American agents in the war on terror have hacked into foreign banks, used secret prisons overseas, and spent over $20 million bankrolling friendly Muslim intelligence services. They have assassinated al Qaeda leaders, spirited prisoners to nations with brutal human-rights records, and amassed vast files on terrorists.
But the war is far from over. Al Qaeda, one FBI veteran explained, “has one more 9/11 in them.”
How much damage has America’s terrorist hunters inflicted on bin Laden’s ragtag army? To find out, U.S. News retraced the war on terror, starting in the first weeks after 9/11, to examine how Washington and its allies launched an unprecedented drive, led by the Central Intelligence Agency, to disrupt and destroy bin Laden’s operation.
A windfall of intelligence has led to a more profound understanding of bin Laden’s network, intelligence officials say. They have built up dossiers on his followers from a scant few hundred before 9/11 to over 3,000 today. They have identified the core group’s sworn membership, now thought to number only 180. And bin Laden’s personal fortune is all but gone.