Friday, July 5, 2013

Joby Warrick's "The Triple Agent"

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Joby Warrick's thriller non-fiction "The Triple Agent" tells the story of a suicide bomber who killed CIA's seven operatives along with others in Khost, Afghanistan in 2009. Humam Al-Balawi was a respected medical practitioner in Jordan. He came from a good family. His hobby was writing inflaming Jihadist essays under a pseudonym in Islamist blogs. When his essays got immensely popular, Jordanian intelligence agency Mukhabarat narrowed their search and nabbed him one fine day. After a light interrogation, he agreed to become the double agent for Mukhabarat and CIA as instructed by Ali bin-Zeid of Mukhabarat and infiltrate the Al-Qaeda and Taliban network in Pakistan/Afghanistan. He managed to do so and sent information and terrorist's pictures to Ali. CIA too became enthusiastic about him. They called him for debriefing in the eve of New Year's Day at Khost but little did they suspect that Humam had managed to fool them by becoming a triple agent, now working for Al-Qaeda. This proved fatal to both Mukhabarat and the CIA, more than an embarrassing intelligence failure. Blind enthusiasm led to this horrid denouement. Events unfold in the book in fast pace and manage to hold the reader's attention. The backstory of everyone involved in and around the incident has been meticulously done. The writer's effort to collect information relating to the incident and present it in an engaging manner pays off. However, the book feels one-sided at times as the writer seems to justify all dirty acts of the CIA (predator/drone attacks against innocent civilians in the name of collateral damage). Terrorists do the same. It is really surprising that men are willing to kill fellow humans for absurd causes.   

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