Note to Readers
The story is told firsthand through what I saw and learned, and wherever possible I have used dialogue to allow readers to experience situations as they happened. These exchanges are as I remember them, or as colleagues and terrorists recounted them to me. Other conversations are drawn directly from official transcripts, wires, and unedited court documents. I am grateful to my former colleagues who took the time to look through the manuscript and verify what they read. Naturally, with the passage of time it’s difficult to remember conversations precisely word for word, and I trust that the reader will appreciate this when reading the conversations, and will understand that any errors are, of course, my own.
The reader should also be aware that this book was subjected to self-censorship to protect sources, methods, and classified material. It also went through the official government prepublication approval process. I have assigned certain CIA officers and government figures names other than their own; the practice will be obvious to the reader because anyone whose identity is thus obscured is referred to by a single first name only.
The aim of the book is to teach people how to understand al-Qaeda and how we can defeat them in the future, and any offense to specific individuals is unintended.
In on-site signage and much official government documentation, “Guantánamo” is unaccented when the word appears as part of the name of the American naval base and detention facility, but since the name of the bay itself is accented, and because that is the spelling recognized by readers and preferred by most mainstream publications, I have used it throughout.