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The Triple Agent: The al-Qaeda Mole who Infiltrated the CIA

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  2,106 Ratings  ·  238 Reviews
A stunning narrative account of the mysterious Jordanian who penetrated both the inner circle of al-Qaeda and the highest reaches of the CIA, with a devastating impact on the war on terror.
In December 2009, a group of the CIA’s top terrorist hunters gathered at a secret base in Khost, Afghanistan, to greet a rising superspy: Humam Khalil al-Balawi, a Jordanian double-ag
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Published July 19th 2011 by Vintage
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Jason Koivu
Reading this was pretty much like watching Zero Dark Thirty. It's about the man who blew himself up in 2009 at the CIA base Camp Chapman at Khost in eastern Afghanistan.

Seven American CIA officers and contractors, an officer of Jordan's intelligence service, and an Afghan working for the CIA were killed when al-Balawi detonated a bomb sewn into a vest he was wearing. Six other American CIA officers were wounded. The bombing was the most lethal attack against the CIA in more than 25 years. - Wik
Lewis Weinstein
This is a spectacular book, a sad and important true story that flows like a novel. The subject is one of the undercover battles between the CIA and al-Qaeda, heroic efforts undone by tragic mistakes that ended with multiple deaths in December 2009.

It is hard to believe that experienced CIA agents made the misjudgments that cost many of them their lives; people wanted to believe so much that the skepticism some of them expressed was ignored.

What I was left with in the end was a greater underst
For being an addictive read, I nearly gave this book 5 stars. Right up until marking it as 'read' I was still going to give it 5 stars. On contemplation, however, the flaws that pother during the read persisted after it and I decided to stew on my rating for a day or two.
That's when I resolved my thoughts to 4 stars.

The military non fiction genre is peppered with books that serve no clear purpose other than to either make the author a quick buck or to give them something to boast about. This bo
Sep 08, 2011 Michael rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
The book's title would have you believe that its primary focus is that of the triple agent Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, who successfully exploded a suicide vest on a CIA base in Afghanistan in 2009. The book does delve into this man's life, but the majority of the book consists of multiple portraits of many of the CIA employees and the Jordanian intelligence officer who were killed in the attack. The main reason for this backstory is to explain how exactly the CIA exposed itself to such an ...more
This was very interesting, but I did not love the writing. He tried too hard to make it sound literary and could not quite pull it off. The physical descriptions of people, particularly the women involved, were excessive. I also think he took a lot of liberties in detailing what people were thinking, when that's something he really could not know.

On February 22 of this year, United States soldiers burned Korans at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, in an effort to purge the base’s library of tools they believed jihadists were using to pass messages to one another. Then on March 11, U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, a decorated soldier on his fourth tour of duty, killed sixteen civilians in southern Afghanistan. The Koran burnings brought a string of deadly protests to the streets of Afghan villag
Book Him Danno
Sep 15, 2011 Book Him Danno rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have never read a book like this before, I have read so many books of fiction and Non-Fiction about the CIA but never one on the current decade. It starts off with the Bomb blasting of the Khost CIA outpost in Afghanistan. As mentioned in the book several times it was the darkest day for the CIA because so many CIA officers were killed and it could have been prevented had they taken the proper steps to protect themselves, instead of worrying about protecting an asset they had never met. The CI ...more
Jun 12, 2012 Jerome rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A careful, easy to read history of the Humam al-Balawi case, with a focus on how various events, personalities, decisions led up the Camp Chapman attack. Warrick tells the story of all these events as they happened and refrains from passing judgement on any of them or engaging in sensationalism. His treatment of the Agency officers involved is sympathetic and he is appreciative of the many challenges posed by Balawi’s recruitment by the Agency and Jordan’s GID.

Warrick raises many questions about
Patrick C.
I found this book to be very informative and compelling. The quality of the reporting reminded me of Bob Woodward's accounts - informed by multiple interviews and extensive research. Here, there were some gaps that I attribute to the nature of the intelligence business. For instance, the lives and backgrounds of each of those who died in the bombing at the Khost CIA base were presented in remarkable detail - yet those who were also present, but survived, are not described at all.

