Reviews for Countdown Bin Laden

by Chris Wallace with Mitch Weiss

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.