“We haven’t even begun to understand where our enemy is coming from.”

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More on the administration’s puzzling decision to fold up the CIA’s bin Laden-tracking unit despite plentiful evidence that OBL’s inspirational role remains undiminished. Michael Scheuer, the unit’s first head, puts the move down to what the Guardian calls “bureaucratic jealousies,” and says it’ll hurt U.S. counterterrorism efforts. Here are some quotes from Scheuer (Guardian).

On the unique value of the unit…

What it robs you of is a critical mass of officers who have been working on this together for a decade. We had a breed of specialists rare in an intelligence community that prides itself on generalists. It provided a base from which to build a cadre of people specialising in attacking Sunni extremist operations, who sacrificed promotions and other emoluments in their employment in the clandestine service, where specialists were looked on as nerds. …

On bin Laden’s role…

How do you explain the fact that he is able to dominate international media whenever he wants to?

Bin Laden has always said the main activity of al-Qaida is the instigation … of Muslims to jihad.

All of the people who have been picked up have said they were inspired by Bin Laden, that they trained in their own countries and used information picked up on the internet.

So the fire that Bin Laden was trying to set is what we are beginning to see around the world and, unfortunately, nowhere more than in the west.

On those bureaucratic jealousies…

From the very beginning, Alec [the unit] was an anomaly in that it was not subordinated to any area division, and it was given the authority to communicate with overseas stations – with or without the permission of area divisions. That caused a great deal of heartburn among very senior leaders at the agency.

And on the special challenges of combating Al Qaeda and the jihadist threat generally…

One of the things that really slowed down the western response to Sunni extremists, but al-Qaida specifically, is that when intelligence agents looked at a group made up of Yemenis, Egyptians, Saudis, Algerians and converts, the natural response was to say, ‘That is not going to last 10 minutes. They can’t get along together.’ It took a long time for people to realise we were seeing an animal of a very unique nature. We haven’t even begun to understand where our enemy is coming from.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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