FORMER HEAD OF CIA'S OSAMA BIN LADEN UNIT SAYS THE QAEDA LEADER HAS SECURED RELIGIOUS APPROVAL TO USE A NUCLEAR BOMB AGAINST AMERICANS
Fri Nov 12 2004 12:02:34 ET
Osama bin Laden now has religious approval to use a nuclear device against Americans, says the former head of the CIA unit charged with tracking down the Saudi terrorist. The former agent, Michael Scheuer, speaks to Steve Kroft in his first television interview without disguise to be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday, Nov. 14 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Scheuer was until recently known as the "anonymous" author of two books critical of the West's response to bin Laden and al Qaeda, the most recent of which is titled Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror. No one in the West knows more about the Qaeda leader than Scheuer, who has tracked him since the mid-1980s. The CIA allowed him to write the books provided he remain anonymous, but now is allowing him to reveal himself for the first time on Sunday's broadcast; he formally leaves the Agency today (12).
Even if bin Laden had a nuclear weapon, he probably wouldn't have used it for a lack of proper religious authority - authority he has now. "[Bin Laden] secured from a Saudi sheik...a rather long treatise on the possibility of using nuclear weapons against the Americans," says Scheuer. "[The treatise] found that he was perfectly within his rights to use them. Muslims argue that the United States is responsible for millions of dead Muslims around the world, so reciprocity would mean you could kill millions of Americans," Scheuer tells Kroft.
Scheuer says bin Laden was criticized by some Muslims for the 9/11 attack because he killed so many people without enough warning and before offering to help convert them to Islam. But now bin Laden has addressed the American people and given fair warning. "They're intention is to end the war as soon as they can and to ratchet up the pain for the Americans until we get out of their region....If they acquire the weapon, they will use it, whether it's chemical, biological or some sort of nuclear weapon," says Scheuer.
As the head of the CIA unit charged with tracking bin Laden from 1996 to 1999, Scheuer says he never had enough people to do the job right. He blames former CIA Director George Tenet. "One of the questions that should have been asked of Mr. Tenet was why were there always enough people for the public relations office, for the academic outreach office, for the diversity and multi-cultural office? All those things are admirable and necessary but none of them are protecting the American people from a foreign threat," says Scheuer.
And the threat posed by bin Laden is also underestimated, says Scheuer. "I think our leaders over the last decade have done the American people a disservice...continuing to characterize Osama bin Laden as a thug, as a gangster," he says. "Until we respect him, sir, we are going to die in numbers that are probably unnecessary, yes. He's a very, very talented man and a very worthy opponent," he tells Kroft.
Until today (12), Scheuer was a senior official in the CIA's counter terrorism unit and a special advisor to the head of the agency's bin Laden unit.