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G-Men in The Hindu Kush

by Michael Chesson

Michael Scheuer


Of all the books to appear after 9/11, one of the most controversial has been“Imperial Hubris: Why The West Is Losing the War on Terror: 2004-2005 ”(Potomac Books Inc.)

It is based entirely on open sources. Originally credited to “Anonymous,” Michael Scheuer, a CIA analyst specializing in Afghanistan and Osama Bin Laden, was soon outed as the author. The book’s thesis is we are fighting not terrorism but a global insurgency, and often not doing it very well. Scheuer’s first mention of the FBI was its smooth, joint operation with the National Security Council. Together they rapidly and efficiently removed over 20 Bin Laden relatives to safety in Saudi Arabia within hours after the New York and Washington attacks.

He explores in far greater detail FBI efforts to operate overseas as a counter-terrorism agency.  The Bureau has more than forty offices and training schools abroad.  Judges, prosecutors, and agents staff them, and strive to impose U.S. legal standards in foreign countries, with no regard for local laws, while searching for admissible evidence that can be used against terrorists.

The United States Code is imposed on foreigners, some of whom are presumptuous enough to think that they live in sovereign nations not bound by our legal procedures.

We boast of our commitment to “the rule of law” in a global battle against the threat of radical Islam, but what that phrase really means is whatever the current administration’s interpretation of the American version of western law happens to be.

The FBI defines terrorism as a criminal act, not a jihad or holy war.  Not discussed, says Scheuer, is how to convince obdurate Muslims that jihad is a crime.  Nor has the Bureau or the Department of Justice explained how legal procedures leading to trials and even convictions will stop future attacks.  The G-men have decided that a law enforcement approach to the challenge is the correct one, rather than the counter-insurgency strategy waged by Spec Ops personnel and the CIA.

The Justice Department and the FBI were equal partners with U. S. intelligence agencies and our military at the time Imperial Hubris was written.  Scheuer charges that they have blunted the impact of anti-al Qaeda efforts, and prevented the killing of large numbers of the enemy.  An overly legalistic foreign policy has become a threat to our national security.

Before 9/11 few would have disagreed with Scheuer’s contention that the FBI and CIA have incompatible missions. He summarizes the Bureau’s job as the enforcement of U. S. law internally, generally in a reactive mode after it has been broken.  That limited mission began to change during and after WW II.  The CIA, which grew out of the wartime OSS, is  tasked with gathering critical intelligence overseas, and is authorized to break foreign laws if necessary.

Some FBI agents, including one quoted in Imperial Hubris, assume that they can make common cause with foreign law enforcement personnel because they have the same agenda.  Scheuer mocks the obvious fallacy behind that naive assumption, and documents his point with abundant evidence.  The FBI lacks even a modern computer system with which to pursue foreign counter-intelligence.

The origins of the Bureau’s overseas ambitions can be traced back to the turf wars fought by its longtime Director J. Edgar Hoover with various civilian and military agencies operating beyond our borders.  If CIA agents can be as easily identified and targeted as was Raymond Davis recently in Pakistan, imagine how the G-men must stand out on the teeming streets of Kabul or Islamabad, or in the wilds of the Hindu Kush.

Presumably they no longer adhere to Hoover’s dress code of a white shirt with jacket and tie, topped by a snappy fedora, but one wonders.  All this from an agency that protected the notorious Boston gangster Whitey Bulger and is now unable to find him. Perhaps he has “gone to ground” and is being protected by friendly Islamic warriors. #

About the Writer: Michael Chesson, a veteran History professor, is Dean of the new American College of History and Legal Studies, of Salem, N.H. Reach him at [email protected]. For information about the college and its free tuition offer, contact Associate Dean Maureen Mooney at [email protected]

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