The Convenient Terrorist: Two Whistleblowers’ Stories of Torture, Terror, Secret Wars, and CIA Lies
A startling spotlight on the darkest corners of America’s “War on Terror,” where nothing is quite what it seems.
The Convenient Terrorist is the definitive inside account of the capture, torture, and detention of Abu Zubaydah, the first “high-value target” captured by the CIA after 9/11. But was Abu Zubaydah, who is still being indefinitely held by the United States under shadowy circumstances, the blue-ribbon capture that the Bush White House claimed he was? Authors John Kiriakou, who led the capture of Zubaydah, and Joseph Hickman, who took custody of him at Guantanamo, draw a far more complex and intriguing portrait of the al-Qaeda “mastermind” who became a symbol of torture and the “dark side” of US security. From a one-time American collaborator to a poster boy for waterboarding, Abu Zubaydah became a “convenient terrorist”—a way for US authorities to sell their “War on Terror” to the American people.
About the Author
John Kiriakou is a former CIA operative and senior investigator for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. A target of the Obama administration’s war on whistleblowers, he remains the only US official to serve time behind bars after revelations of CIA “enhanced interrogation” practices, despite openly opposing the torture program. He maintains that his case was about exposing torture, not leaking information, adding, he “would do it all over again.” He currently resides in Arlington, Virginia, with his family.
- Hardcover: 160 pages
- Publisher: Hot Books (June 27, 2017)
Praise for The Convenient Terrorist:
“The riveting story of the man in the center of a historic crisis that cost America her moral authority and her claims to exceptionalism. A courageous spy’s heartbreaking dissection of the milestone incident that marked devolution of American idealism.”―Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., NY Times bestselling author of Framed
“Who is Ali Zubaydah? What did he really have do with 9/11? Who did the Bush regime take so much bureaucratic trouble just to torture him, and then keep torturing him? And why has he been locked up at Guantanamo, incommunicado, for over 15 years? Such are the questions posed by this disturbing book, which should enlighten anyone who thinks that ‘1984’ did not arrive in the United States until the Age of Trump.”―Mark Crispin Miller, bestselling author of Fooled Again and The Bush Dyslexicon
“A fascinating and important history well told.”― Oliver Stone
“The Convenient Terrorist depicts the dark story behind the capture of Abu Zubaydah and the broader issue of American values sacrificed in the War on Terror. It is a must-read for anyone trying to understand our post 911 world and the murky forces at play shaping it and the lives of us all.”―J. Malcolm Garcia, author of The Khaarijee: A Chronicle of Friendship and War in Kabul and What Wars Leave Behind: The Faceless and the Forgotten
“In The Convenient Terrorist, Joseph Hickman and John Kiriakou provide a fascinating insider’s account of the policies that defined George W. Bush’s war-on-terror ― as well as a reminder of their ongoing human toll. For anyone looking to understand this toll and its complexities, there is no better place to start than the story of Abu Zubaydah’s career, arrest, torture, and 15 years of confinement without due process.”―Alexander Zaitchik, author of The Gilded Rage: A Wild Ride Through Donald Trump’s America
“Welcome to the Dark Side of America’s ‘War on Terror.’ Aside from the fact that it is impossible to fight a war against an abstract noun like ‘terror,’ just consider this: If you waterboard a person long enough, they will confess to anything. ‘Enhanced interrogation’ is nothing more than torture – and America is supposed to stand for something better than that. The well-qualified authors of this book do a great job of exposing this fiasco, an international embarrassment of American foreign policy.”―David Wayne, NY Times bestselling author of Hit List: An In-Depth Investigation into the Mysterious Deaths of Witnesses to the JFK Assassination
“News headlines haven’t done justice to the story of Abu Zubaydah. The Convenient Terrorist makes clear he’s not one of the good guys. But the authors also show Zubaydah didn’t deserve the torture he’s suffered at the hands of the American government, and deserves a fair trial after 15 years in American custody. This book goes beyond the scattered news reports about Zubaydah, and will help you better understand the US war on terror.”―Bill Sanderson, author of Bulletins from Dallas: Reporting the JFK Assassination
