Review: The Terrorist Watch, by Ronald Kessler

New York: Crown Forum, 2007. 260 pp. $26.95 (hardcover).


In the years since the attacks of 9/11, there have been numerous attempts by terrorists to attack Americans on our own soil, but all of these attempts have been foiled. Who is responsible for this remarkable record, and how have they achieved it? These questions are answered in Ronald Kessler’s recent book, The Terrorist Watch: Inside the Desperate Race to Stop the Next Attack, which surveys the work of the individuals involved in America’s intelligence community since 9/11.

In twenty-seven brief chapters, Kessler documents the post-9/11 work of the CIA, FBI, National Security Agency (NSA), National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), and other agencies—showing the organizational, tactical, and technological changes that have occurred, along with their positive results.

The book begins by recounting the events of September 11, 2001, from President Bush being informed of the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center, to his “We’re at war” declaration, to the initial coordination of efforts among the vice president, the military, and law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Proceeding from there, Kessler shows how the CIA immediately linked some of the hijackers to Al Qaeda and how, a few days later, the president began redirecting the priorities of the FBI and the Justice Department from prosecuting terrorists to preventing attacks. . . .

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