Michael Scheuer Speaker & Booking Information

Former Chief of the CIA's Osama bin Laden Tracking Unit
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Michael Scheuer was the Chief of the CIA's Osama bin Laden Tracking Unit during the Clinton Administration. He later worked as Special Advisor to the Chief of the Osama bin Laden Unit. Since resigning from the organisation, he has published a book, Imperial Hubris: Why the West is losing the War on Terror.

Michael went from driving cranes in Buffalo, New York, to becoming an intelligence officer. Far from pursuing any sense of vocation, he says, "I wanted to get out of the cold! I would have taken whatever came along."

The career he made in counter-terrorism with the CIA was difficult but immensely challenging. "There are more difficult intelligence operations: penetrating the Chinese Communist Party; or trying to get someone inside the leadership circle of India... that's probably a little more sophisticated. But in terms of trying to pre-empt immediate dangers nothing can beat the satisfaction of working against terrorism."

After years spent tracking Osama bin Laden, Michael knows a fair bit about the man he describes as "a formidable enemy". "He's a great man... not in a positive sense but... he's a man who's changed the course of history. For Americans, bin Laden has changed the way we look at the world, the way we look at each other. It's (9/11) changed the way we travel, of course. He's an odd combination of a twenty-first-century CEO and a twelfth-century theologian."

Understanding the way your enemy thinks is an essential part of the job, says Michael and one he believes we in the West haven't mastered yet. "That was the one lesson it took me a long time to learn - very little on the other side of the battle line goes on in a manner that resembles what goes on on your side. They think entirely different than we do."

Michael believes politicians are getting the wrong advice on what motivates Al-Qaeda and its Allies. He says they're not motivated by a hatred of "freedom and liberty and women in the workplace and draught beer after work. They couldn't get any support in the Muslim world for that kind of thing".

Rather, he says, "they hate us because of what we do in the Islamic world. We have a military and civilian presence on the Arabian Peninsular. We give unqualified support to Israel. For 50 years we have supported every form of Arab tyranny and despot because we needed oil from the region. Those are the motivations of Al-Qaeda ..and it's a hatred that is shared by the vast majority of Muslims".

In order to speak out publicly, Michael left the CIA in 2004 after 20 years of service. He reflects, "I have had very little influence, but I thought it was the right thing to do at the time. It was a very hard decision, because the Agency is the best place to work in America. I had been hoping to leave there dragged out at the age of 68 but it didn't work out that way".


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