cover image Left of Boom: How a Young CIA Case Officer Penetrated the Taliban and Al-Qaeda

Left of Boom: How a Young CIA Case Officer Penetrated the Taliban and Al-Qaeda

John Smith and Ralph Pezzullo. St. Martin’s, $27.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-081

Smith, a pseudonymous CIA case officer, aided by Pezzullo (Zero Footprint), recounts his two-year stint trying to infiltrate and destroy the bomb-making network of the Afghan Taliban. The authors describe in detail the techniques, dangers, and stresses of creating a network of Afghan sources, some of whom are actual Taliban commanders. This is an unvarnished, critical look at the inner workings of the CIA, and seeing the organization function through Smith’s eyes can be both inspiring and disheartening. The field operatives, middle-age careerists, and enthusiastic newcomers generally demonstrate patriotism, intelligence, and sacrifice; the agency itself—perhaps unsurprisingly—is portrayed as overly political and incredibly bureaucratic. Smith is able to present unique descriptions of the psychological stresses endured by the CIA case officers who are forced to lie to even their closest family and friends about what they do, where they are, and whom they work for. It’s a fascinating and engaging look inside the fast-paced and dangerous daily workings of today’s CIA, and Smith reveals in stark terms that the personal stresses he endured were as dangerous as the physical threats he faced operating alone among the world’s most dangerous terrorists. Agent: Eric Lupfer, William Morris Endeavor. (Apr.)