Reviews for Countdown Bin Laden

by Chris Wallace with Mitch Weiss

Publishers Weekly
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Fox News Sunday host Wallace and Associated Press reporter Weiss follow Countdown 1945 with an engrossing if familiar account of the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May 2011. Toggling between key players including CIA director Leon Panetta; Adm. William McRaven, who planned the mission; and Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill, who fired the shots that killed bin Laden, the authors start in August 2010, when Panetta first learned that CIA agents had tracked a suspected al-Qaeda courier to a heavily fortified compound on a dead-end street in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Aerial surveillance led operatives to believe that a compound resident they nicknamed “the Pacer” might be bin Laden, though an attempt to collect DNA evidence confirming his identity through a CIA-funded vaccination program proved fruitless. Anxious to take action before the Pakistani government caught wind of the operation, President Obama made the “50-50 call” to authorize the raid, which got off to a rocky start when the lead helicopter went down. Synthesizing material from published memoirs, journalistic accounts, and interviews, the authors build a cohesive narrative, but break little new ground. Still, this is a cinematic overview of one of the CIA’s most heralded missions. Photos. Agent: Claudia Cross, Folio Literary Management. (Sept.)


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

The latest in the Fox News host’s Countdown series tells the inside story of the CIA operation to kill Osama bin Laden. Wallace begins the countdown in August 2010, nearly eight months before the operation bore fruit. CIA director Leon Panetta had just learned about a fortresslike house in Abbottabad that was believed to be the “hideout for the world’s most dangerous terrorist, a man who had all but dropped off the face of the earth.” The discovery was welcome news, but there was also a high level of uncertainty. The house’s owner was a high-level al-Qaida courier believed to be in close touch with bin Laden, and the signs of tight security suggested that someone very important was inside the building. However, there was no direct evidence, and the area was also home to Pakistan’s military academy. Mounting any kind of operation in this environment risked civilian casualties as well as unwanted attention from the Pakistani government. Wallace delineates the process of intelligence-gathering, as top officials struggled to determine the likelihood of bin Laden’s presence and then create a plan of action. The author alternates the focus among Panetta, the key CIA officials who developed the mission plan, and members of the Navy SEAL team that carried it out. The narrative accelerates as it progresses, and Wallace provides the right amount of detail to bring the events to life. He also presents well-rendered profiles of the participants, giving the story a novelistic fullness. This is a plus given that everyone reading it basically knows the ending beforehand. For further information on bin Laden’s life and how he became a terrorist leader and public enemy No. 1, check out Peter Bergen’s The Rise and Fall of Osama bin Laden (2021). A highly readable, vividly detailed account of one of the most dramatic intelligence victories in recent history. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.