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A former spy inside al Qaeda speaks

The secret agent who was arguably the West's most important spy inside al Qaeda has never told his full story - until...

Posted: May 26, 2018 3:46 PM
Updated: May 26, 2018 3:46 PM

The secret agent who was arguably the West's most important spy inside al Qaeda has never told his full story - until now.

His name is Aimen Dean.

We have spent hundreds of hours with him over the last three years.

The result is a book we co-authored with him titled "Nine Lives: My Time as the West's Top Spy Inside al-Qaeda" and a CNN documentary presented by Christiane Amanpour that premieres this week.

Dean is telling his story amid signs al Qaeda is reemerging as a global terrorist threat. After focusing in recent years on building up operations in places such as Syria and Yemen, it is now setting its sights on the United States once again.

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri portrayed America as the "first enemy of the Muslims" in an audio tape released on May 13. This came just weeks after he said in another message, "This is a moment of truth ... let us fight America everywhere."

Aimen Dean (not his birth name) grew up in Saudi Arabia and joined Muslims fighting against the Serbs in Bosnia in the mid-1990s. Then he traveled to Afghanistan, where he personally swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden.

Dean would become one of al Qaeda's most accomplished bomb-makers, and he rubbed shoulders with many of al Qaeda's top leaders, including al-Zawahiri and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who would mastermind the 9/11 attacks.

But Dean's life would take a dramatic and redemptive new direction. He could not accept the targeting of civilians by al Qaeda, nor the use of suicide bombers. Dean left Afghanistan, but within weeks was recruited by British intelligence. And he agreed to spy on al Qaeda and its networks of sympathizers.

At great personal risk, he returned to the terrorist group's camps in Afghanistan. He had so many narrow escapes that his MI6 handlers began calling him their spy with nine lives.

As a secret agent at the heart of al Qaeda's chemical weapons program, Dean provided critical intelligence. He also foiled attacks on civilians and saved many lives. In the years after 9/11, he uncovered plans to unleash horrific new forms of terrorism on both sides of the Atlantic.

In the CNN documentary and in his memoir, Dean reveals stunning details about these plots.

His account sheds new light on many key episodes in the war on terror, including the surge in concern among Western intelligence agencies in the months before 9/11 that al Qaeda was planning a major attack. Dean also provides insights on the signals that were missed or ignored as ISIS was building up its underground presence. And he tells the story of how his intelligence career was ended, thanks to leaks from Washington.

ISIS has lost much of its luster to would be jihadis and its territory; jihadist groups have suffered setbacks in Syria. But Dean warns that these groups are far from moribund. ISIS still has money and underground networks in perhaps a dozen countries. He describes this as an era of "aggressive hibernation" among extremist groups.

Unless their message is challenged and exposed as a corruption of Islam, Dean believes these groups will continue to find recruits. This is a battle for the soul of his religion at a time when conflict and radicalization are tearing apart the Middle East.

Despite the risks, Dean explains to Christiane Amanpour why he is determined to tell his story and speak out against the jihadists.

"If they are willing to risk their lives for a cause that is deluded and wrong and mistaken, then it is my belief that we should do the same."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 261167

Reported Deaths: 5713
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17561191
Hinds16687329
Harrison14050202
Rankin11102217
Jackson10729188
Lee9014143
Madison8495168
Jones6607114
Forrest6135122
Lauderdale6067192
Lowndes5490120
Lafayette511794
Lamar499865
Washington4904125
Bolivar4087109
Oktibbeha403581
Panola380981
Pontotoc374757
Monroe3651106
Warren3649103
Union353263
Marshall352069
Neshoba3464154
Pearl River3422105
Leflore3090109
Lincoln304287
Sunflower290373
Hancock288461
Tate279062
Alcorn270754
Pike268180
Itawamba266662
Scott256048
Yazoo253756
Prentiss251153
Copiah247649
Tippah247550
Coahoma245954
Simpson241471
Leake236167
Grenada222471
Marion220273
Covington219072
Adams212370
Wayne208432
Winston205870
George203539
Newton197346
Attala196461
Tishomingo193861
Chickasaw188444
Jasper177838
Holmes171368
Clay164237
Tallahatchie155635
Stone149525
Clarke144762
Calhoun139922
Smith127725
Yalobusha121134
Walthall114037
Greene112929
Noxubee112225
Montgomery111236
Carroll106422
Lawrence105617
Perry104031
Amite100826
Webster95424
Tunica88221
Claiborne87825
Jefferson Davis87727
Benton84823
Humphreys84224
Kemper80020
Quitman7049
Franklin69617
Choctaw62513
Wilkinson59625
Jefferson56520
Sharkey44817
Issaquena1606
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 436087

Reported Deaths: 6486
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson63969994
Mobile31211565
Madison27851208
Tuscaloosa21233271
Montgomery19698326
Shelby19093130
Baldwin16981188
Lee13036105
Morgan12526134
Etowah11987179
Calhoun11441206
Marshall10357123
Houston8886158
Limestone827876
Cullman8203108
Elmore8120104
DeKalb7828103
Lauderdale7798103
St. Clair7763125
Talladega6394111
Walker6002177
Jackson594644
Colbert545276
Blount543986
Autauga532761
Coffee456762
Dale406883
Franklin372448
Russell349212
Chilton342873
Covington336068
Escambia330144
Dallas312096
Tallapoosa3120107
Chambers301170
Clarke293336
Pike261131
Marion251558
Lawrence250752
Winston232742
Bibb221248
Geneva208746
Marengo206529
Pickens199031
Hale182742
Barbour179337
Fayette177029
Butler172459
Cherokee164330
Henry158224
Monroe151320
Randolph144336
Washington140127
Clay129146
Crenshaw122944
Macon120937
Cleburne120724
Lamar119721
Lowndes113736
Wilcox106622
Bullock102228
Perry99118
Conecuh96821
Sumter90026
Greene76823
Coosa63215
Choctaw51724
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