Gordon Book Review Blog

Agent Storm by Morten Storm with Mark Cruickshank and Tim Lister

Agent Storm is the story of a Danish man's personal transformation from street thug, to jihadist, to secret agent for Danish, British, and American intelligence agencies. It provides a bird's eye view of Islamic terror networks, the links injecting Middle Eastern Islamic beliefs into European societies, as well as the personal allure and ultimate rejection of Islam by the Dane, Morten Storm.

Young Morten Storm grew up in a poor, dysfunctional home, with a violent alcoholic step-father. By 18 he found brotherhood with the Bandidos, a drug running gang of Danish miscreants, and was in and out of jail. A fellow prisoner introduced young Morten to Islam, and the transformation, right at the library, was swift. Almost too swift for credibility. His embrace of Islam prompted him to rid his body of drugs and alcohol, and drove a hunger to learn from the clerics in his Danish, and later Birmingham (UK) neighborhoods. The allure of Islam to someone living with chaos and deprivation was strong, but Islam also justified and provided a release for his violent temperament.

We explored the evolution of the world's religions, the co-evolution of societies and governments and their delivery of economic stability and opportunity, intolerance of religious differences where social order is fragile, and other broad topics. Deviating from the book itself was easy and frequent. This first conversion was the first notable example of the credibility stretch in this book. There were several examples where we questioned the veracity, if not the 'whole story' of the narrative. This is Storm's story; the basic story was clear.  However, we all often wondered if events cited in the book were really just as described, or if they were bent by perspective.

The book never provides specific violence against 'kaffir', non-believers, but it is difficult not to believe his ascendancy into the inner circles of worldwide terror networks didn't include plenty of illegal muscle along the way. Selective omission is the writer's prerogative in an autobiography, but many absences were noticeable.

Storm's first trip to Sana'a in Yemen begins his deeper conversion to Islam, absorbing the philosophy of Salafism, a transnational religious - political movement rejecting of all things non-Muslim, further along the path to jihadist. This spectrum of belief was central to this topic: the allure of Islam as a religion of submission to God's will is not far from the allure of violence on others, especially amongst societies where violence or lawlessness are already extant. And while the book never described killing soldiers or civilians, such actions are entry level for Mafia, drug gangs, and other violent organizations, so expected within a jihadist community.

Having read Reza Aslan's No God but God and more recently Andrew Bacevich's America's War for the Greater Middle East, Chuck asked whether a national strategy of active containment - including targeted assassinations - is effective against a religious based threat. The question has gained importance with collapse of Libya and Syria, and the rise of Daesh / ISIS, and unprecedented migration. While America's physical distance, restrictive immigration policy, and a history of integration into the American ideal provides greater protections against the migration overwhelming Europe, the threat from conversion of society's disenfranchised into jihadists may be as dangerous here, and clearly more challenging to identify and intervene. Will AI and its expected employment disruption create more fertile opportunities for this avenue? Is Islam fundamentally incompatible with democracy?

Storm had become committed to two particularly important operations: delivering Aminah, the wife for Al Awlaki, and later his assassination. After Al Awlaki was successfully incinerated, the CIA told Storm his operation was not what led to the Awlaki kill, no payoff. Beyond the details of the Awlaki operation and subsequent non-payment, what does the evolution of the relationship say about Storm's emotional ties to these people, and Storm's ultimate goal?

His subsequent trip to Jaar and Azzam in Yemen gave further insight into the loose and disparate worldwide network of al-qaeda. Unlike national entities defined by borders, the glue that holds al-qaeda together is the draw to kill Kaffir, non-believers, and to instill sharia law throughout the world. As one character had said, 'we love death more than they love life'. This adds additional perspective of the nature of Salafism and jihad.

The book also gave a good look into three foreign service operations: PET (Dansih foreign service) paid him while the police watched him to keep a seat at the table with CIA and MI5. When Chuck asked if Storm's fear of the CIA was well founded, we all agreed he was an expendable asset, that his fears were probably well founded. His tell-all book is a statement in itself.

We closed with Bill's question: when is the movie coming out? While there are many forces eager to keep this story from broader distribution, it prompts important questions, and is full of action and intrigue. Morten Storm probably needs the money, having gone dark. Who will play Morten Storm in the movie?

Next book is Bill Browder's Red Notice. Browder was the force behind sanctions against Russia for murdering his lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, and in the news recently.

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