'ANONYMOUS':
I think it is begun with a change in leadership in the intelligence community. I think probably as General Marshall did at the start of World War II firing 140 or 50 generals, some further such action within the intelligence community would be appropriate.

SELLS:
You feel that would also be true on this side of the Atlantic?

'ANONYMOUS':
I don't know your problems or your community. It seems to me that speaking my own experience, perhaps some heads need to roll. Perhaps they needed to roll right after 9/11.

SELLS:
My interviewee is an intelligence analyst. He speaks as a voice from the trenches. He blames bad management for a failure to present intelligence accurately to the politicians.

'ANONYMOUS':
It's up to senior intelligence leadership of the community to go to the president or cabinet member or any elected official and explain not only the analysis but to explain what kind of evidence it was based on. It's an intelligence failure if the person who briefed the president or Secretary Rumsfeld or Secretary Powell did not explain the nature of the evidence. The analysis is important, the story is vital. But it's more important to understand the quality of the information that went into the analysis.

SELLS:
Our author is no dove, far from it. He just feels that America's policies in Iraq and Afghanistan are wholly counter-productive.

'ANONYMOUS':
Currently we're in a lose-lose situation both in Iraq and Afghanistan. If we stay we bleed. If we go, the problem festers even worse. The United States, I believe, needs to have a debate about its policies in the Middle East. All a set of policies that have been on autopilot for about 25 years. Before you can draft a policy to defeat Bin Laden you have to understand that our policies are, in part, what drives him and those who follow him.

SELLS:
What do you think now should be America's strategy for victory against al-Qaeda and Bin Laden?

'ANONYMOUS':
The choice for the United States right now is not between war and peace, it's between war and endless war. As long as we pursue the policies we've been pursuing over the last 30 years, we hold only the military option. That will be a bloody and ultimately unsuccessful tool, when used by itself.


This transcript was produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.

BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
"Anonymous"
Newsnight's David Sells interviews CIA operative and anonymous author of Imperial Hubris



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