Merchant of Death
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Blood from Stones

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Blood from Stones: The Secret Financial Network of Terror
by Douglas Farah

Reviewed by Michael O'Neill

"A pile of horseshit," is how Bill Harlow, chief CIA spokesman, critiqued Douglas Farah's 2002 journalistic piece that established explicit connections between Al Qaeda and the illicit diamond trade in West Africa. Two years, many interviews and in-depth research later Mr. Farah has written Blood from Stones, a remarkably well-documented exposé of Al Qaeda's complex financial network. His revelations, never convincingly refuted by the CIA, describe a system of grand strategies and seemingly petty schemes that have bankrolled Al Qaeda for more than a decade.

As West Africa bureau chief for the Washington Post, Mr. Farah covered the gruesome conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Through his extensive network of local informants, among them rebel commandos, government officials and local business people, Mr. Farah discovered the then unknown connection between the blood diamonds-for-weapons trade and high ranking Al Qaeda officials determined to protect their assets from international banking oversight and sanctions. One would have expected the resulting articles, first published in November 2001, to have garnered accolades from an administration reeling from the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent questions raised about faulty intelligence. Instead, Mr. Farah's assertions were dismissed by a beleaguered CIA as unfounded and wrongheaded.

Undeterred, Mr. Farah persisted with his research into "the secret financial network" of Al Qaeda resulting in this riveting book. With his attention to detail and a passion for certitude Mr. Farah was soon on the trails of drug-addled rebel commandos and international arms merchants, diamond financiers and Islamic terrorists; a journey that spanned the globe. While the cast of characters and narrative style reads like a spy thriller, the people are real and the threat is genuine. We learn that Al Qaeda is a flexible, innovative and formidable fund-raising machine. And their activities are not limited to the remote African bush or the capitals of Europe. In very precise detail Mr. Farah describes several US-based Al Qaeda funding schemes that include credit card fraud, using charities as front operations, smuggling cigarettes, dealing drugs, and scamming grocery coupons. While law enforcement and security agencies are beset by turf battles and political infighting, Al Qaeda is filling its coffers and bankrolling its terror campaign against the United States.

In Blood from Stones Douglas Farah has accomplished something that the CIA and FBI have been incapable of doing--he has connected the dots.

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