Two of the main
Elizabeth Sulzby
I found this book very intriguing. It is based on a true story but reads like fiction by Richard Clarke or David Ignatius. This book is about the triple agent mole that lead to many CIA/NOC and other US intelligence "experts" doing very un-expert things which lead to their death. This is a real event, when so many of these people came out together to meet a mole they'd never met before--KaBlooey! Many highly trained intelligence experts got stupid just long enough to get killed.

I read this just
Aug 31, 2011 Benjamin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My review from Lawfare:

The Triple Agent: The Al-Qaeda Mole who Infiltrated the CIA, by Washington Post reporter Joby Warrick, ranks among the very best pieces of narrative journalism I have read related to the history of America’s conflict with Al Qaeda. Like the other books in that category—George Crile’s Charlie Wilson’s War, Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower, and Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars—Warrick has pulled off a truly remarkable feat of reporting, bringing together a rich constellation of so
Hannah Pritchett
Mar 11, 2017 Hannah Pritchett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's fascinating to read about relatively recent history, because how could this all have been happening when I was just going on with my doggy life? This is well-researched and (mostly) well-told, if with a slight journeyman's approach: start at the end, back up to the beginning, give two-page backstories for all its main characters, etc, is pretty much paint-by-numbers journalist non-fiction.
Aug 20, 2011 Erin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating and disturbing, this book left me reeling and stayed with me for many days after finishing it. It's been a long while since I've encountered a book that I couldn't put down, but I sped through this one in two days. It truly does read like an edge-of-your-seat fiction novel. It details the events that occurred during the 2009-2010 winter holiday. At that time, a headline briefly appeared about a suicide bombing that killed 9 CIA officers at a forward operating base in Afghanistan. The ...more
Paul Pessolano
Jul 30, 2011 Paul Pessolano rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
”The Triple Agent” by Joby Warrick, published by Doubleday.

Category – History/Military

The story of Humam Khalil al-Balawi is very convoluted and hard to believe. He is responsible for the worst loss of life in the CIA in decades.

Humam was very intelligent and came from a well to do family. He received a medical degree and was working at a United Nations medical clinic in a Palestinian refugee camp. He was married and had two daughters.

Humam also had another side of him that espoused radical Musl
Dec 13, 2011 Randy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you’re looking for a wide, in-depth canvas of the workings of the CIA you won’t find it in The Triple Agent, but you will find a deep, narrow slice of the agency. Part of that slice will show how so many of the agency’s successes and failures are caused by the strengths and flaws (and in-fighting) of human beings.

Basically, the author, Joby Warrick tells a simple story, and yet it is riveting and emotional because the events are well researched and described and because the people who trigger
Feb 25, 2015 Murtaza rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Humam al-Balawi was a soft spoken Jordanian doctor who, after being targeted by the Mukhabarat, turned into a triple agent working for them, the CIA, but most genuinely Al Qaeda. In 2009 he met his CIA handlers while wearing a suicide vest and detonated it, killing 8 CIA agents as well as a member of the Jordanian royal family. It is a fairly remarkable story which would almost seem risible had it not actually happened. The research here is good, the writing is sometimes thrilling and but also s ...more
Jul 31, 2011 Sheldon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: documentary
Up front disclaimer that I listened to the audiobook version. Not that it makes a huge difference in all cases but the difference may impact the experience a little.

Book really contained a lot of detail of the events leading up to and after the sad day in December, part of which makes me doubt some of the validity of some parts of the story to a minor degree. Not saying it the story was completely fabricated but some of the minor details and thoughts of the people who were involved may have been
Jul 24, 2011 Ray rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A disturbing story of how an al-Qaeda double agent gained the trust of the CIA, only to become a suicide bomber and kill a number of agents in a regional headquarters in Afghanistan. It's an unfortunate and disturbing story, in which the CIA's eagerness to obtain inside information led to some shortcuts and oversights in security, with such unfortunate results.

