John Brennan and Osama Bin Laden: The protector and the protected? The scent of Arab money?

I have kept quiet about former-CIA Director John Brennan’s ongoing, near-hysterical tirades against President Trump and the Republicans for two reasons. First, I thought that the critical response was pretty strong and coming from commentators whose words command a large audience. Second, I had my say in this space when Brennan was nominated to the post of CIA Director.

On 1 June 2018, however, I read Brennan’s OpEd in the New York Times. It is an egregious piece of propaganda and faux nostalgia. It also infused with the author’s overweening — and thoroughly baseless — sense of self-righteousness and personal heroism. Two items in the article particularly caught my eye. The first was Brennan’s claim that he is a “non-partisan,” which is true only in the sense of his own willingness to do anything for anybody who will improve his official position and, so, his financial position. The second was his claim that in the Oval Office of four past presidents he had heard the presidents “dismiss the political concerns of their advisers, saying, “I don’t care about my politics, it’s the right thing to do.’” (1)

The latter statement rings hilariously and viciously false to anyone who worked in the Clinton administration to prepare operations for the CIA to capture or the U.S. military to kill Osama bin Laden. Clinton, I happen to know, had ten chances in 1998-1999 to try to end the bin Laden problem and refused each opportunity when it was presented to him.

I never understood why Clinton refused every anti-UBL operational opportunity. Did he honestly believe that Americans would damn him if some Afghan and Arab civilians were killed in an attack on bin Laden that was meant to defend them and the republic, an explanation that he gave to an Australian audience on 10 September 2011?

But now, in the swirl of events that will, pray God, culminate in the annihilation of the republic’s bipartisan governing elite, I wonder if there was more to it than simply Clinton’s personal hubris and moral cowardice, and if that more could be money, Arab money.

The main commonality in the decision-making about whether to conduct an attack on bin Laden in the 1998-1999 period was that the decision was made by a small, closed group of people: Clinton, Terrorism Czar Richard Clarke, DCI George Tenet, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger — who later stole probably UBL-pertinent documents from the National Archive — and, on each occasion, John Brennan. Brennan was in close and frequent contact with Tenet from his then-senior post on the Arabian Peninsula. There are, for example, messages to the White House from him, and the then-U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, pleading that an operation to capture bin Laden in Qandahar, scheduled for May-June, 1998, be canceled because the Saudi leaders had pledged to end the bin Laden problem. This and other such episodes are noted in the 2013 piece appended below.

Based on this commonality, and the fact that these men were protecting what the Saudi king and his advisers had determined to the kingdom’s interests, could it be that another factor influenced the bin-Laden-protecting decisions of Clinton, Tenet, Clarke, Berger, and Brennan. It is well-known, after all, that the Saudis and their fellow Gulf Arab monarchs amply reward foreigners who forfeit their own nation’s interests and protect theirs’. We also know that Brennan resolutely defended the Saudis’ refusal to assist in anti-UBL operations — even sending a message to CIA HQs telling the UBL unit to lay off asking for Saudi help because the requests “offended” them — and was never once directed by Clinton, Tenet, Berger, or Clarke to knock-off his sycophant approach to the Saudis and push them hard to assist in preventing bin Laden from killing more Americans. (2)

Could these men have been acting in this manner because they knew what side of their bread the Gulf tyrants were buttering? I do not know, but I do wonder, and there may be a clue. In February-March, 1999, Clinton was presented with numerous, high-quality chances to kill bin Laden — using U.S. military assets — when he was visiting a hunting camp in Afghanistan’s southern desert. The camp belonged to and was inhabited by a group of UAE princes, who heartily welcomed bin Laden to their accommodations with some regularity. Each attack opportunity was sent to the White House, and each was turned down or responded to with silence. Eventually, the camp was closed and bin Laden disappeared from the scene.

Not long afterwards, a memo written by Richard Clarke found its way to CIA. In it was a checklist of items that he had recently discussed — apparently via telephone — with the Crown Prince of the UAE. In one of the items, Clarke noted that he had, with Clinton’s permission, warned the UAE leader that U.S. intelligence knew about the princes’ desert hunting camp and also knew that bin Laden was in the area He added that it might be best for the princes not be in the area. The camp closed almost immediately after the conversation that Clarke memorialized. Shortly afterward, CIA’s Counterterrorism Center learned that the UAE Crown Prince was about to purchase more than $8 billion worth of the export model of a U.S. fighter-plane, I think the F-16.

Coincidence? Who knows, though I am not a believer in coincidences. But there may be a way to ferret out the truth. There is a brilliant and startlingly industrious gentleman named Charles Ortel who is now minutely investigating the finances of the Clinton Presidential Library and the Clinton Foundation and its various sub-organizations. There also are reports that FBI officers in Little Rock, Arkansas, are pursuing the same targets. Perhaps one or the other will find some a record of a transaction involving those institutions that is pertinent to the coincidence of the UAE’s $8 billion-plus purchase of F-16s and the decisions of Clinton, Clarke, Berger, Tenet, and Brennan to ignore the chance to kill bin Laden for what they apparently thought was the unworthy goal of saving American lives.

Beyond pure avarice, apparent criminality, and worship for Obama, could it be that the mere possibility of finding a document showing Arabs rewarding their favorite Americans is fueling John Brennan’s stuck-pig like, holier-than-thou squealing? It is, I think, worth finding out.


  1. New York Times, 1 June 2018
  2. I am not suggesting that these five men knew that the al-Qaeda attacks on the USS Cole (October, 2000) and then the 9/11 raid were coming. From my own experience, I doubt it, but there still are many smart people working to resolve this issue. I am asserting, however, that these five men refused to take any of the ten CIA-provided chances to kill bin Laden, and, in doing so, they could not have done anything more important to protect bin Laden in his Afghan lairs because they knew only the CIA was able to provide such capture/kill-opportunities.

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Author: Michael F. Scheuer

Michael F. Scheuer worked at the CIA as an intelligence officer for 22 years. He was the first chief of its Osama bin Laden unit, and helped create its rendition program, which he ran for 40 months. He is an American blogger, historian, foreign policy critic, and political analyst.