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Jewish World Review
Nov. 30, 2004
/ 17 Kislev, 5765
Reasons for concern at the CIA
Neal M. Sher
A wake-up call to the Jewish and pro-Israel communities by the former director of the Office of Special Investigations in the Justice Department
Recent headlines scream that the CIA is in disarray, beset by high level resignations and open warfare between various factions along the Potomac. Porter Goss certainly has his hands full, although the smart money is on the side of new Director. For those who live and die "inside the Beltway" this is drama of the highest order, generating delicious fodder for the cocktail party circuit. While such intrigue should be of little interest to the Jewish and pro-Israel communities, recent events suggest that there is indeed reason to be concerned about the thinking at the Langley headquarters or at least in parts of it.
Last year, in a very unusual development, a CIA official was granted permission to publish a book detailing his work as a counter-terrorism expert and setting forth his highly critical analysis of U.S. policy. There was one caveat imposed by his employer: his identity could not be revealed. Hence, the book "Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror" was officially penned by "Anonymous". Having just resigned from the Agency, the author is now "out" and Michael Scheuer (who headed the bin Laden desk at the CIA) has been making the rounds of all the TV studios (including 60 Minutes) and granting interviews to countless newspapers and magazines. In his book and recent media fest, major emphasis is placed on Scheuer's negative views of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and of our failure to eliminate Osama bin Laden. But there is another significant theme which surprisingly has not generated the level of concern it deserves.
Central to his thesis is the notion that bin Laden, Al Qaeda and the terrorist attacks and threats against us are to some degree a function of America's support for Israel. Reminiscent of the famous charge by a well known pundit that Israel is an albatross around America's neck and that Capitol Hill is "Israeli occupied territory", Scheuer contends that U.S. policy towards Israel is 'the tail leading the dog" and that pro-Israel activists have undue and dangerous influence over foreign policy. Most respected scholars and analysts have little brief for that view and reject the argument that all we have to do to insulate ourselves from the terrorist threat is change our policy towards Israel. First of all, the argument flies in the face of the facts and logic. For example, Al Qaeda attacks against the U.S. embassies in east Africa and the USS Cole came at a time when, under U.S. auspices, Israel made the most generous concessions imaginable to Arafat and the Palestinians. Moreover, it smacks at the discredited "blame the victim" phenomenon ( "if you Jews would only do this or stop doing that, there would be no anti-Semitism"), with which we are all too familiar.
It's not that Scheuer is raising something new. He isn't. We've heard it before from Israel's detractors and we'll certainly hear it again. It comes with the territory. We can recall commentators saying in the immediate aftermath of 9-11 that Americans now know what Israelis live with on a daily a daily basis. Some predicted, however, that such sympathy would eventually wane and that anti-Israel crusaders would push the view that America's pro-Israel stance was the root cause of terrorism directed against us. This is precisely the sort of thinking our enemies want us to embrace. Surely, no reasonable person can believe for a moment that if the U.S. were to throw Israel overboard tomorrow all terrorist threats would miraculously evaporate. The raw truth is that they hate the U.S and the West for reasons having nothing to do with Israel.
What is terribly distressing is that Scheuer's view of the U.S.- Israel relationship was given a Tenet-led CIA seal of approval when publication was authorized. Make no mistake, a book like this, approved as it was at the highest levels of the Agency after scrutinizing every last word, was meant to send messages. Whatever the other ones might have been, the one regarding Israel could not have been clearer.
For whatever reason, the hostility towards Israel in Imperial Hubris, which should have raised a host of red flags, seems to have flown under the Jewish community's radar screen. To be sure, Scheuer is careful to throw out the obligatory protestations that he is not anti-Isarel, arguing that he merely seeks a "re-examination" of U.S. policy in the middle east. But we all know what that really means and one would have thought that officially sanctioned Israel bashing and that's precisely what Scheuer's views represent would have come under fierce attack. I don't know which is worse: that he actually believes this nonsense, or that a person of that mindset actually oversaw the campaign against an enemy and movement which perpetrated the worst crime ever on U.S. soil.
The CIA is now under new management; the role Goss intends to play regarding Israel and the region remains to be seen. But it is essential that we keep a watchful eye on the situation. To date, we have seen nothing from Langley to repudiate Scheuer's provocative comments. Given his high public profile and his eagerness to perpetuate his views about Israel, the Agency's silence is troubling; and Goss himself is at best a question mark on this issue. This is especially so in light of the fact that as chairman of the House Committee on Intelligence he was not at all sympathetic to the plight of a CIA employee who had been subjected to blatant anti-Semitism and scurrilous accusations of dual loyalty, even though Agency improprieties were established by irrefutable documentary evidence. I know this because I represented the aggrieved employee during his travails at the Agency.
Scheuer's charges which have been given seeming legitimacy by a backdoor CIA imprimatur must not be taken lightly. We have every right to demand that Mr. Goss and his Agency squarely repudiate the views of the man formerly known as Anonymous.
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JWR contributor Neal M. Sher, a New York-based government relations and communications consultant, served as the director of the Office of Special Investigations in the Justice Department. Comment by clicking here.
© 2004, Neal M. Sher