“After you read this book, you will never look at Homeland the same way again.” ―Gregg Stebben, author of White House Confidential
“The Convenient Terrorist is a unique, compelling, first-hand account by Joseph Hickman and John Kiriakou who lived the life of Abu Zubaydah to the hilt. Fortified by tenacious research and intimate involvement in black side of this case, no other authors could come close to telling this roller coaster ride through America’s War on Terror and the major role Abu Zubaydah has played in this war. This book pulls no punches and exhibits total courage. The “water boarding” section reminded me of what I have come to hate in a lifetime in the criminal law: confession by torture. Not only is it beyond the boundaries of human decency but, worse yet, it more likely than not produces a false confession, a serious danger to those inflicting the torture. Every sentence in The Convenient Terrorist is packed with corroborated facts than add up to aiming a spotlight at the War on Terror. It is an essential read.” ―William Martin, editor of The Crime of the Century
“Who is Abu Zubaydah? A monster? A ‘high value detainee’ indefinitely imprisoned in Gitmo without charge? Or collateral damage in an undeclared but unending war―a human being transformed into moral dark matter by uncomprehending national leaders and their unquestioning agents? A former CIA officer and one of Zubaydah’s original captors, John Kiriakou served thirty months in federal prison during 2013-2015 essentially for revealing that Zubaydah was tortured. Together with coauthor Joseph Hickman, he now reveals all the inconvenient truth behind the captivity of this ‘convenient terrorist.’ It is a story for our time, and I know three American presidents who will not want you to read it.”―Alan Axelrod, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to American History and Patton on Leadership
“This book describes the horrific, prolonged and illegal torture by the CIA and the Department of Defense of Abu Zubayadah at Guantánamo. Coauthor John Kiriakou was imprisoned for blowing the whistle on this. Bush, Cheney, and their complicit underlings should have served time instead. They didn’t and now Trump wants to use torture again. Read this book. And stop him.”―Michael Steven Smith, cohost of Law and Disorder and coauthor of How the CIA Killed Che
“The Convenient Terrorist will grab you from the very start. It reads like a spy novel but has the benefit of being all too real. Told by John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer who blew the whistle on CIA torture, and by Joseph Hickman who worked in military intelligence on Guantanamo Bay, it is the story of CIA ineptitude, cruelty, cover-up, and terrible blowback. It is the tale of a rogue agency which has compromised our safety and security while in the process shredding our Constitution and the international laws that should govern us. This book will make you wonder what this War on Terror is all about and question the bizarre methods being used to wage it. This is a book of conscience and courage, and is a must-read for every American.”―Dan Kovalik, author of The Plot to Scapegoat Russia
Praise for John Kiriakou and Joseph Hickman’s previous work:
“Kiriakou cracks open the CIA’s vault, revealing an unusually human inside account of what goes on inside. A vivid picture of the tradeoffs facing America in the post 9/11 world.”―Jane Mayer, staff writer, The New Yorker and author of Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right and The Dark Side: How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals
“Doing Time Like a Spy is an unusual and outstanding book: part prison memoir, part CIA tradecraft instruction manual. If you ever wondered how a seasoned CIA case officer operates, or how he might use his covert skills to survive an experience as brutal as prison, this is your book. In fact, it contains so much valuable information and so many insights the Agency ought to issue it to new recruits. But of course, its author is John Kiriakou, who blew the whistle on torture, and if the powers that be were vindictive enough to imprison him for that, it’s a safe bet they’ll be spiteful enough to try to keep young recruits from reading him. Go around the censors―you’ll be glad you did.” ―Barry Eisler, Former CIA Officer and bestselling author of The God’s Eye View.
