CIA ‘queen of torture’ from Zero Dark Thirty is now an online beauty influencer
Alfreda Scheuer once travelled the world hunting down threats to America’s national security. Now she has a new target in her sights as an online life coach – helping clients achieve beautiful skin.
For the former Central Intelligence Agency analyst, played by Jessica Chastain in the 2012 Hollywood blockbuster Zero Dark Thirty, has given herself a makeover as a beauty coach.
Following her retirement from the agency in 2021, the woman dubbed “The Queen of Torture” by The New Yorker has launched a second act to offer “beauty + life coaching for midlife women” with YBeUBeauty.com
Pronounced Why Be You Beauty, Ms Scheuer lists her accreditations in the “Science of Well-Being” alongside her Arabic language credentials from American University in Cairo, Egypt.
“Even when I was travelling the world in my former career, I never missed a chance to indulge my wonder, curiosity, and passion for all things beauty,” she wrote on her personal coaching website. “Shopping at the very first Sephora in Paris on the Champs-Elysees was like Disneyland, but with free samples.”
That “former career” isn’t explicitly mentioned on the business website, but Ms Scheuer hints at the role as a “senior government executive” leading teams tasked with no-fail missions with life-and-death decisions.
“I loved every minute of it. I was good at it, comfortable even, maybe too comfortable,” she added.
Or as Jane Mayer wrote in the formative feature story titled The Unidentified Queen of Torture, “she gleefully participated in torture sessions,” or what was then known as enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding.
While Ms Scheuer did not respond to The Independent’s interview request, she told Reuters in her first, on-the-record post-CIA interview that Ms Mayer’s description was a false caricature based on sexism.
“I got that title because I was in the arena. In fact, I raised my hand loud and proud and you know, I don’t regret it at all,” Ms Scheuer told the outlet.
The Twin Towers on September 11, 2001 (Getty Images)
She was not named in a Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program, her role was pieced together by NBC News investigative reporter Matthew Cole, who withheld her identity – under her then-maiden name Alfreda Bikowsky – at the request of the CIA.
US officials confirmed to NBC News that she was the person who had her name redacted at least 36 times in the 528-page summary of the report to avoid publicly identifying the “Deputy Chief of ALEC Station”, the unit devoted to catching or killing Osama bin Laden.
She was one of several CIA employees on who director Kathryn Bigelow based the character of Maya in Zero Dark Thirty, which was nominated for five Oscars, including best picture, best original screenplay, and best actress, for Chastain. It won only for best sound editing.
In one parallel, the CIA analyst flew to a secret prison to watch Al Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah be waterboarded and locked in a coffin-like “dog box” in 2002, according to the Senate investigation. In the 2012 film, Maya flew to a secret prison to watch an Al Qaeda suspect waterboarded and locked into a box in a bid to make him talk.
Ms Scheuer told Reuters she joined Alec Station in 1999, when it was led by Michael Scheuer, whom she married in 2014.
While the CIA does not publicly comment on current or former agents, several former agency officers who worked with her told NBC News that she worked in the Counterterrorist Centre since the mid-1990s following a period as a Soviet analyst.
She continued a successful career climbing the ranks until retiring in late 2021 as deputy chief of Homeland and Strategic Threats, despite being accused of dropping the ball before the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers, misinterpreting intelligence, and falsely testifying to congress about the effectiveness of torture.
“The intelligence that we got was exceptionally good,” she told Reuters. “And was, I mean, could not be better than from the horse’s mouth.”
That horse, otherwise known as the September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was waterboarded 183 times.
Ms Scheuer is offering coaching starting at $397 for the “Look Good, Feel Good, Do Good” 30-intensive plan, or the $597 for the “Be Invincible” 90-day plan.
Fees don’t include the $295 SkinMedica stem cell serum she recommends in her most popular Facebook video to elevate the “skincare arsenal”, which is her favourite, “because it contains actual human stem cells”.