Most of the book is a study of the Brooklyn cell players who bombed the Trade Towers and tried to pull off the 'Day of Terror' bombing targeting NYC landmarks. Here's a nice tidbit from page 262 where terrorist Tarig Elhassan discusses what has to happen:
"The people must understand America has to change...They have to understand American [sic] can break down, can come down. That's it."This is really the point of the book, not to be lost in some sort of myopic fixation solely on Usama bin Laden--the messenger was different back then but the message was the same.
There are a few eyeopeners and omissions in the book. McCarthy downplays the role of Ali Mohammed, the mystery character some believe was a CIA agent responsible for a lot of our current mess. He also brings to light the FBI cover-your-butt mindset after the 93 Trade Center bomb, using the phrase "imagine the liability" several times to hammer his point across. McCarthy makes sure to note the FBI tried to paint the murderer of JDL leader Meir Kahane (Sayyid Nosair) as a "lone wolf" with no ties to any groups. Ironically the 9/11 Commission would later try to paint al Qaeda the same way in 2003, ie, as rootless and stateless.
That's why his coverage of supposed mastermind Ramzi Yousef was a little surprising based on the international reputation of Yousef and his relationship to his now more famous uncle, KSM. It would have been interesting to know what kind of relationship Yousef had to the Blind Sheikh, if any. McCarthy seems fine having him appear from nowhere and disappear. He does mention Abdul Yasin, but just barely. Both Laurie Mylroie and Simon Reeve provided much more detail of the two in their books on the subject, both mentioning the possible Iraq ties.
This aversion could be due to Peter Lance. McCarthy displays no lost love for Lance, calling into question his journalistic integrity, shall we say. Lance believes Yousef might have been involved in a few nefarious things not attributed to him, such as having an AQ operative plant one of his famous tiny seat bombs on TWA 800 (notice the source). Perhaps answering Lance and others, McCarthy does speculate on why Yousef might have used an Iraqi passport to enter America, something that has never made much sense--beginning on page 184:
When Yousef deplaned, costumed in a silk suit, muslin flounces, and slip-on cloth shoes, he stuck out like a sore thumb. He then did just what an Iraqi agent with skads of other false identification would never do: He presented an Iraqi passport...for which he didn't possess a required visa authorizing entry in the United States. In a word (well, actually two words), amateur hour.Ergo--pretty much case closed for Andy. Sounds reasonable unless one assumes "amateur hour" itself was a ruse. The Iraqi passport he used had an effective date of 9/11/90, the same day Bush 41 gave the "New World Order" speech. How's that for coincidences? So while McCarthy might refer to him as an amateur he got past immigration (while Ajaj didn't); he got the bomb plot executed; and he got the heck outa Dodge (while others didn't). Are we to believe that was some sort of beginners' luck?
Finally, an interesting side note to ponder. In discussing terrorist Clement Hampton-EL, McCarthy mentioned the Feds were worried in 1993 they might lose him as he was planning to leave for jihad in the Philippines. He never made it, of course, because they rolled up the operation in time.
But Yousef and KSM both made it to the Philippines in 1994 and were there when Murrah Federal Building bomber/plotter Terry Nichols showed up. According to testimony Nichols was worried he might not return to the US, even making a pseudo will for his ex-wife to execute upon his death. What was he afraid of? No connection has ever been established between these men but Nichols' bomb certainly displayed similarities to some of the Islamic versions used during the 90s. Whatever the case, Nichols and Yousef have had plenty of time to discuss things together at the Supermax.