Book Excerpt: 'See No Evil'

ByABC News
January 17, 2002, 11:35 AM

— -- The following is an excerpt from the book See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism by Robert Baer.


In late 1994 I found myself living pretty much on airplanes. I would arrive in Amman, Jordan, in the late afternoon, check into a hotel, take a quick shower, and then spend the night talking to one Iraqi dissident or another about what to do with Saddam Hussein. Often I wouldn't crawl into bed until well after midnight, only to get up a few hours later to catch a plane back to Washington and my office at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. It made for a long day. I was used to it, though, having spent nearly twenty years working the streets of the Middle East at the same pace.

Occasionally, in this covert version of shuttle diplomacy, I'd get off the plane in London and just walk around the city so I could catch my breath. I didn't follow a particular route, but often without intending it, I'd end up in the Edgeware Road area, a part of central London taken over by Arabs and other Middle Easterners. With the veiled women, and the men walking around in flowing robes, it felt like I'd never left the Middle East, but there was one subtle difference: the Arabic bookstores.

In most parts of the Middle East, bookstores are forbidden from selling radical Islamic tracts that openly advocate violence, but in London's Arabic bookstores there were racks of them. One glance at the bold print and you knew what they were about: a deep, uncompromising hatred for the United States. In the worldview of the people who wrote and published these tracts, a jihad, or holy war, between Islam and America wasn't just a possibility; for them the war was a given, and it was already under way. Having spent so much of my life in the Middle East, I knew that such intense, violent hatred represented an aberration of Islam; but I also knew better than most the human toll that such hatred can take.

Often I would pick up a tract and take a look at the small print. Rarely did the publisher or the editor's name appear on the masthead, and office addresses were never noted. But with few exceptions, they carried a European post-office box, often in Britain or in Germany. It didn't take a sophisticated intelligence organization to figure out that Europe, our traditional ally in the war against the bad guys, had become a hothouse of Islamic fundamentalism.

Curious, I asked my CIA colleagues in London if they knew who was putting this stuff out. They had no idea, but there was really no reason why they should have. Since our London office couldn't claim a single Arabic speaker, it was unlikely that anyone there was going to wander down Edgeware Road. Even if someone had, he wouldn't have been able to read the venomous headlines. What's more, the CIA was prohibited by British authorities from recruiting sources, even Islamic fundamentalists, in their country. What was the point, then, in spending time with the Arabs there?