NEW YORK The active U.S. intelligence officer known only as "Anonymous," who has gained world renown this month as author of an upcoming book called "Imperial Hubris," is actually named Michael Scheuer, according to an article in the Boston Phoenix today by Jason Vest.
Speculation about his identity has run rampant since a June 23 article in The New York Times discussed the book and the background of the author. The book, "Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror," asserts, among other things, that Osama bin Laden is not on the run and that the invasion of Iraq has not made the United States safer.
In that June 23 piece, the Times identified Anonymous as a 22-year CIA veteran who ran the Counterterrorist Center's bin Laden station from 1996 to 1999, adding that a "senior intelligence official" held that revealing the man's full name "could make him a target of Al Qaeda." Anonymous has appeared in brief television interviews always in silhouette.
According to Vest, "Nearly a dozen intelligence-community sources, however, say Anonymous is Michael Scheuer -- and that his forced anonymity is both unprecedented and telling in the context of CIA history and modern politics."
Vest in his article notes that "at issue here is not just the book's content, but why Anonymous is anonymous. After all, as the Times and others have reported, his situation is nothing like that of Valerie Plame, a covert operative whose ability to work active overseas cases was undermined when someone in the White House blew her cover to journalist Robert Novak in an apparent payback for an inconvenient weapons-of-mass-destruction intelligence report by her husband, Joseph Wilson. Anonymous, on the other hand, is, by the CIA's own admission, a Langley, Va.-bound analyst whose identity has never required secrecy.
"A Phoenix investigation has discovered that Anonymous does not, in fact, want to be anonymous at all -- and that his anonymity is neither enforced nor voluntarily assumed out of fear for his safety, but rather compelled by an arcane set of classified regulations that are arguably being abused in an attempt to spare the CIA possible political inconvenience. In the Phoenix's view, continued deference by the press to a bogus and unwanted standard of secrecy essentially amounts to colluding with the CIA in muzzling a civil servant -- a standard made more ridiculous by the ubiquity of Anonymous's name in both intelligence and journalistic circles."
When asked to confirm or deny his identity in an interview with the Phoenix, Anonymous declined to do either, explaining, "I've given my word I'm not going to tell anyone who I am, as the organization that employs me has bound me by my word."
Jonathan Turley, a national-security-law expert at George Washington University Law School, told Vest, "The requirement that someone publish anonymously is rare, almost unheard-of, particularly if the person is not in a covert position. It seems pretty obvious that the requirement he remain anonymous is motivated solely by political concerns, and ones that have more to do with the CIA."
The CIA did not respond to a call from the Phoenix, and declined to comment on the book or the author to the Associated Press last Friday.
Vest says that the man he identifies as Scheuer told him, "I suppose there might be a knucklehead out there somewhere who might take offense and do something, but anonymity isn't something I asked for, and not for that reason; it makes me sound like I'm hiding behind something, and I personally dislike thinking that anyone thinks I'm a coward."
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