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The Triple Agent: The al-Qaeda Mole who Infiltrated the CIA Paperback – May 1, 2012
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Bob Baer Reviews The Triple Agent
Robert Baer is the author of two New York Times bestsellers: Sleeping with the Devil, about the Saudi royal family and its relationship with the United States; and See No Evil, which recounts Baer's years as a top CIA operative. See No Evil was the basis for the acclaimed film Syriana, which earned George Clooney an Oscar for his portrayal of Baer. Baer writes regularly for Time.com and has contributed to Vanity Fair, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. He is considered one of the world's foremost authorities on the Middle East.
I’ve never read a book like this, a detailed and compelling postmortem of an intelligence failure. In a driving narrative Warrick tells the story of how the CIA came to suffer its worst loss ever.
Since Khost I’ve taken more than a passing interest in how precisely the tragedy came about, how more than a dozen CIA operatives let themselves be caught in an ambush like this. Needless to say, my ex-colleagues could talk about nothing else in the months afterwards. But no one could give me the detail that explained it. Warrick’s finally done it, better than any CIA “damage assessment” could ever hope to.
The story of Khost has much wider significance than a tragic event. Warrick paints a picture of a CIA obsessed with technology – drones, iris scans, intercepts. No one at Khost spoke the local language, no one set foot out of base, and the officer in charge had no real field experience. She knew nothing about Afghanistan or Pakistan. Yet she was not only put in charge, she was handed the CIA’s first mole inside al Qaeda - and put in charge of overseeing the assassination of al Qaeda’s number two, Ayman al Zawahari.
The Triple Agent is not only the best book out there on the CIA’s hunt for al Qaeda, it’s the best book on post-9/11 CIA, bar none. Read it.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Warrick is a brilliant reporter. . . . A gripping true-life spy saga.” —Los Angeles Times
“Riveting and harrowing, laden with deception and duplicity, The Triple Agent is a remarkable, behind-the-curtain account of the CIA’s darkest day in Afghanistan.” —Rajiv Chandrasekaran, author of Imperial Life in the Emerald City
“Absolutely first-rate, breakthrough reporting.” —Bob Woodward, author of Obama’s Wars
“A fast-paced and compelling narrative that reads like a Hollywood screenplay. [Warrick] provides a rare look at the careers and personal lives of CIA officers, including the courageous women who played key roles. . . . Spellbinding.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Warrick has reconstructed, in vivid and telling detail, the sequence of events that led Humam al-Balawi to kill seven CIA operatives in a suicide attack in Afghanistan in December 2009. . . . It is a chilling tale, told with skill and verve.” —The Economist
“The Triple Agent is a superlative piece of reporting and writing. . . . Unforgettable. The Triple Agent is one of the best true-life spy stories I have ever read.” —David Ignatius, columnist for the Washington Post and author of Bloodmoney
“A startling and memorable account of daring, treachery, and catastrophe in the CIA’s war against al-Qaeda. . . . A powerful and fast-paced story of our time.” —David E. Hoffman, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Dead Hand
“An extraordinary story of intrigue and betrayal. . . . Warrick shows how the pressure for results led the CIA to take shortcuts when it came to handling an agent who some feared, correctly, was too good to be true.” —Foreign Affairs
“Potent, swift. . . . Warrick is very, very good. He burrows deep inside not only the CIA, which might be expected, but also the Mukhabarat and ISI, Pakistan’s main spy agency.” —The Washington Post
“A fascinating . . . postmortem on the 2009 ambush on the American compound at Knost, Afghanistan. . . . Riveting. . . . Sketches careful, illuminating portraits of those who died.” —The Plain Dealer
“Warrick demonstrates the initiative that has marked his newspaper career. . . . An alarming narrative, especially because of its understated, never-shrill tone.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Riveting. . . . A must-read.” —Associated Press
“Insightful and riveting. . . . Mr. Warrick adds a wealth of new detail to a narrative that reads like the best spy fiction.” —The Washington Times
“[An] accessible and fast-paced debut. . . . [Warrick] gives this story a cinematic feel with suspenseful foreshadowing, rich character development . . . and a remarkable amount of heart.” —Publishers Weekly
“A grim reminder that the U.S. war on terror as it has been conducted is deadly, expensive, and mostly futile.” —Houston Chronicle
“The Triple Agent is by turns harrowing and heartbreaking, fascinating and frightening. . . . . A tale that reads like a thriller and stretches from the dusty back alleys of Waziristan to the plush executive floor at Langley.” —James Bamford, author of the bestselling The Puzzle Palace, Body of Secrets, and The Shadow Factory
“Were Shakespeare alive, he would find ample material for a high tragedy among the players in . . . The Triple Agent. All the ingredients are there, including betrayal, shame, heroism, and more than one person with a recklessly determined hubris worthy of King Lear himself. Yet as those who have operated in the world of human intelligence will viscerally feel, this is not cathartic fiction, but a factual account of a modern day human intelligence operation gone terribly wrong, involving real men and women, with all the failings thereof.” —Foreign Policy
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The author clearly did an extensive amount of research. This is evident by the detailed background information. Not only does the author tell a story, he provides personal details on each person to bring them to life. His assessment of Humam al-Balawi, the bomber, is especially interesting. He was clearly a weak willed yet dedicated ideologue who was manipulated by al-Qaeda. The book has several color photos of the people and Khost compound which are extremely helpful.
Mr. Warrick has succeeded in highlighting the difficulty and danger faced by CIA officers in the field. Bottom line: this book is a gripping story of the fight against terrorists as well as a fitting tribute to the men and women who lost their lives. The reader will certainly come away with an appreciation for the work done by these officers.
This book is excellent.
The author tastefully does not point a finger directly at the person responsible for this tragedy, but he does allude to it and tells the reader who is paying attention the answer. The committees who investigate the incident seem reluctant (as reported here) to point towards the person(s) who allowed standard security procedures to be ignored. Someone has to know who ordered the "agent" to be treated in the unsafe manner he was. Who could honestly come to the conclusion that this "agent" was not a threat, at least on some level? Guaranteed it was not the people in charge of security there or any of the experienced CIA field agents. Could it be that 10 people sacrificed their lives on the altar of political correctness? When you get out on the pointy end of the stick all that matters is experience and competence, no matter what package it comes in. It would appear that the CIA reached that conclusion as well after this tragedy.