On 19 December 2015, I wrote in this space that I had been asked by the author Lawrence Wright to help him prepare a television docudrama about the years leading up to Al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks for a company called HULU. (NB: After some research, I understand that HULU is widely purported to be a prolific and discerning producer of television programming.) In the above-noted 2015 article, I wrote that I had ignored Mr. Wright’s request and explained why. I have included that entire article as an appendix below.
Over the past several weeks, I ran across a number of articles on the internet that recount the actors being hired to act in Mr. Wright’s docudrama, which the HULU brains trust seem to have bought from Mr. Wright to turn into a series to air later in 2017. Several of these articles included the following synopsis of the story, apparently as it pertains to the character that plays my part; using the first initials of my first and last name, the character is called Martin Schmidt. Oddly, the other actors in the film who are mentioned in the articles appear to be using the true names of people I worked with, such as George Tenet, John O’Neil, etc. Does Mr. Wright’s decision to make up a false name for a living and easily identifiable person immunize him from the laws of libel, defamation, and slander? Perhaps it does, but we shall see. Anyway, here is a pertinent quote from one of the articles I mentioned above. (Emphasis added).
“Peter Sarsgaard will play Martin Schmidt, a CIA analyst who invariably believes he’s by far the smartest person in the room. Under orders to share intelligence with John O’Neill (Daniels) and the FBI, Schmidt opts instead to horde information under the misguided notion that the CIA is the only agency equipped to battle potential terrorist threats.” (1)
After reading this passage, I understood why Mr. Wright is calling this a docudrama, and my own wisdom in steering clear of the project. He is calling it a docudrama because at least this part of his story is a complete, utter, and easily provable lie. Now, having spoken to Mr. Wright on numerous occasions several years ago while he was drafting his book The Looming Tower — and then reading that fantasy on its publication — I am intimately familiar with Mr. Wright’s duplicity and abhorrence for truth, as well as his very selective and always anti-CIA use of public information that is available about 9/11, Osama bin Laden, and al-Qaeda. In my view, his book amply proved that nothing that Mr. Wright says, writes, or produces on these issues can be accepted without checking the facts, not least of all because, as we shall see below, he apparently never checks facts himself. In the above passage, for example, he claims “Martin Schmidt” was a “CIA analyst.”
Assuming that “Martin Schmidt” is me — and it seems it could be no one else — Mr. Wright is lying about a fact that is easily checkable. I worked at the CIA from September 1982, until November 2004. During that period, I was an analyst from September 1982, until December 1985. After December 1985, I worked on, and then managed, covert operations in the Directorate of Operations. In other words, a mere nine words into the foregoing synopsis, Mr. Wright has knowingly lied to his audience and to those paying for his film. Does anyone at HULU bother to check facts or accuracy before they buy a property?
This is a small but telling point. The bigger, more important, and history-disfiguring lie in Mr. Wright’s docudrama, however, comes at the end of the above passage.
“Under orders to share intelligence with John O’Neill (Daniels) and the FBI, Schmidt opts instead to horde information under the misguided notion that the CIA is the only agency equipped to battle potential terrorist threats.”
This is particularly important in terms of history; the citizenry’s trust in the CIA’s all-out effort, and the integrity its work against UBL, before 9/11; and, in personal, and I suppose selfish terms, what my children and grandchildren will think about me and what I did to try to defend the republic. Mr. Wright’s promotional material also claims that his docudrama “takes a controversial look at how the rivalry between the CIA and FBI inadvertently might have set the stage for the tragedy of 9/11 and the war in Iraq.” (2) That means, I assume, that my — or rather, Martin Schmidt’s — decision to “horde information” and hide it from the FBI led directly to 9/11 and the Iraq War.
Naturally, I am eager not only to defend myself, but also the officers I had the privilege to lead; our colleagues in the field who risked their lives to locate bin Laden; and the pre-Obama Agency that I dearly loved. But I am not going to do that. Instead, I will let the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Ms. Mary Jo White, explain the nature and extent of my own, my unit’s, and the CIA’s cooperation and information-sharing with the D0J lawyers and FBI officers assigned to work with CIA against Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda.
In so doing, I think, it will be apparent that Mr. Wright is nothing more than a two-bit liar and a devout Clinton acolyte when it comes to my and CIA’s pre-9/11 behavior as it has been described in the above promotional material for his docudrama. If Mr. Wright has decided to lie on these easily verifiable issues, one wonders what other lies he has built into the rest of his docudrama, or his books for that matter. HULU executives, should you not be wondering the same?
