Translation of Michael Scheuer interview in Die Zeit (part II)
Part 2 of Die Zeit's interview with Michael Scheuer.here.
Completed at 20:45 CST. Updated at 23:23 CST.
ZEIT: Didn't you have concerns about torture in these countries?
Scheuer: No my job was to protect American citizens by taking Al-Qaida people off the street. The Executive branch of our government have to decide if they consider that hypocritical. This operation was 90% a huge success and only 10% a disaster.
ZEIT: In what did the disaster consist?
Scheuer: Everything was made public. Now the Europeans will help us a great deal less, because they have to fear that everything will be in the Washington Post. And then there is this blowhard in the Senate, John McCain, who practically concedes that the CIA tortures. All completely false. But that's how the whole program was destroyed.
ZEIT: Why did you take these people to their home countries instead of the the U.S.? Couldn't you have kept these people more safely under lock and key?
Scheuer: It was always a case of violent crime. We had little doubt that these countries would not let anyone go. And we didn't bring them to the U.S. because President Clinton didn't want us to.
ZEIT: Why not?
Scheuer: Our leadership didn't want to treat them like prisoners of war, but rather as criminals. At the same time they feared that it wouldn't be possible to gather enough evidence to hold up in court.
ZEIT: Is that so difficult?
Scheuer: In order to convict someone in the United States, an American officer of the law has to read him his rights when he is arrested. In foreighn countries that is impossible. Second, the agents have to certify in court that none of the confiscated documents was modified. If no-one can swear to that, the court automatically refuses to accept them. Thus it becomes almost impossible to get a verdict.
ZEIT: On the other hand: How can have insufficient evidence for a court but at the same time feel certain enough to apprehend someone in a foreign country? Doesn't the operation become illegal and illegitimate for that reason alone?
Scheuer: No, there are arrest warrants in their home countries for most of these people. Even if we don't like the Egyptian or Jordanian justice system, it is still a justice system. We were simply helping to return people to their home countries, so that they could be punished for crimes they committed abroad.
ZEIT: The CIA sees itself as a global police force?
Scheuer: No, we are an arm of the U.S. government that has as its mission the protection of Americans. We would have preferred to bring these people to America as prisoners of war. In any case, Osama bin Laden declared war against us twice, 1996 and 1998. But President Clinton simply didn't that. Nr did Präsident Bush. Both assumed that we would legitimize members of Al-Qaida if we treated them as prisoners of war. But that's nonsense. Bin Laden and his fighters are heros in the Islamic world. Nothing that we could do would confer greater legitimacy than they already had. Anyway, it is simpler to make the Egyptians and Jordanians do the dirty work.
ZEIT: Human rights played no role in the Clinton administration?
Scheuer: The CIA raised this question. People aren't treated in Cairo the way they are in Milwaukee. The Clinton administration asked us: Do you believe that the prisoners will be treated according to the standards of the local laws? And we said: yes, [we are] fairly certain.
ZEIT: So the Clinton administration didn't want to know that precisely what went on there?
Scheuer: Exactly. The CIA officials in charge were pretty certain from the that in the end we would take the blame. And you yourself notice: in this debate we hear not a word from Bill Clinton, Sandy Berger, or Richard Clarke.
ZEIT: What laws were broken?
Scheuer: I really don't know. No American laws in any case. The CIA does have the right to break any law except an American one--just like any intelligence agency. And abroad we always acted with the approval of the local officials.
ZEIT: CIA anti-terror boss Cofer Black said after the 9/11 attack that now "the gloves are coming off". What did that mean internally in the CIA?
Scheuer: A great deal more pressure for results. And we began to house the people in our own facilities--in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and in Guantanamo. The Bush administration wanted to hold these people themselves, but they made the same mistakes as the Clinton administration in that they didn't treat them like prisoners of war.
ZEIT: How many people did you catch?
Scheuer: I don't know exactly. Shortly before the attack in September 2001 CIA director George Tenet told Congress that it had been approximately 100 up to that time. The operations that I lead personally got barely 40 persons. One hundred seems far to high to me.