The story of how the Central Intelligence Agency continued its record of failure in the so-called war on terrorism, with fatal consequences.
In his debut, Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post intelligence reporter Warrick focuses on Dec. 30, 2009, when CIA officials, U.S. military personnel and Pakistani and Afghani operatives gathered at a well-protected base in Khost, Afghanistan, to meet a Jordanian pediatrician who had seemingly become a valued spy for the Americans inside Muslim terrorist networks. But as the book's title suggests, Humam Khalil al-Balawi, despite supposedly careful vetting by CIA and Pakistani experts, was actually on the side of the anti-American warriors willing to sacrifice their lives in order to kill Westerners. Once inside the base, Balawi ignited a bomb strapped to his chest, killing seven CIA personnel. Although the classified-information obstacles and polished lies of master spies make accurate reporting on such embarrassing fatalities extremely difficult, Warrick demonstrates the initiative that has marked his newspaper career to share details that are mostly attributed and seem credible. An able storyteller, Warrick provides enough background on each key character to make them come alive. With so much focus on Osama bin Laden since 9/11—especially the failures of presidents Bush and Obama to fulfill their vows that he will be captured—it is easy for readers to forget that many other faith-based operatives from al-Qaeda and related organizations know how to lure American personnel into death traps. Warrick demonstrates the skills of those operatives while quietly exposing the lack of wisdom continually demonstrated by American government and military officials.
An alarming narrative, especially so because of its understated, never-shrill tone.