Book by C.I.A. Officer Says U.S. Is Losing Fight Against Terror

By DOUGLAS JEHL

The New Yprk Times

June 23, 2004

In the book, "Imperial Hubris," the author is identified only as "Anonymous," but former intelligence officials identified him as a 22-year veteran of the C.I.A. who is still serving in a senior counterterrorism post at the agency and headed the bin Laden station from 1996 to 1999.

The 309-page book, obtained by The New York Times, provides an unusual glimpse into a school of thought inside the C.I.A., and includes harsh criticism of both the Clinton and Bush administrations.

"U.S. leaders refuse to accept the obvious," the officer writes. "We are fighting a worldwide Islamic insurgency — not criminality or terrorism — and our policy and procedures have failed to make more than a modest dent in enemy forces."

The author says the threat is rooted in opposition not to American values, but to policies and actions, particularly in the Islamic world.

It is rare for a C.I.A. officer to publish a book while still serving at the agency and highly unusual for the book to focus on such a politically explosive topic. Under C.I.A. rules, the book had to be cleared by the agency before it could be published. It was approved for release on condition that the author and his internal agency not be identified.

The book itself identifies "Anonymous" only as "a senior U.S. intelligence official with nearly two decades of experience in national security issues related to Afghanistan and South Asia." It identifies a previous book, "Through Our Enemies' Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam, and the Future of America," as being written by the same author.

Former intelligence officials identified the officer to The Times and noted that he was an overt employee of the C.I.A., but an intelligence official asked that his full name not be published because it could make him a target of Al Qaeda.

The senior intelligence official said the book had been vetted to insure that it not include classified information. "We still have freedom of speech," the official said. "It doesn't mean that we endorse the book, but employees are free to express their opinions."

In a report issued in March, the staff of the Sept. 11 commission described the bin Laden unit as a place where a "sense of alarm about bin Laden was not widely shared or understood within the intelligence and policy communities." Another new book, "Ghost Wars," by Steve Coll of The Washington Post, was based in part on interviews with the officer, identified by his first name, Mike.

Mr. Coll reported that the White House sometimes complained to George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, that the officer was "too myopic" in his approach to manage the bin Laden group.

In the book, the author denounced the American invasion of Iraq as "an avaricious, premeditated unprovoked war against a foe who posed no immediate threat," and said it would fuel the anti-American sentiments on which Mr. bin Laden and his followers draw. "There is nothing that bin Laden could have hoped for more than the American invasion and occupation of Iraq," he writes.

In warning that the United States is losing the war on terrorism, Anonymous writes: "In the period since 11 September, the United States has dealt lethal blows to Al Qaeda's leadership and — if official claims are true — have captured three thousand Al Qaeda foot soldiers." At the same time, he adds, "we have waged two failed half-wars and, in doing so, left Afghanistan and Iraq seething with anti-U.S. sentiment, fertile grounds for the expansion of Al Qaeda and kindred groups."

The bin Laden unit, or "station" in agency parlance, is part of the C.I.A.'s Counterterrorism Center. It was established in 1996 at the agency's headquarters in Virginia as part of an organizational experiment that marked the first time the agency had dedicated a station to an individual instead of a country. A staff report issued by the Sept. 11 commission in March, based in part on extensive interviews with the former station chief, described leaders of the station as having been deeply frustrated when a plan to capture Mr. bin Laden in the spring of 1998 was not recommended by the C.I.A.'s leadership for approval by the White House.

The chief and other leaders of the the bin Laden station were transferred from it in mid-1999, according to the Sept. 11 commission report, after morale in the unit sagged and President Clinton was informed by his national security adviser that covert actions against Mr. bin Laden had not been fruitful.

In the book's preface, the author appears to direct criticism not only at policymakers but also at his superiors in the intelligence agencies, including Mr. Tenet, who fended off criticism after the attacks before announcing this month that he would resign on July 11.

The author expresses "a pressing certainty that Al Qaeda will attack the continental United States again, that its next strike will be more damaging than that of 11 September 2001, and could include use of weapons of mass destruction."

"After the next attack," he adds, "misled Americans and their elected representatives will rightly demand the heads of intelligence-community leaders; that heads did not roll after 11 September is perhaps our most grievous post-attack error."