‘KSM understands us better than we understand him,” Catherine Herridge observes in her new book, The Next Wave: On the Hunt for Al Qaeda’s American Recruits.
“He knows that whatever he says will be reported around the world,” she continues. “A military source says KSM devours every story, every Web posting, every TV clip about him. Without question, he is al-Qaeda’s media whore.”
Painting the portrait of a courtroom in Guantanamo Bay in June 2008, Herridge recalls:
And then things get really crazy. For some unknown reason, a court security officer who is making decisions way above his pay grade thinks it’s a good idea for KSM to review Janet’s sketch. It’s the one where he dominates the picture.
Turns out, KSM hates the sketch. He says the nose is all wrong. It’s too big or too ethnic or too something. It has to be fixed. KSM orders the sailors to get Janet his FBI mug shot. Apparently, he prefers this picture because he looks composed. His clothes are pressed.
So the sketch was fixed under Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s direction.
This, among other things, leads Catherine Herridge to ask: “Who’s in control?” Is it “[us] or the terrorists?”
Fifteen yards away from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is where The Next Wave begins, and, throughout her new book, the Fox News terrorism reporter is on the frontlines of preventing The Next Wave — both as a reporter and as the wife of an Air Force major and West Point graduate who was deployed to Kandahar for nine months.
Herridge’s book is a work of journalism — a memoir, a study in what works and lessons unlearned. It’s an American story, a vocational story, told through the eyes of a mother and wife, who loves her family and her country.
Herridge talks to National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez about The Next Wave.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Your book is terrifying. Was that the intention?
CATHERINE HERRIDGE: I think some readers find The Next Wave terrifying because the facts have a power all their own. They can’t believe Americans who are old enough to remember 9/11 have turned their backs on their own country. I don’t find it terrifying because I live this reporting every day.
LOPEZ: Watching the KSM trial, you recall muttering under your breath “Who’s in control — us or the terrorists?” Is that a real question?
HERRIDGE: I witnessed our government bend over backwards to make sure the self-described architect of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, liked his courtroom sketch. These men, who killed nearly 3,000 people, are still messing with us and, in some cases, we let them.
LOPEZ: What’s your most convincing evidence that “al-Qaeda’s American recruits are already here”?
HERRIDGE: We first began reporting on Americans who joined al-Qaeda overseas in 2007. It is not a new issue to our Fox investigative team. Justice Department documents show a case of homegrown terrorism with ties to an international group every two to three weeks since January 2009. Unfortunately, the numbers are there.
LOPEZ: How are al-Qaeda’s followers “just like us”?
HERRIDGE: They are born here, raised here, or educated here. In 2006, al-Qaeda leadership made a decision to pursue Western recruits. Our law-enforcement and intelligence community was focused on young Muslim men from the Middle East as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan. American citizens with clean backgrounds became the new gold standard.
Years ago, I was given a piece of advice from a former weapons inspector in Iraq that still rings true today. He said, “Terrorism is like water. It takes the path of least resistance. You move one way and it moves another. It is a thinking enemy.”