Quotations in this book that are designated by quotation marks are the recollections of individuals who heard the words as they were spoken. Italics are used in cases in which a source could not recall the precise language or when a source relayed conversation or thoughts that were shared with him by a participant in the events described.


The White House

President Barack Obama

James L. Jones, national security adviser

John Brennan, chief counterterrorism adviser to the president

Rahm Emanuel, White House chief of staff

Central Intelligence Agency Headquarters, Langley, Virginia

Michael V. Hayden, CIA director, May 2006 to February 2009

Leon Panetta, CIA director, February 2009 to June 2011

Stephen Kappes, CIA deputy director

Dennis C. Blair, director of national intelligence

Amman, Jordan

Darren LaBonte, CIA case officer, Amman station, CIA station chief, Amman station (identity classified; name withheld)

Ali bin Zeid, captain, Jordanian General Intelligence Department (GID), aka the Mukhabarat

Ali Burjak, aka Red Ali, Mukhabarat counterterrorism chief, bin Zeid’s boss

Humam Khalil al-Balawi, physician and blogger

Khalil al-Balawi, Humam’s father

Defne Bayrak, Humam’s wife

In Afghanistan

Jennifer Matthews, CIA base chief, Forward Operating Base Chapman (“Khost”)

Harold Brown Jr., CIA case officer, Khost

Scott Roberson, CIA security chief, Khost

Dane Paresi, security contractor, Xe Services LLC, aka Blackwater, Khost

Jeremy Wise, security contractor, Xe Services LLC, aka Blackwater, Khost

Arghawan, Afghan detail security chief, Khost (last name withheld), CIA deputy chief of station, Kabul station (identity classified; name withheld)

Elizabeth Hanson, targeter, Kabul station

Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan

Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda founder and leader

Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s No. 2 commander, deputy to Osama bin Laden

Osama al-Kini (given name Fahid Mohammed Ally Msalam), senior al-Qaeda commander for Pakistan

Abdullah Said al-Libi, an al-Qaeda operations chief, leader of al-Qaeda’s “Shadow Army” in Pakistan

Sheikh Saeed al-Masri (given name Mustafa Ahmed Muhammad Uthman Abu al-Yazid), al-Qaeda’s No. 3 commander

Baitullah Mehsud, leader of Pakistani Taliban alliance, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)

Hakimullah Mehsud, deputy TTP leader, cousin to Baitullah Mehsud

Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, al-Qaeda senior leader and Islamic scholar

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (given name Ahmad Fadeel al-Nazal al-Khalayleh), Jordanian-born leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, killed in U.S. missile strike in 2006

Abu Zubaida (given name Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein), first “high-value” terrorist operative captured by the CIA after the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the first to be subjected to waterboarding



Khost, Afghanistan—December 30, 2009

For ten days the CIA team waited for the mysterious Jordanian to show up. From gloomy mid-December through the miserable holidays the officers shivered under blankets, retold stale jokes, drank gallons of bad coffee, and sipped booze from Styrofoam cups. They counted distant mortar strikes, studied bomb damage reports, and listened for the thrum of Black Hawk helicopters ferrying wounded. And they waited.

Christmas morning arrived on a raw wind, and still they sat. They picked at gingerbread crumbs in the packages sent from home and stared at the ceramic Nativity figurines one of the officers had set up in lieu of a tree. Then it was December 30, the last dregs of the old year and the tenth day of the vigil, and finally came word that the Jordanian agent was on the move. He was heading west by car through the mountains of Pakistan’s jagged northwestern fringe, wearing tribal dress and dark sunglasses and skirting Taliban patrols along the treacherous highway leading to the Afghan frontier.

Until now no American officer had ever seen the man, this spectral informant called “Wolf,” whose real name was said to be known to fewer than a dozen people; this wily double agent who had penetrated al-Qaeda, sending back coded messages that lit up CIA headquarters like ball lightning. But at about 3:00 P.M. Afghanistan time, Humam Khalil al-Balawi would step out of the murk and onto the fortified concrete of the secret CIA base known as Khost.

The news of his pending arrival sent analysts scurrying to finalize preparations. Newly arrived base chief Jennifer Matthews, barely three months into her first Afghan posting, had fretted over the details for days, and now

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