Former CIA honcho calls the 9-11 Commission "disastrous"

By Peter Duveen

PETER'S NEW YORK, April 21, 2008--The 9-11 Commission completed its report in 2004, but not everybody was on board with the results. Not least among its critics is Michael Scheuer, former head of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's bin Laden unit, who is now a news commentator and author.

"Of course, the 9-11 Commission was a disastrous thing for America," Scheuer said in a recent televised appearance. Scheuer was interviewing another author, Steve Coll, whose book, The Bin Ladens, on the wealthy Saudi family, was released April 1.

The interview, part of a series of programs called After Words and televised on the cable news network C-SPAN, dredged through both men's experience in dealing with and covering the bin Laden family. Scheuer headed up the CIA's bin Laden unit from 1996 to 1999.

During an exchange of views, Scheuer remarked that he was astounded by how much access the family had to the White House over the  years. "I think it's a very interesting comment on the power of money," Scheuer said. "For Americans, it's got to be a very disturbing story."

Responding, Coll appeared to be in agreement. "The corruption flowed in both directions," he said in describing the relationship between the United States and the family.

Scheuer did not elaborate on his view of the 9-11 Commission beyond his one-sentence remark, which was first broadcast on April 4 on C-SPAN and again today. However, it is not the first time he has made statements critical of the commission. In a letter to the Weekly Standard in 2005, Scheuer said his reasons for resigning his post at the CIA was "in order to publicly damn the feckless 9/11 Commission, which failed to find any personal failure or negligence among Intelligence Community leaders even though dozens of serving officers provided the commissioners with clear documentary evidence of that failure." Scheuer's grounds for disagreement with the commission do not, however, completely dovetail with other critics who contend that the commission's report was a thinly disguised cover up of government involvement in 9-11.

Scheuer is the author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror. Both he and Coll both have ties to the Council on Foreign Relations, Scheuer having given an address there, while Coll is president of the New America Foundation, little more than a reshuffling of a portion of the Council membership plus a smattering of corporate and establishment hangers-on. The Council on Foreign Relations is a well-funded think tank that strives to set the agenda for discussion in the foreign policy arena. A Wall Street Journal writer once referred to the organization as "the citadel of the foreign policy elite," while New York magazine called it the "Park Avenue State Department." Membership is drawn from those belonging to the current and former U.S. administrations, along with leaders in academia, media, politics and the corporate world.

Although the Saudi Arabia-based bin Laden family is known primarily for its business interests, perhaps the most famous member of its clan, Osama bin Laden, has been generally described by the American government as the moving force behind the events of September 11, 2001. On that day, four American commercial airliners were hijacked, two of them landing into each of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, a third allegedly crashing into the Pentagon, and a fourth into a field in Pennsylvania. In the days that followed, the government quickly formulated a theory that a band of 19 men from the Middle East carried out the attacks.  Three years later, the congressionally mandated 9-11 Commission issued the results of its investigation, which supported the government's explanation. Some of the commission's critics, however, contended that the government itself may have been involved in planning and carrying out the attacks to further a preordained foreign policy agenda, a viewpoint the report does not discuss at length. In recent years, scores of high-profile professionals, including former government officials, have called for a new 9-11 investigation.

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