Imperial Hubris Author May Face Disciplinary Action

CIA insider may face disciplinary action (CNN)

The CIA is reviewing whether to take disciplinary action against a senior terrorism officer who it says violated the agency’s regulations on contacts with the media, a U.S. intelligence official said. Michael Scheuer, a 22-year veteran of the CIA who once headed the agency’s Osama bin Laden unit, has criticized the CIA’s handling of the war on terrorism in recent interviews with news organizations. “Mike is not authorized to speak for the CIA,” the intelligence official said. “He knows the procedures governing relations between the agency and contacts with the press,” and he “decided not to follow them.” The official said the agency has several options it could take against Scheuer, including dismissal.

Earlier this year, the CIA gave Scheuer permission to publish his book “Imperial Hubris” under the name “Anonymous” and to conduct interviews about the book without revealing his identity.


When Scheuer began publicly criticizing the Iraq war this past summer, the agency told him he would have to provide a detailed outline of the issues he would address during each interview and that the request would have to be submitted at least five business days beforehand.

Mark Mansfield, the CIA spokesman at the time, said the agency was merely “enforcing a policy that applies to all” employees. As “Anonymous,” Scheuer had been allowed to submit information about media contacts after the fact, but Mansfield said the agency decided to enforce “regulations that apply to all agency employees” when journalists continued to ask him questions unrelated to his book. Mansfield said it is “not appropriate for an agency officer to discuss policy or political issues” with the media.

Christina Davidson, the editor of Scheuer’s book, said the CIA had denied every interview request Scheuer had submitted since the agency began enforcing its rules. “He’s followed every rule to the ‘T,’ ” Davidson told CNN. She said Scheuer was asked to revise interview requests a number of times — “a time-consuming effort,” she said — but still ended up having the request turned down. Davidson maintained that the constraints put on Scheuer went beyond what is expected of other CIA employees.

I’ve long had mixed feelings about a senior CIA official going public with his personal political agenda. It would be one thing for a garden variety analyst. But someone at Scheuer’s level is presumed to be speaking for the Agency regardless of any disclaimers. As I’ve noted previously, this certainly wouldn’t be permitted for a military officer.

Publishing the book is awkward but the vetting process takes care of that. Interviews with the press are outside the control of the Agency and thus more safeguards are necessary.

I’ll take Christina’s word that Scheuer complied with all regulations. My guess is that the regulations didn’t anticipate an Agency official gaining this sort of notoriety as a media figure while still maintaining his office.

(via Jeff Quinton)

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Mike says:

    You aks permission and the answer is “no.” Life works that way, and when you are high up, you don’t get to give your personal opinion under the organization’s letterhead. Life is that way. Live with it or leave the agency.