From Publishers Weekly
In a compact and cogent addition to the literature on terrorism, two expert journalists join forces for a portrait of how a Hezbollah cell in Charlotte, N.C., was broken up a little more than a year before September 11. In clear prose with a minimum of political ax-grinding, Newman (The Covenant) and Diaz (Making a Killing) provide biographies of cell leader Mohammed Youssef Hammoud (from his origins in the Shiite slums of Beirut) and member Said Harb; the FBI agents and federal prosecutors (who overcame bureaucratic inertia and civil libertarian–fostered barriers to accumulate the evidence that led to Hammoud's prosecution); and many incidental players along the way. They also provide clear historical summaries of the religious and ethnic divides in the Middle East, and portraits of lesser-known phenomena such as the role of Paraguay (and its borders with Argentina and Brazil) in providing havens for international terrorists. The authors' skill at characterization of friends and foes puts a great many thriller writers in the shade, and at no point do they fall into stereotyping. Embedded in the book is an argument for the kind of interagency intelligence sharing that is still in its infancy. (Mar. 1)
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Before the terrorist attack of 9/11, Hezbollah in Lebanon had been responsible for more American deaths by terrorism, according to Newman and Diaz. The cell network of this "party of God" is broad and contains substantial sleeper cells throughout the U.S. that have been scrutinized by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. Drawing on those investigations, the authors profile the activities of a Hezbollah cell in Charlotte, North Carolina. They detail activities involving cigarette and drug smuggling to operating front charitable organizations, all aimed at financing the purchase of weapons, high-tech equipment, and fraudulent passports. From its inception, the group has also received substantial support from Iran. While revealing our vulnerability to terrorists penetrating out national borders, the authors argue for greater latitude for law enforcement agencies to operate in controlling our borders, balanced against concerns about erosion of civil liberties. This is a frightening look at the need to recognize the potential for further terrorist danger on American soil and what will be required to prevent it. Vernon Ford
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