Care of Brad DeLong’s invaluable blog, this nugget out of the Times from Michael Scheurer, head of the CIA bin Laden unit from 1996–1999. The following was excerpted from a letter he wrote to the congressional oversight intelligence committees:
September 2004: In the CIA’s core, U.S.-based Bin Laden operations unit today there are fewer Directorate of Operations officers with substantive expertise on al-Qaeda than there were on 11 September 2001. There has been no systematic effort to groom al-Qaeda expertise among Directorate of Operations officers since 11 September. Today, the unit is greatly understaffed because of a “hiring freeze,” and the rotation of large numbers of officers in and out of the unit every 60-to-90 days–a process in which experienced officers do less substantive work and become trainers for officers who leave before they are qualified to support the mission. The excellent management team now running operations against al-Qaeda has made repeated, detailed, and on-paper pleas for more officers to work against the al-Qaeda–and have done so for years, not weeks or months–but have been ignored.
Since September 11 there has been a hiring freeze in the bin Laden unit!? Why are we running up a deficit if not to hire guys to find “the evil one”? Scheurer, the once anonymous author of “Imperial Hubris,” writes “The pattern of decision making I have witnessed seems to indicate a want of moral courage, an overwhelming concern for career advancement, or an abject inability to distinguish right from wrong.” That seems aimed at CIA managers, but applies equally well up and down the chain of command.