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“Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America’s Secret Campaign Against Al Qaeda” explores how the lessons learned from the intelligence failures of 9/11 were applied on the battlefield and how the different agencies operate.

Shanker, an Oklahoma City native and Pentagon correspondent for The Times, is scheduled to sign copies at 2 p.m. Sunday at Full Circle Bookstore, 1900 Northwest Expressway. He is also speaking at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.

In an interview with Oklahoma Gazette, Shanker said 9/11 brought to the forefront one of the major problems within the intelligence community — the lack of information sharing between different spy agencies, the military and law enforcement.

“Before 9/11, there were stovepipes, and there was turf jealously guarded. The spies didn’t trust the soldiers, and the soldiers didn’t like the diplomats,” Shanker said. “One of the evolutions, almost in Darwinian fashion since 9/11, is the tumbling down of these walls and better information sharing, although it’s certainly not perfect.”

Part of the new strategy combating terrorism is the idea that almost every mission is a fight for intelligence, Shanker said, since it would be impossible to kill or capture every member of a terrorist network around the world. Such information is used not only to determine if any immediate attacks are in the works, but also to help determine the weaknesses and vulnerabilities to undermine the organizations, he said.

“Rather than capturing or killing everybody in the network, if you can pull out the pins that hold the network together, it collapses,” he said.

The book states that it is too soon to tell whether the so-called Arab Spring would be co-opted by al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda was caught flat-footed by the initial successes.
—Thom Shanker

“The Arab Spring is still in the first act of a three-act play,” Shanker said. “The fact that individuals on the street rose up on their own in mostly nonviolent protests and ousted these dictators certainly said the al Qaeda ideology was wrong, since al Qaeda called for terrorist-violence overthrow, so al Qaeda was caught flat-footed by the initial successes.”

Shanker said he hopes the book opens up to readers part of what has gone into the fight against terrorism, and present to them the stakes of the battle between the U.S. and terrorist networks.

“I hope they (readers) take away that over the past 10 years, the American government has been very good and getting better, but also very lucky,” he said. “But the terrorists only have to be lucky now and then to succeed.”

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