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Michael Scheuer, left, will appear on "60 Minutes" tonight. (AP)
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Sheik OK'd Osama's plan to nuke U.S.
By Marie Szaniszlo
Sunday, November 14, 2004

Osama bin Laden has obtained permission from a Saudi religious official to use nuclear weapons against the United States, according to a CIA agent who resigned Friday.
     In an interview scheduled to air tonight on CBS, Michael Scheuer told ``60 Minutes'' that a sheik has given bin Laden a lengthy treatise, which found that he was ``perfectly within his rights to use them.''
     ``Most Muslims argue that the United States is responsible for millions of dead Muslims around the world,'' Scheuer said, ``so reciprocity would mean you could kill millions of Americans.''
     Some Muslims criticized bin Laden for killing so many Americans in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks without warning, a concern bin Laden has since addressed, he said, in videotapes the al-Qaeda leader has released.
     Scheuer, the author of two ``anonymous'' books critical of the U.S. response to the threat posed by the terrorist network, resigned Friday as head of the CIA unit responsible for tracking al-Qaeda. He said he was frustrated with the unit's limited resources and the Bush administration's attempts to squelch his speaking engagements.
     Former CIA Director George Tenet never provided the unit with sufficient manpower, he told ``60 Minutes,'' and the United States has made the mistake of characterizing bin Laden as ``a thug, a gangster,'' rather than a skilled plotter of destruction. And Scheuer is not alone in that view.
     ``Until the embassy bombings (in 1999), he wasn't taken as seriously,'' said Rodger A. Payne, professor of political science at the University of Louisville.
     Whether any religious authority gave bin Laden the go-ahead for future attacks, however, is of relatively little significance, said Payne and Neamat Nojumi, a scholar and former Afghan mujahideen.
     ``He has presented himself as a supreme figure; he doesn't need permission. He and his network have already committed so many atrocities,'' said Nojumi, author of ``The Rise of the Taliban'' and research associate at the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University.
     If the United States wants to prevent future attacks, it must repair its international image by building a coalition to resolve the chaos in Iraq, he said, and, ``most importantly,'' play a ``balanced, impartial'' role in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
     ``Iraq, unfortunately, has distracted the United States,'' Payne said. ``With the war still costing billions of dollars per month, it's a real trade-off in resources.''
     


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