Nada Bakos was only 30 years old when she first stepped into the world of high-stakes foreign intelligence as an analyst for the CIA. Eventually, she became a “targeter.” Her mission? To find the most dangerous terrorists inside al-Qaeda, including Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. A terrorist mastermind, Zarqawi was known as the founder of al Qaida in Iraq, the predecessor of ISIS. Bakos was part of the CIA’s analytic Iraq team leading up to and during the Iraq War invasion and after their analysis was viewed as inconvenient by the administration, her team challenged the White House. Bakos, who most recently appeared in the Emmy Award–winning HBO documentary about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, Manhunt, now tells her incredible true story chronicling the missions, and the ensuing heated conflicts with the White House, in THE TARGETER: My Life in the CIA, Hunting Terrorists and Challenging the White House.
From the offices of Langley to deep inside the war zones of Iraq, Bakos reveals the inner workings of the agency and the largely hidden, byzantine world of intelligence post-9/11. She and her team worked with U.S. Special Operations Forces in a breathtaking, multinational, cross-continental hunt to find Zarqawi and other dangerous top-tier targets. Women initially made up the majority of CIA targeters, and Bakos’s perspective on female leadership in the government and the challenges women face in pursuing careers in male-dominated fields is an incredibly vital discussion.
While Hollywood has popularized the fictional world of intelligence through hits like Zero Dark Thirty and Homeland, THE TARGETER offers a real, firsthand account of this shadow world and of the great personal sacrifice that comes with the territory of counterterrorism. Bakos’s powerful and moving memoir gives us a close look at the determined men and women at the heart of the CIA and shows us that, however removed their work may seem from everyday Americans, it is essential to maintaining our way of life.
“The Targeter reads like a suspense novel written in Hollywood. But it’s the true story of an unsung hero working to keep America safe and speaking hard truths to those in power. I relied on public servants like Nada to fight the Islamic State. Our country is indebted to their rigor, tradecraft, and dedicated war zone service, which carries a personal toll. This is the first inside account of what it’s really like.”
—Brett McGurk, Former Special Presidential Envoy for Campaign to Defeat ISIS
“A revealing and utterly engrossing account of the campaign to stop the terrorist mastermind behind the rise of ISIS. Former intelligence officer Nada Bakos takes the reader deep inside the CIA’s secret war in Iraq with a fast-paced narrative that is at turns thrilling, funny, maddening and remarkably candid.”
—Joby Warrick, author of Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS, winner of the Pulitzer Prize