Aki Peritz and Eric Rosenbach
Spectator (UK) Book Club, 24 March 2012
Eric Rosenbach is a former academic who is now deputy assistant secretary of defence in Washington. Aki Peritz used to work for the CIA and now advises the Third Way think tank. Their book, therefore, is not a breathless account of terrorist-hunting nor the sensational inside story of how, in Obama’s words, ‘We got him’ (bin Laden). Rather, it is an exposition of legal, bureaucratic, political and military developments within the US following 9/11, illustrated by summaries of how various terrorists were killed or captured. If you want thrills and spills, go elsewhere, but if you are a student of counter-terrorism or are interested in the legal limbo of rendition, detention and targeted killings, you should probably read it.
The title refers to the process of finding terrorists — establishing who they are — then fixing their whereabouts, then finishing them off. The first two are generally intelligence tasks, the last military, and for the process to work it requires careful co-ordination. This may seem obvious but it wasn’t always so; the book usefully catalogues missed opportunities pre-9/11 for killing or capturing bin Laden and other leading terrorists. It also points out that there were around 70 renditions — US seizures of wanted terrorists from third countries with the agreement of host governments — before 9/11, under Clinton. ‘Extraordinary renditions’ are seizures without the consent of the host, most if not all of which have taken place post-9/11.