Tue, Aug 30, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Arab Spring caused an ‘intelligence disaster’: ex-official

THE GUARDIAN, EDINBURGH

The “Arab Spring” has “delighted al-Qaeda” and caused “an intelligence disaster” for the US and Britain, the former head of the CIA unit in charge of pursuing Osama bin Laden has said.

Speaking at the Edinburgh international book festival, Michael Scheuer said: “The help we were getting from the Egyptian intelligence service, less so from the Tunisians, but certainly from the Libyans and Lebanese, has dried up — either because of resentment at our governments stabbing their political leaders in the back or because those who worked for the services have taken off in fear of being incarcerated or worse.”

“The amount of work that has devolved on US and British services is enormous and the result is blindness in our ability to watch what’s going on among militants,” Scheuer said.

The Arab Spring, he said, was “an intelligence disaster for the US and for Britain and other European services.”

Scheuer headed the bin Laden unit at the CIA from 1996 until 1999, and worked as special adviser to its chief from 2001 to 2004. The author of a biography of Bin Laden, he now teaches on the peace and security affairs program at the University of Georgetown.

“The rendition program must come back — the people we have in custody now are pretty long in the tooth, in terms of the information they can provide in interrogations,” he said. “The Arab Spring has been a disaster for us in terms of intelligence gathering and we now are blind both because of the Arab Spring and because there is nothing with which to replace the rendition program.”

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