America’s War on Terror changed millions of lives irrevocably. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Iraqis, Afghans, Libyans, Yemenis, Somalians, and Syrians saw their homes, jobs, and family members stolen in a two-decade wave of violence that has yet to fully subside. Thousands of people – some guilty, some not – were abducted, interrogated, tortured, and detained without trials.
The woman who presided over or witnessed many of these crimes is now a life coach.
Alfreda Scheuer (née Bikowsky), was an infamous CIA operative dubbed “The Queen of Torture” by The New Yorker in 2014. You may remember her as the partial inspiration for Jessica Chastain’s character in Kathryn Bigelow’s 2012 jingoist, xenophobic masterpiece Zero Dark Thirty, though her name was never connected to the film. You may recognize her name, too, as her husband, Michael Scheuer, is a former CIA official who has made news in recent years for pushing outlandish conspiracy theories, calling for Trump to impose martial law after the 2020 election, and writing that Americans should hunt down and “eliminate” Democrats, journalists, doctors, teachers, Black Lives Matter activists, employees of Ivy League universities, and pretty much everyone else in the country who isn’t a hardcore adherent to every extreme of the MAGA movement.
Reuters on Wednesday published the first on-the-record interview with Alfreda Scheuer since she left the clandestine services. Her identity was long shielded from the public, despite Scheuer’s disastrous record in several high-ranking positions at the agency (The New Yorker wrote that she was the source of “years’ worth of terrible judgment”). Judging by what she told Reuters, she doesn’t regret a thing, telling the publication that waterboarding was not torture, and that she received criticism a male spy wouldn’t have gotten in a similar role.
“I got bloodied,” she said, “and kept coming back to try again and again to do something. I’m proud that I wasn’t on the sidelines. I didn’t bury my head in the sand.”
Regarding the “Queen of Torture” moniker, she was similarly defiant. “I got that title because I was in the arena,” she said. “In fact, I raised my hand loud and proud and you know, I don’t regret it at all.”
There you have it. The Queen of Torture sees herself as the Girlboss of Enhanced Interrogation. Now, she’s taken her talents to another field: helping other people unlock their best selves. According to Reuters, Scheuer is now a life coach at a company she runs called YBeU Beauty, where she helps women “look good, feel good, and do good.”
The YBeu Beauty Personal Coaching Facebook page features cards with motivational tidbits like, “Take a moment to express your gratitude and be glad,” as well as selfies of Scheuer and videos in which she recommends beauty products.
Many of the products Scheuer promotes are questionable, to say the least. In one Facebook video, she pushes a skin “serum” containing human stem cells. “You might see other products that advertised stem cells, but they are mostly derived from plants, which are not nearly as efficacious as actual human stem cells,” Scheuer says of the $295 bottle.
Her Instagram is also loaded with content, from Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes about being yourself, to pictures of dogs that lead to self-care tips, to even more videos of Scheuer recommending skin care products.
This woman watched people get waterboarded.
Scheuer’s website wasn’t operational when Rolling Stone tried to access it. Scheuer writes on the site, per Reuters:
“I know what it’s like to leave your comfort zone to try something new. I had finished a three decades + career as a senior government executive leading teams, mostly females, tasked with no-fail missions, taking smart risks, and even making life-and-death decisions. I loved every minute of it.”It’s doubtful many detainees who experienced Scheuer’s “coaching” in her past life would say the same thing.
Her current clients, for what it’s worth, appear to be satisfied. The Queen of Torture’s ratings on Facebook average a 4.2 out of five.