“The true life story of a US spy on the frontlines of the war on terror, and what that meant for both his personal and professional life. Doing Time Like A Spy is a gripping page turner that reads better than fiction. A great read about the murky world of American espionage.”―Peter Bergen, author of Holy War, Inc. and Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden
“The Obama Administration and the US Government set out to make an example of John Kiriakou. They succeeded beyond the wildest dreams. John is a shining example of courage, principal, and the America we are struggling to preserve. This guy took a bullet for all of us. We are forever in his debt.”―Marc Ash, publisher, Reader Supported News
“John Kiriakou has done things the hard way, standing up to federal authority for years. The CIA couldn’t silence him when, after fifteen years as an analyst and operations officer, he said the CIA was torturing its prisoners, an act of heroism that cost him two years of his freedom. The Bureau of Prisons couldn’t silence him when, wrongly-confined, he exposed waste, fraud, abuse, and illegality in the prison system in a series of blogs that put him under constant threat of solitary confinement. And he did it all without losing his sense of humor. Doing Time Like a Spy is a must read.”―Daniel Ellsberg, Whistleblower and author of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers
“With a touch of humor and more than a bit of irony, Kiriakou sheds light on the sad reality that his CIA training amply prepared him to thrive in a US prison. What should outrage the rest of us is that Kiriakou was in prison at all! In fact, Kiriakou’s gentleness is on full display in this book―which makes his circumstances more understandable and outrageous at the same time. And it causes me to ask, “How can we ever call it a ‘Justice’ system when an act of conscience that exposes US state crimes is punished and not those who authorized the crimes?”―Congresswomen Cynthia McKinney
“Sgt. Joe Hickman has written a terrific, riveting, and deeply disturbing book. I am shocked by what he reveals. Governments have always tended to suppress embarrassing facts; as the French general staff explained to investigator Col. Picquart during the Dreyfus Affair: “What importance is the innocence of one Jew compared to the reputation of the French Army?” But like Col. Picquart, Sgt. Hickman is compelled by an inner moral code to pursue truth and justice, regardless of the cost to himself. Our country badly needs such men. The truth always matters.”―Thomas Wilner, Counsel of record for Guantanamo detainees before the U.S. Supreme Court in Rasul v. Bush and in Boumediene v. Bush
“Disturbing account of abuse and secrecy at the Guantanamo Bay military prison, tied to the deaths of three detainess . . . [Murder at Camp Delta is] a plainly told, unsettling corrective to the many jingoistic accounts of post-9/11 military action.”―Kirkus
“[A] disturbing account of the mysterious deaths of three Arab prisoners at Guantanamo Bay in 2006…. [Hickman] makes his case with compelling clarity and strength of character.”―Publishers Weekly
“If the Seton Hall report on Camp Delta was a seed, and Horton’s article for Harper’s a sapling, then Murder at Camp Delta is the tree in full bloom, its branches reaching into the spooky shadows of the national security apparatus.”―Newsweek “Compelling… It’s clear from his version of … that there’s still plenty we don’t know about Guantanamo, a prison in which horrifying acts were carried out in the name of every American citizen.”―San Francisco Chronicle
Hold the CIA to account
I. F. Stone, the one of the 20th century’s great journalists famously said, “All governments lie.” I would add, that all governments lie most of the time. Readers will remember the lie of weapons of mass destruction used to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq. They may remember the lies surrounding the capture and rescue of Pvt. Jessica Lynch in the first days of that war. They should not have forgotten the lies surrounding the death in Afghanistan of Pat Tillman and his lionization at the hands of the NFL and our government. But we should also know of the lies surrounding the capture and torture of Abu Zubaydah. We were lied to concerning his true identity. We were lied to concerning his “crimes.” We were lied to concerning his treatment as a captive. Abu Zubaydah was tortured without mercy, never charged with a crime, and to this day he remains a captive in Guantanamo. The true story of Abu Zubaydah deserves to be told by two patriots who were intimately involved in his capture and treatment. This is that story and it is well told.
Awful truth to what has become the unacceptable norm in a country that is fast becoming an embarrassment. Truly saddened and sickened by those charged with leading our country. Those that are responsible MUST be held ACCOUNTABLE, and must not be allowed to continue with their blatant disrespect for what our constitution stands for.