Most officials thought last month’s Osama bin Laden tape was no big deal – maybe even a gesture of weakness. Author and ex-CIA analyst Michael Scheuer, who founded the Agency’s bin Laden unit 10 years ago, thinks they’re dead wrong.
CP: Getting back to what you said a moment ago about the importance to bin Laden of offering the U.S. a warning, didn’t he in fact get in trouble in a lot of Islamic circles after 9/11 for failing to provide a warning?
Scheuer: Yes—that is, for failing to provide enough of a warning. The prophet’s guidance is that you go the extra mile to warn your enemy. Bin Laden was called on the carpet by his peers in the Islamic militant movement for three things. One was that he didn’t give us enough warning. He’s now addressed the American people on five separate occasions since 2002. So he’s taken care of that one. He was also called on the carpet for not offering us a chance to convert to Islam. He’s now done that three separate times, and Zawahiri has done it once. So they’ve covered that angle. The other thing they were taken to task for was that they didn’t have the religious authority to kill as many Americans as they did. In the summer of 2003, he got a religious judgment from a very reputable Saudi cleric that he could use weapons of mass destruction, specifically nuclear weapons, to kill up to 10 million Americans.
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