Fighting terrorism smarter, explained on Fresh Air

    It was on September 11, 2007, that a team of U.S. special operations forces descended from helicopters into a dusty camp at an Iraqi village called Sinjar near the Syrian border.

    After a quick firefight, the Americans took control of a key station in a smuggling route that brought foreign fighters and suicide bombers into Iraq. They also get a massive cache of documents and five terabytes of hard drive data about Al Qaeda operations in Iraq.

    On Fresh Air today, New York Times reporters Eric Schmitt and Tom Shanker describe how American forces used that information to dramatically cut suicide bombings in northern Iraq. A key moment was the decision by General Stanly McChrystal to declassify the information, so analysts could make sense of it. Former general Dell Dailey then flew to Arab nations where suicide bombers were coming from and had frank talks about why it would be in their interests to cut the flow of fighters and martyrs.

    Schmitt and Shanker are veteran reporters for the Times who cover military and national security issues. They have a new book about innovative approaches adopted by American military, intelligence and political leaders in the war against Islamic extremism.

    It’s interesting stuff – you’ll hear about the U.S. tried to get a message to Osama bin Laden in the weeks after the September 11th attacks, and why the U.S. is now paying people to play interactive video games looking for terrorist avatars. The book is called Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America’s Secret Campaign Against Al Qaeda.

    You can hear Fresh Air today at 3 and 7 p.m. on 91FM. If you’re outside the Philly area, find a station here. And of course there’s more on the Fresh Air website.

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