Listening to this as an audiobook vs. reading the text may have made the book a little more difficult to understand, with a variety of A
Jun 18, 2015 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very detailed account of a failed, tragic attempt to turn a Jordanian jhadist into an undercover agent for the CIA. I consider myself fairly informed of news events, and even I did not know hardly any of the details that are in this book. When reading this book, as a casual reader, it is hard to imagine how it would have been possible to avoid the tragedy. After all, we of course want to do what we can to get intelligence deep inside the jihadist networks. It is definitely not an easy ...more
Jul 29, 2011 Mitchell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Just a great book. Reads like a Tom Clancy novel, but has the distinction of being actual events. This story was buried somewhat by the infamous "Underwear bomber" of Christmas 2009. I distinctly remember that, but I didn't remember hearing anything about this. Some great insight into the CIA and al-Qaeda operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including the famous Predator drone strikes. A sobering ending, one that left me heart-broken thinking about the families of the killed CIA agents, but a ...more
Jan 18, 2012 Pam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I started this book and could not put it down. The first chapter was riviting and I was shocked, perplexed or saddened all the way through. Joby Warrick did an outstanding job of portraying the inside world of the CIA and the Jordanian Intelligance Service. His ability to keep you engrossed in the story line while attempting to wrap your head around the horror of the world of terrorism has you questioning the ability of the United States to remain protected amongst all of the various obstacles.
Aug 06, 2011 Heidi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. I already new the outcome but I still felt such a strong emotion to the men and woman who died.
I never realized until I read this book how much hatred is in the world and that war is apart of life.
This book read like a Tom Clancy novel but it's all written in fact.
My heart goes out to those families who lost loved ones that day.
Everyone should take the time to read this book. My eyes were opened and I still do not understand why Al-Qaeda hates us and longs to destro
Feb 19, 2012 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book, and a page-turning read. Very honest explanation how the CIA got into the situation where they compromised security and lost so many agents. Warrick explored the lives of everyone who was killed by this triple agent and the decisions made step by step.
The exploration of the impact of drones on Al Qaeda and the impact of public pressure on the White House, CIA and FBI is fascinating.
The last chapter describing the funerals of these men and women is so sad and had me in tears.
A great
Jan 01, 2017 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The reason I read novels is because I love the escape from reality. I wish this book was a novel and not based on the horrifying reality that a humble pediatrician actually killed 10 amazing CIA operatives on a US base in Afghanistan.

Warrick is a terrific journalist and I was somewhat surprised that he didn't take the opportunity to paint the scenery a bit more to flesh out the story as he often does in his reporting.
Apr 30, 2015 Caitlin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this account of Humam Khalil al-Balawi to be an easy, yet informative read that attempted to cover all aspects of the story behind the Khost suicide bomber. The author did a good job of laying out the various personalities and organizations involved with enough details to inform the reader without overwhelming us with a dissertation on the origins of al-Qaeda, etc. Would definitely recommend to anyone interested in learning more about the December 2009 attack.
Lauren edson-fisher
This book was an incredible inside view of the war on terrorism. Joby Warrick did a commendable job with detailed descriptions of all the work that goes into trailing, capturing and following leads against suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorist individuals and groups. I found this to be an outstanding book and would highly recommend it.
Tauseef Zahid
Typical American Hollywood nonsense that will soon turn into a heroic movie. Scores of CIA agents died fighting an unnecessary war for US war industry and corporates in Iraq and Afghanistan. No one asks the question why send them thousand of miles away occupying foreign lands.
The true-life story behind one of the CIA's greatest disasters in modern history, and of the agents that were killed in action. Far more compelling than fiction, the Triple Agent also sheds more light on the CIA's drone program than I've seen elsewhere.
Matt Butler
Jun 29, 2013 Matt Butler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very sad but very interesting. My first ever read of something relatively current with regards to the Middle East. Ties in to the story of the chase for Osama, recommended to anyone who enjoyed Zero Dark Thirty or similar documentaries that have been on Tv.
Aug 04, 2011 Mmmjay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Once I started this book I could not put it down. This is the true story of a seemingly benign physician who turned to radicalism but appeared to be a CIA asset. A jolting true story. Harrowing, compelling, gut-wrenching.
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Joby Warrick (born August 4, 1960) is an American journalist who has won multiple Pulitzer Prizes. He began working for The Washington Post in 1996, writing about the Middle East, diplomacy and national security. He has also covered the intelligence community, Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) proliferation and the environment, and served as a member of the Post’s investigative unit.
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“But the Taliban chief brought his own calculus to such decisions. Every American missile that lit up the sky over Pakistan, he said, was like a recruiting poster, driving more angry young men and boys into his camps.” 0 likes
“He said little at home about his time overseas, except to complain about the sandstorms and lousy weather and, in private moments, about what he saw as the futility of the U.S. efforts to graft a Western-style democracy onto a corrupt, clannish society where two-thirds of adults cannot read.” 0 likes
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