If there is one flaw in McDermott and Meyer’s book, it is its failure to discuss the worldview of policymakers in the years before and after the 9/11 attacks. The Clinton administration pursued bin Laden vigorously prior to 9/11, but it was reluctant to take serious military action on a man who, after all, was largely unknown to the American people because he had not yet attacked them. The George W. Bush administration downgraded the threat of terrorism and deprived the intelligence community of badly needed resources, mistakenly focused as it was on the alleged threat posed to the U.S. by states such as Iraq and Iran. Especially in the chapters on the two years leading up to the 9/11 attacks, this context would have been useful.

Such quibbles aside, The Hunt For KSM is a valuable document. Future writers will need to pore through its findings, and readers will find it a horrifying, thrilling read.

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Jordan Michael Smith is a writer in Washington, D.C. He frequently reviews books for the Christian Science Monitor and Slate.