Michael Scheuer, who led Bin Laden hunt, tells Edinburgh international book festival intelligence has dried up due to US and UK support for revolution
The Arab spring has "delighted al-Qaida" and caused "an intelligence disaster" for the US and Britain, the former head of the CIA unit in charge of pursuing Osama bin Laden has warned.
Speaking at the Edinburgh international book festival, Michael Scheuer said: "The help we were getting from the Egyptian intelligence service, less so from the Tunisians but certainly from the Libyans and Lebanese, has dried up, either because of resentment at our governments stabbing their political leaders in the back, or because those who worked for the services have taken off in fear of being incarcerated or worse.
"The amount of work that has devolved on US and British services is enormous, and the result is blindness in our ability to watch what's going on among militants."
The Arab spring, he said, was "an intelligence disaster for the US and for Britain, and other European services".
Scheuer headed the Bin Laden unit at the CIA from 1996-99, and worked as special adviser to its chief from 2001-2004. The author of a biography of Bin Laden, he now teaches on the peace and security affairs programme at the University of Georgetown.
He said "the rendition programme must come back ? the people we have in custody now are pretty long in the tooth, in terms of the information they can provide in interrogations.
"The Arab spring has been a disaster for us in terms of intelligence gathering, and we now are blind both because of the Arab spring and because there is nothing with which to replace the rendition programme."