HARPOON by Nitsana  Darshan-Leitner


Inside the Covert War Against Terrorism's Money Masters
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The U.S. and other powers are battling terrorist organizations militarily—but also fiscally, cutting off funding sources and intercepting the flow of money into enemy hands.

As Israeli attorney and activist Darshan-Leitner and New York–based author Katz (The Ghost Warriors: Inside Israel’s Undercover War Against Suicide Terrorism, 2016, etc.) write, the business of espionage is popularly imagined to feature James Bond–like heroes. However, “the day-to-day unreported grind of gathering, analyzing, and acting on intelligence is what allows people to sleep soundly in their beds.” One aspect of this intelligence work, in the case of several terrorist organizations, has been to identify and neutralize the financial brains behind the operation, the men who know the passwords and routing numbers. As is so often the case in matters of terrorism, the Israelis are several steps ahead of everyone else; at the center of the story stands a Mossad officer named Meir Dagan, who assembled a team of talented intelligence workers with an eye to tracking down where the funds for groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaida were coming from. Their operating thesis—that “there were no longer any white-collar jobs in the terrorist organization”—meant that such financial officers were fair game for assassination, and organizations whose accountants were “spectacularly killed,” as the authors gamely note, found it harder than before to recruit successors for men who “were not replaced with a job posting on craigslist.” The narrative centers on Israeli operations, which favor surgical strikes on selective targets, unlike the brute-force American preference for carpet bombing and such; the authors do note, however, that American tactics have increasingly shifted to finding financiers in an effort to “follow the money, devalue the money, seize the money, and kill the money.”

It’s not exactly le Carré, but solid reporting and analysis meet a good sense of narrative, making this book more fluent and less dismal than its subject might suggest.

Pub Date: Nov. 7th, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-316-39905-0
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Hachette
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2017


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