Happy Book Birthday to Disruption

Book Birthdays celebrate one year of a book’s life in tweets, reviews, and more. This month we’re saying Happy First Book Birthday to Disruption: Inside the Largest Counterterrorism Investigation in History (Potomac, 2021) by Aki J. Peritz.

About the Book:

Al Qaeda did not stop after 9/11. Its reign of terror continued with bombings and mayhem across Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. But its frustration grew as the group failed to fundamentally undermine America and its allies. 

Five years later the time was ripe for another spectacular mega-plot. Fresh from masterminding the London Underground carnage, one veteran operative set in motion a new operation to destroy passenger aircraft over the Atlantic Ocean—and kill thousands of people in the process.  

Disruption tells the story of that conspiracy and the heroic efforts by the intelligence services of the United States, Great Britain, and Pakistan to uncover and crush it. From the streets of London to the training camps of Pakistan to the corridors of power in Washington DC, the story unfolds with murders, double-crosses, probes, jailbreaks, and explosions.

Former counterterrorism analyst Aki J. Peritz brings the story to life with vivid imagery, interviews with top intelligence officials, and never-before-seen declassified documents. Disruption is the not-to-be-missed account of the race to stop a terrorist conspiracy that would have remade our world—forever.

A Word from the Author:

“We did joke about letting the plotters continue until they were on way to the planes.”

One of my interviewees, a former high-level London Metropolitan Police officer, wrote this to me in an email some months after Disruption was published.

The book has a passage where the British told their American counterparts an audacious plan to catch the mass killers. The police would allow the conspiracy to advance to where the bombers built their weapons, drove to London’s Heathrow Airport, passed through security, and then boarded their North America-bound planes. Once on the tarmac, however, the pilots would then inform the passengers to deplane due to a “mechanical issue.” Once in the terminal, the cops would swoop in and arrest the would-be bombers red-handed.

The Americans in this meeting—in this case, CIA officials in London—thought this plan was not a well-thought out one since it would’ve provided the bombers time to detonate the planes on the ground. Perhaps it wouldn’t have been as dramatic as it would have been in the air, but it would’ve been a spectacular act of terror nonetheless.

Following this meeting, CIA officers dutifully typed up these comments and cabled them back to its headquarters. This “solution” went over with Agency senior leadership as well as one might have expected.

So it was interesting to hear that, after Disruption went to print, the claim that the Brits mentioned this idea as a lark. C’mon: Can’t these strait-laced Americans take a joke?

I asked a CIA officer who attended the meeting with the British about this. He replied to the effect of, “Hm, we certainly didn’t think they were joking. If we had, we wouldn’t have reported it back to Headquarters.”

I guess the moral of the story is, when thousands of lives are on the line, don’t make weird jokes in formal meetings with foreigners that could get lost in translation.

Even if everyone speaks English.

Awards:

Neave Book Prize shortlist

A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of the Year

A Christian Science Monitor Best Read of 2021

Reviews:

“In this gripping account of a complex and ultimately successful counterterrorism investigation, Peritz opens with the two sets of terrorist attacks in London in July 2005, the first leading to many deaths but the second failing as the bombs fizzled rather than exploded.” – Foreign Affairs

“In its detail and pacing, Peritz’s step-by-step account of the planning of Overt and the painstaking police work by which Scotland Yard learned what was afoot reads almost like a le Carré novel. Disruption is utterly gripping.” –Christian Science Monitor

Disruption is an engrossing page-turner.” –Shepherd Express

Disruption is a deeply researched and reported examination of a plot by largely Britain-based al Qa’ida supporters who hoped to put suicide bombers on at least a half dozen trans-Atlantic flights in 2006.” – The Cipher Brief

“Peritz gets deep into the weeds of the various terrorist cells involved, but paints a detailed portrait of a tragedy narrowly averted. Readers will gain new appreciation for what it takes to stop the next terrorist attack.” – Publisher’s Weekly

“An outstanding contribution to the literature of terrorism and counterterrorism.” – Kirkus Reviews starred review

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