Wright’s above-mentioned lies cover the period from the creation of Alec Station in December, 1995, until I was replaced as its chief in June, 1999. The document written by Ms. White that is presented below will, I think, clearly demonstrate Mr. Wright’s intentional deceit, which appears to be the pivot for his docudrama. Mr. Wright’s lie therefore invalidates the portion of his docudrama that covers 43 of the 60 months — or almost 72-percent — of the chronological period apparently encompassed in the docudrama. Other CIA officers — former and current — are better positioned than I to know if there is any truth in the final 28-percent of the docudrama.
You do have to tip your hat to Mr. Wright for at least one reason, however. He presumably will walk away from his docudrama with a substantial paycheck derived from his scamming of HULU, its executives, and its investors, stockholders, and audience by selling them a fantasy under the the title of docudrama. I guess some television moguls are not as smart and savvy as they are cracked up to be. But do not worry, HULU brass, I will keep an eye out for more of Mr. Wright’s promotional materials. I will try to identify for you any additional lies therein, lies which you are paying for and which will be used to mislead — indeed, propagandize — HULU’s audiences. That Mr. Wright appears to be yet another leftist, fake-media shill is no surprise to me, so I may have a lot to report. It will be interesting to learn whether HULU’s management is interested in discovering, and then correcting, the manner in which they are being skinned.
Following, then, is a letter I received in May, 1999, from the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Ms. Mary Jo White. It clearly demonstrates, I think, that Mr. Wright’s docudrama is grounded in his deliberate, blatant, and easily proven lie, a lie that shreds his credibility and gives him a well-deserved place in the pantheon of blackguards who are recognized as iconic purveyors of fake media.
U.S.. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
Southern District of New York
The Silvio J. Mollo Building
One Saint Andrew’s Plaza
New York, New York 10007
May 24, 1999
Michael F. Scheuer
Central Intelligence Agency Langley, Virginia
I write to express my profound gratitude for your outstanding work and leadership over the last four years in the investigations of Usama Bin Laden and his terrorist network, al Qaeda.
As you know, this Office began a criminal investigation into Usama Bin Laden and the al Qaeda network three years ago, working in conjunction with the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”). Since the first day, you and your colleagues welcomed members of our office to participate in discussions with you and your colleagues as to how the separate but related law enforcement and intelligence investigations could coordinate to make sure that neither did anything to compromise the other and, where legal and appropriate, to enhance each other. I know from first hand knowledge that early on in the case — when the Bin Laden network was not in the public eye — the prosecutors in my office were awed both by your incredibly diligent work ethic and your determination to make your mission a successful one, as well as the efforts you made early on in the case to coordinate your work with the law enforcement effort in a manner that in my experience was unprecedented in this country’s history. It was obvious from the work of your staff who labored hard with tremendous resolve that your diligence and determination were contagious. That effort — combined with the accommodations you made at critical times to allow the evidentiary needs of law enforcement to be protected — made it possible for Usama Bin Laden to be indicted by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of New York in June 1998. Without your diligence, leadership and cooperation, your law enforcement partners would simply not have been able to obtain such an Indictment and for that my Office and the public will always be in your debt.
The diligence and professionalism of you and your staff, and your willingness to work hand in hand with Special Agent Daniel Coleman and the prosecutors in my office where and as appropriate, also made it possible to charge many of the suspects indicted so soon after the horrific East Africa Embassy bombings. Law enforcement had a running start on that investigation because you had been not only willing, but eager, to share information with us from the beginning. I also know that no one has logged more hours than you did to work against the Bin Laden network. I know that your prodigious labors had to take much time away you could otherwise have spent with your family. Having recently met with many of the victims’ families, rest assured that your efforts to prevent terrorist acts, and your willingness to help us hold those who carried out past attacks responsible, have had a very real impact on your fellow Americans as well as the citizens of Kenya and Tanzania and other countries. I would be honored if you would allow me to present a plaque to you at a time which would allow both you and your family to be present as they have shared in your sacrifice. We would very much like to express our appreciation to them as well.
In short, you have been a leader and a valued colleague in the fight against international terrorism. I cannot overstate the significance of your staff’s work and their dedication to the preservation of our nation’s security. As a symbolic but heartfelt memento of the effort put forth by you and your staff, I present you with one of the original warrants obtained for the arrest of Usama Bin Laden on June 10, 1998. To my Office, it represents a watershed in how the law enforcement and intelligence communities ought to cooperate and we thank you for making it possible.
MARY JO WHITE
United States Attorney
cc: The Honorable George Tenet Director, Central Intelligence Agency