The option of infiltrating Al-Qaeda with spies and informants has intrigued Western intelligence agencies for some time now. Of course there is no way to know whether they have succeeded or not. With a foe as zealous, motivated and existentially committed to their cause as the Al-Qaeda, one would imagine that any infiltrators would have to be really good at their game.
But then again, even to think this way we are guilty of falling into that old trap of thinking of Al-Qaeda as an organization. You can infiltrate a secret service, an organized crime gang, a mob, but surely everyone knows that Al-Qaeda is different. It is at once organized and disassembled. It is not a secret society, and yet it is a secret society of sorts. It is not hierarchical and centrally-administered, and yet it has a core and an identified leadership of sorts.
In fact, framing this issue in terms of an organization or even Al-Qaeda is a waste of time. It is more an ideology than an organization, and yet it is not quite an ideology either. Go figure.
At any rate, on 360 Blog today there is a story about an infiltraror who has cooperated with the French intelligence agencies and advised them on Al-Qaeda and other such groups in North Africa. He has a book coming out titled “Inside the Jihad” (just the sound of it ought to guarantee great marketing for the publisher), and according to CNN’s Nic Robertson, he is “the only jihadi I’ve met who likes booze.”
** UPDATE** (Nov. 21)
The book “Inside the Jihad” is out now. For an excerpt, visit Salon here.