Jihadist turned spy reported own terror plot

In a CNN Digital exclusive video, former jihadist turned British spy Aimen Dean recalls plotting a NYC subway chemical attack. Watch "A Double Life: The Spy Inside al Qaeda" at 10 p.m. ET on Friday, May 25.

Posted: May 24, 2018 4:39 AM
Updated: May 24, 2018 4:39 AM

The secret agent who was arguably the West's most important spy inside al Qaeda has never told his full story - until now.

His name is Aimen Dean.

We have spent hundreds of hours with him over the last three years.

The result is a book we co-authored with him titled "Nine Lives: My Time as the West's Top Spy Inside al-Qaeda" and a CNN documentary presented by Christiane Amanpour that premieres this week.

Dean is telling his story amid signs al Qaeda is reemerging as a global terrorist threat. After focusing in recent years on building up operations in places such as Syria and Yemen, it is now setting its sights on the United States once again.

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri portrayed America as the "first enemy of the Muslims" in an audio tape released on May 13. This came just weeks after he said in another message, "This is a moment of truth ... let us fight America everywhere."

Aimen Dean (not his birth name) grew up in Saudi Arabia and joined Muslims fighting against the Serbs in Bosnia in the mid-1990s. Then he traveled to Afghanistan, where he personally swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden.

Dean would become one of al Qaeda's most accomplished bomb-makers, and he rubbed shoulders with many of al Qaeda's top leaders, including al-Zawahiri and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who would mastermind the 9/11 attacks.

But Dean's life would take a dramatic and redemptive new direction. He could not accept the targeting of civilians by al Qaeda, nor the use of suicide bombers. Dean left Afghanistan, but within weeks was recruited by British intelligence. And he agreed to spy on al Qaeda and its networks of sympathizers.

At great personal risk, he returned to the terrorist group's camps in Afghanistan. He had so many narrow escapes that his MI6 handlers began calling him their spy with nine lives.

As a secret agent at the heart of al Qaeda's chemical weapons program, Dean provided critical intelligence. He also foiled attacks on civilians and saved many lives. In the years after 9/11, he uncovered plans to unleash horrific new forms of terrorism on both sides of the Atlantic.

In the CNN documentary and in his memoir, Dean reveals stunning details about these plots.

His account sheds new light on many key episodes in the war on terror, including the surge in concern among Western intelligence agencies in the months before 9/11 that al Qaeda was planning a major attack. Dean also provides insights on the signals that were missed or ignored as ISIS was building up its underground presence. And he tells the story of how his intelligence career was ended, thanks to leaks from Washington.

ISIS has lost much of its luster to would be jihadis and its territory; jihadist groups have suffered setbacks in Syria. But Dean warns that these groups are far from moribund. ISIS still has money and underground networks in perhaps a dozen countries. He describes this as an era of "aggressive hibernation" among extremist groups.

Unless their message is challenged and exposed as a corruption of Islam, Dean believes these groups will continue to find recruits. This is a battle for the soul of his religion at a time when conflict and radicalization are tearing apart the Middle East.

Despite the risks, Dean explains to Christiane Amanpour why he is determined to tell his story and speak out against the jihadists.

"If they are willing to risk their lives for a cause that is deluded and wrong and mistaken, then it is my belief that we should do the same."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 750432

Reported Deaths: 13764
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1031991782
Lake556411007
Allen41662691
St. Joseph36974564
Hamilton36561417
Elkhart29390459
Tippecanoe22886225
Vanderburgh22549400
Porter19348325
Johnson18432388
Hendricks17608317
Clark13206193
Madison13139344
Vigo12608253
LaPorte12415221
Monroe12188175
Delaware10954198
Howard10285225
Kosciusko9619119
Hancock8562145
Bartholomew8164157
Warrick7856156
Floyd7781180
Grant7232179
Wayne7160201
Boone6939103
Morgan6746141
Dubois6214118
Marshall6208116
Cass6000109
Dearborn589578
Henry5895109
Noble580787
Jackson508975
Shelby500896
Lawrence4738122
Gibson444593
Clinton441455
Harrison441073
DeKalb439485
Montgomery436390
Whitley406343
Huntington402481
Steuben399759
Miami393169
Jasper387454
Knox375890
Putnam372160
Wabash360683
Ripley346970
Adams345355
Jefferson335785
White331553
Daviess3033100
Wells295181
Decatur289992
Greene286885
Fayette284864
Posey273835
LaGrange273072
Scott270156
Clay266448
Washington245234
Randolph244783
Jennings235349
Spencer234431
Starke227958
Fountain220348
Sullivan214343
Owen211658
Fulton202142
Jay200932
Carroll193420
Orange188155
Perry187137
Rush175826
Vermillion174644
Franklin170335
Tipton166146
Parke149316
Pike138234
Blackford136232
Pulaski120547
Newton113736
Brown104043
Crawford102316
Benton101414
Martin91615
Warren83815
Switzerland8118
Union72810
Ohio57811
Unassigned0420

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1108146

Reported Deaths: 20122
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1286421460
Cuyahoga1157382208
Hamilton813551248
Montgomery525311041
Summit48395999
Lucas43343818
Butler38951604
Stark33318929
Lorain25658504
Warren24580303
Mahoning22355603
Lake21166387
Clermont20111253
Delaware18841135
Licking16660222
Fairfield16570204
Trumbull16537482
Medina15603271
Greene15272247
Clark14233306
Wood13287198
Portage13242214
Allen11910239
Richland11601211
Miami10843224
Wayne9130222
Columbiana9029230
Muskingum8906135
Pickaway8658122
Tuscarawas8643248
Marion8641138
Erie8056164
Ashtabula7147179
Hancock6996132
Ross6943161
Geauga6834150
Scioto6534105
Belmont6155174
Union584549
Lawrence5726102
Jefferson5675158
Huron5544122
Sandusky5439125
Darke5415129
Seneca5347126
Washington5318109
Athens523660
Auglaize501887
Mercer487385
Shelby476595
Knox4570112
Madison444065
Ashland435597
Putnam4336103
Defiance432298
Fulton432072
Crawford4036110
Brown402461
Logan387577
Preble3848104
Clinton379166
Ottawa373581
Highland359665
Williams348078
Champaign344258
Guernsey324853
Jackson318154
Perry297350
Morrow291840
Fayette285450
Hardin274965
Henry273367
Holmes2699101
Coshocton268960
Van Wert247264
Adams243156
Pike242835
Gallia240750
Wyandot234556
Hocking220162
Carroll197148
Paulding176542
Meigs148240
Monroe136344
Noble136039
Harrison114138
Morgan109624
Vinton85517
Unassigned03
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
83° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 89°
Angola
Clear
° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: °
Huntington
Partly Cloudy
86° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 91°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
83° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 89°
Van Wert
Partly Cloudy
78° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 80°
Showers and storms are possible Saturday morning, but the chance of rain will stick around all day long.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events