It’s 2009. The CIA is desperate for intelligence on senior Al Qaeda leaders, and out of nowhere, a young Jordanian doctor has worked his way into the terrorists’ inner circle and is feeding the agency tantalizing stuff. The doc is a former internet Jihadist who’s changed his loyalties. Or has he?
On Fresh Air today, Joby Warrick of the Washington Post tells me the fascinating story of the CIA’s reckless gamble on the loyalty of Humam al-Balawi. After he’d captured their interest by feeding them video of himself with a senior Al Qaeda leader, he arranged a meeting with the Americans in Afghanistan. But he showed up with explosives strapped to his chest.
Warrick has completely surrounded this story, interviewing American intelligence officials, Balawi’s family and even Taliban operatives in Pakistan. The result is his book, The Triple Agent, which reads like a literary thriller. And he tells the story well on Fresh Air.
Warrick, by the way has roots in Philadelphia. He graduated from Temple and worked at the Delaware County Daily Times and the Inquirer before moving on. He shared a Pulitzer Prize in 1996 at the Raleigh News & Observer.
You can hear Fresh Air at 3 and 7 today on WHYY (91FM). If you’re listening outside the Philadelphia area, find a station here. And you can always get more information, listen to the show or download podcasts at the Fresh Air website.