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"The Hunt for KSM: Inside the pursuit and takedown of the real 9/11 mastermind" by Terry McDermott and Josh Meyer, Little, Brown, 350 pages, $27.99

The newspaper story began this way: "The United States has issued charges against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, setting the stage for what has been dubbed the 'Trial of the century.'"

That was in early April of this year. An arraignment would come afterward and then, perhaps many months away, a trial, to be held at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The two authors of this powerful book, both journalists, have given readers an inside look at the ultimate success that occurred after many failures in tracking down and capturing KSM, as he is known.

Readers who enjoy espionage fiction will find that a true story can be a page-turner. It is also a fascinating look of the deep dysfunction within our intelligence agencies.

Well before 9/11, some investigators believed  KSM was behind some of the earlier terrorist attacks against the United States, including the first World Trade Center attack in 1993.

The authors write that KSM was able to evade capture for a decade because our intelligence agencies saw him and his followers as "lone wolves" and not part of any larger movement, a view that subsequently was shown to be false.

One FBI agent, Frank Pellegrino, and a partner, spent many years tracing his steps from Manila to Qatar to Pakistan, but their efforts were scoffed at regularly by agency officials.

Frustration was rampant. At one point, the authors write of a near capture of KSM: "They knew who he was and where he was until he wasn't there anymore."

Beneath all of KSM's love for terrorism was "a profound anti-Semitism." He has confessed to being the killer of Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter, because he was a Jew.

In his decades of planning, KSM was responsible for dozens of terrorist attacks, including ones in Pakistan, Great Britain and Tunisia.

He finally was captured in the middle of the night in a "safe" house in Pakistan in 2003 and spent the next months being transferred among secret prisons in Afghanistan, Poland, Romania and perhaps more so-called "black sites."

Under the direction of the Bush administration and the CIA, he was water-boarded and subjected to what euphemistically were called "enhanced interrogation techniques." Whether those methods will be discussed at his forthcoming trial is unclear.

KSM is a threat no longer, the authors point out, but he trained hundreds, and his legacy lives on.

Charles Stephen is host of "All About Books," on NET Radio.



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