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Hunting in the Shadows: The Pursuit of al-Qaeda since 9/11


Hunting in the Shadows: The Pursuit of al-Qaeda Since 9/11 by Seth G. Jones is a book that I bought years ago but never managed to make a dent in until now. Perhaps I bought it when I was too young to fully appreciate it, or perhaps I was just never interested in a serious study of how American intelligence agencies hunted down al-Qaeda members in the first decade of the 21st Century until now.

But, after reading Stalking the Vietcong, I wanted to read more about intelligence work during wartime and how agencies like the CIA, when not spying on Donald Trump and his advisers, were able to work with private military contractors, defense intelligence agencies, foreign and domestic law enforcement agencies, and local militants to hunt down enemy insurgents and terrorists. So, when I saw Hunting in the Shadows on my bookshelf, it seemed like an interesting read because that’s exactly what it’s about.

Summary of Hunting in the Shadows: The Pursuit of al-Qaeda Since 9/11

Hunting in the Shadows is about how America’s intelligence agencies hunted the terrorists of al-Qaeda after 9/11. Jones discusses everything from wiretaps, to drones and satellites, to human intelligence received from proxy fighters or informants on the ground in the Middle East.

He discusses the tactics used by the US and its allies to ferret out and kill or capture those terrorists, how we interrogated them, and how our agencies used every resource at their disposal to analyze data about those terrorists. From reading it, you might even think that the PATRIOT Act was worth it because of how effective it made our intelligence agencies. However, Jones doesn’t discuss the civil liberties side of the war on terror in Hunting in the Shadows, so I’ll leave it out of my discussion of Hunting in the Shadows. Instead, he focuses mainly on tactics and events.

And Jones isn’t confined to discussing the tactics of Western nations and what happened to them. He also provides many in-depth cases of how al-Qaeda operatives trained, how they plotted and prepared attacks in the US and abroad, and how the organization evolved to cope with the US hunting them so effectively. Furthermore, he discusses Islamic theology and how those despicable men used verses from the Koran to justify their horrific acts.

Overall, Hunting in the Shadows is a relatively concise and excellently written depiction of what the war on terror in the Middle East and the West was like during the first decade of the 21st Century.

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Analysis of Hunting in the Shadows

Other than my (false) memories of Hunting in the Shadows being incredibly dense, which were formed when I was far too young to read it, my only worry when starting it is that Jones would not address the topic of America’s interventions and wars for democracy in the Middle East with the honesty that they deserve.

Few, if any, authors approach those wars from an overly patriotic, jingoistic viewpoint, other than perhaps Admiral William McRaven in Make Your Bed, so I wasn’t worried about it in that regard. On the other hand, many authors, such as Robert Fisk in his book The Great War for Civilization, do approach the War on Terror from an overly negative viewpoint.

Jones, however, is able to thread the needle and approach America’s hunt for terrorists at home and abroad with the honesty the subject deserves. He praises men like those you read about in Extreme Ownership for their bravery and excellence but rarely does so in a way that makes you question his commitment to the truth. Instead, Jones just states openly and honestly in Hunting in the Shadows what happened when America went to war in the Middle East to hunt down its terrorist enemies.

That is what makes Hunting in the Shadows an exceptional book. The stories Jones chooses to discuss, his depictions of the men he profiles, and the vast wealth of resources used to craft the book make it a good one on America’s conflict in the Middle East.

But his brutal honesty is what makes Hunting in the Shadows exceptional and unique. Many books about the wars in the Middle East have good stories in them and are well backed up by diligent research. However, few are as honest about what America did well and what it failed at doing as Hunting in the Shadows.

On another note, I thought Hunting in the Shadows was an interesting book to read because of how Jones breaks down for the reader just what happened as America tried to fight al-Qaeda terrorists. His focus on the different “waves” of terrorist attacks against the American homeland, way of charting how al-Qaeda as an organization changed because of US intervention, and constant ability to give precise detail about how al-Qaeda and its proxies trained militants all make Hunting in the Shadows fascinating to read.


America is struggling with how to deal with the so-called “religion of peace.” As Diana West points out in American Betrayal, Islamist fundamentalism and the terrorists it spawns are some of the most dangerous threats facing America today.

They’ve infiltrated our institutions, wreaked havoc on the world, and support a fascist ideology of hate, misogyny, and violence. Yet America has no clear policy of dealing with them. In Michigan, Representative Omar’s district is full of terrorists! How does that support the national interest?

One aspect of Hunting in the Shadows that I was struck by is how many of the domestic terrorists that attacked our nation were immigrants or the sons of immigrants and did so despite receiving voluminous amounts of aid and the benefit of the doubt from the American government.

These terrorists were obvious radicals, yet we let them get on planes to America or settle in America. They hated this nation, yet we gave them welfare. All they wanted was to kill our citizens, yet we gave them every opportunity to live here.

That needs to change. Trump’s immigration bans were a good start, as would be merit-based immigration reform, but only a start. With immigration from terrorist nations halted completely, America now needs to work on rooting out the terrorists in its midst. Why the hell are we letting in people that hate us and why would we ever let them stay here if the FBI has even a shred of doubt that they’re willing to become loyal, westernized Americans? That applies to both terrorists migrating here and domestic terrorists like Antifa.

That was my key takeaway from Hunting in the Shadows. Well, that and the fact that our intelligence agencies are very good at hunting down terrorists if traitors like John Brennan aren’t instead making them spy on Trump.

By: Gen Z Conservative