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The Hunt for KSM: Inside the Pursuit and Takedown of the Real 9/11 Mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Hardcover – March 26, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


  • Kirkus' Starred Review
Superlative storytelling and crackling reportage define a pulse-pounding narrative tracing the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. ... A surprising, sobering look at one of the deadliest terror networks in history, and the American spy agencies charged with bringing it down.

"On one level, McDermott and Meyer have given us a fact-filled inside account, in the voices of those on the job, of the failed decade-long American effort to find KSM before he could strike again. But there is a most important underlying message in this book -- that the American intelligence community remains caught up in bureaucratic warfare and remains today incapable of working together...of sharing insights and information...even when all involved share the same goal. This, ultimately, is an account of an American tragedy."―Seymour M. Hersh of The New Yorker

"This chilling inside account of America's cat-and-mouse pursuit of perhaps the world's most heinous terrorist reads like a real-life episode of the show '24.' Political ineptitude has delayed KSM's trial, keeping him hidden from the world. But now two intrepid reporters tell the story, unmasking not just a terrorist of historic dimensions, but also a country failing to adequately grapple with the challenge."―Jane Mayer, author of The Dark Side

"I couldn't put this book down, a tick tock thriller about catching 9/11's mastermind. In exquisite detail it tells a story of incompetence and failure, and ultimately brilliance and redemption. It shows how we failed, and how we finally succeeded after relearning the nuts and bolts of classic espionage."―Robert Baer, bestselling author of See No Evil and Sleeping with the Devil

"Terry McDermott and Josh Meyer have written a completely authoritative account of the man who organized the 9/11 attacks and the often-bungled hunt to find him. The Hunt for KSM is a
deeply reported page-turner about the race to find the man who was the Chief
Operating Officer of Al-Qaeda."―Peter Bergen, author of The Longest War

"The Hunt for KSM is an important book, detailing one of most secretive and fractured investigations of our time. Fabulous reporting and great storytelling make it one of the best thrillers I've ever read. That it is all true and such a gripping story just makes the accomplishment of McDermott and Meyer even more astounding. I couldn't put this one down and neither will you."―Michael Connelly

About the Author

Josh Meyer is the former chief terrorism reporter for The Los Angeles Times and has reported on international terrorism for more than a decade­. The "Inside Al Qaeda" series he worked on was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and he has twice been part of teams that have won the Pulitzer Prize for  reporting. Meyer is also a screenwriter and television producer, who co-created (with Michael Connelly), wrote and produced the network TV crime drama Level 9. He currently is on the faculty of the Medill School of Journalism, where he is director of education and outreach for the school's groundbreaking National Security Journalism Initiative based in Washington, D.C.

Terry McDermott is the author of Perfect Soldiers (HarperCollins, 2005), and 101 Theory Drive (Pantheon, 2010). His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Wilson Quarterly, Columbia Journalism Review, the Los Angeles Times Magazine and Pacific Magazine. McDermott worked at eight newspapers for more than thirty years, most recently for ten years at The Los Angeles Times, where he was a national correspondent.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; First Edition edition (March 26, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316186597
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316186599
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #852,565 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Roger Smith on April 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The Hunt for KSM is magnificant in its detailed storytelling about the people who are at the heart of the 9-11 catastrophe. Surprises leap from this account, page after page. I thought I knew a great deal about KSM and how he was tracked down from the congressional committee report and other sources, including the early LA Times stories. But Meyer and McDermott flesh out a cast that I was unaware of, including many Americans who toiled diligently against great odds to capture KSM and prevent future attacks.

The American reaction to 9-11 was huge. The scary part is that KSM may not be done with us yet. This book is a deep dive, brilliantly conceived and written, a must for anyone who wants to be familiar with the most important events of the last 15 years.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Paul Skolnick on March 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book, the work of two obviously energetic and knowledgeable reporters, sets forth a fascinating story--about America's War on Terrorism, about the terrorists themselves, and about the men and women involved in tracking them around the world. It reads at times, because of the astonishing amount of detail and the comprehensive explanations of motivations and causes, like great spy fiction.

But it's not fiction.

This is an approachable book for anyone wanting to understand more on how the War on Terrorism works, or why it's a war we'll be fighting for decades.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By David Sherman on April 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is a great book that would make a great movie: a well-told, fast-paced narrative, full of fascinating information and real-life characters. McDermott and Meyer traveled the globe for a decade to paint this intimate portrait of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of 911, and to chronicle the FBI and CIA agents who hunted him. We are is taken inside the heart of terrorism and the murky world of counterterrorism.
David Lamb
author of The Arabs
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Praveen G. Madhiraju on April 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Just finished reading this book and was incredibly engaged by it from the beginning to the end. It strikes me as the rare nonfiction book that would appeal to both the casual reader (who loves Bourne Identity-type books/movies) or an academic/policy wonk. The latter would be prudent to read this as it puts human faces and experiences on terrorists and the U.S. agents that hunt them.

Writing Quality: A+. The lasting impression of the book that I have is how well it moves. The topic is a serious one, but this reads like a great adventure novel or a movie script. The authors clearly have a deep knowledge of the topic. This is not unusual in nonfiction, of course, but the difference here is that this experience and knowledge base gave the authors the freedom to show the reader incredibly complex and important topics like Al Qaeda's place in the larger web of militant terrorist organizations, rather than just tell us about it like it was a set of research results.

Relevance: A-. With the government just announcing that it will finally try KSM, this book seems very relevant. The trial should cause us to reengage on topics like: how to fight and investigate terrorist networks, how should the FBI and CIA work - both separately and together, and civil liberties questions like how far can interrogators go to get information from terrorists. This book doesn't pretend to give us any answers. What it does is help the reader get in the minds of the actors that animate each of these topics, which seems like a prerequisite to even pretend to start answering these questions. The only reason I give it an A- in this category is that unfortunately, many of these questions were raised years ago. But KSM's trial should be an opportunity to reengage on such topics.

Overall: A. Ultimately, this is just a great read. You'll finish it in days and will be better informed for it!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Alex on May 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I never thought I would say this about a non-fiction account of a government investigation, but I could not put this book down. The subject matter is both important and compelling, but beyond that, it is exceptionally well-written and tells a fascinating story. The authors show a tremendous depth of knowledge about their subject matter, and their years of detailed research are apparent. They never, though, let the book get bogged down in recounting historical facts; instead they weave all of this meticulous research into a well-paced and nuanced story, simultaneously highlighting deeply human themes and profound policy questions with which our country continues to grapple. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about terrorism, national security, government policy, or who simply wants a good read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Susan R. Meyer VINE VOICE on April 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating, superbly written account of the hunt for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. It's a factual account that reads like the best mystery.
While providing a high level of detail, Meyer and McDermott also make the individuals carrying out this search very real to the reader. There's character development. There are many peeks behind the curtain of bureaucracy.
I will admit that personal bias (full disclosure - Josh Meyer is my cousin) caused me to buy the book; that bias didn't extend to reading something so far out of my normal interests cover to cover. I was engrossed from page one. I couldn't put the book down. Be forewarned - you won't be able to put it down either!
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