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Spying on Al Qaeda

8:08 AM, May 10, 2012 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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There is still much we do not know about this episode. We do know this: al Qaeda and its affiliates have every reason to worry about double agents. And that can only hamper their operations as they become more and more suspicious of new recruits volunteering to kill themselves. But blowing the double agent’s cover can also improve AQAP’s operational security, allowing the terrorists to learn more about their enemies’ tradecraft. 

Finally, the CIA has learned the hard way in the fight against terrorism that the good guys need to worry about double agents, too. One of the agency’s biggest post-9/11 failures occurred when a Jordanian doctor told authorities that he could help them get Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s number two at the time. The doctor was, in reality, an al Qaeda double agent. He blew himself up at a base in Afghanistan in December 2009. He killed more CIA men and women in that one attack than any other attack in decades.

Double agents go both ways in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates. This latest round goes to the white hats.

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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