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: 996341

Reported Deaths: 16245
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1343262101
Lake658231151
Allen57160791
Hamilton45963460
St. Joseph43954607
Elkhart35546503
Vanderburgh31975473
Tippecanoe27694256
Johnson24821440
Hendricks23647353
Porter22735362
Madison18538404
Clark18383248
Vigo17274300
Monroe15117197
LaPorte14987249
Delaware14931256
Howard14574286
Kosciusko12166147
Hancock11597175
Bartholomew11447179
Warrick11225188
Floyd10983214
Wayne10840248
Grant9898217
Morgan9361176
Boone8819115
Dubois8210129
Dearborn815492
Henry8107150
Noble7944106
Marshall7786134
Cass7462119
Lawrence7379168
Shelby7115114
Jackson691788
Gibson6480113
Harrison641591
Huntington630299
Knox6269105
DeKalb623796
Montgomery6184109
Miami586595
Putnam573477
Clinton567171
Whitley558055
Steuben550473
Wabash5250101
Jasper520475
Jefferson504695
Ripley492485
Adams472773
Daviess4596112
Scott433968
Greene421196
Wells419787
Clay418460
White414261
Decatur4118101
Fayette402186
Jennings383260
Posey374243
LaGrange352078
Washington352049
Randolph339999
Spencer336442
Fountain331858
Sullivan326652
Starke310868
Owen310169
Fulton304566
Orange290562
Jay278445
Perry264452
Franklin262742
Carroll258232
Rush257232
Vermillion254254
Parke229726
Pike227343
Tipton225659
Blackford187840
Pulaski181155
Crawford158122
Newton155648
Benton150117
Brown144047
Martin137319
Switzerland133911
Warren120116
Union106615
Ohio84012
Unassigned0532

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1494160

Reported Deaths: 23327
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1623021662
Cuyahoga1442512412
Hamilton1042291409
Montgomery729771240
Summit607921094
Lucas55462904
Butler50923707
Stark457361053
Lorain34972568
Warren32373369
Mahoning30168672
Clermont27861321
Lake26543434
Delaware23920162
Licking23442283
Trumbull22420552
Fairfield22117241
Greene22014311
Medina21673305
Clark19567349
Richland18260280
Portage17616247
Wood17174220
Allen15672269
Miami15305296
Muskingum14481174
Columbiana13656263
Wayne13538263
Tuscarawas12415298
Marion11760175
Scioto11336154
Pickaway11264141
Erie10613180
Ross10425196
Lawrence9638137
Hancock9504149
Ashtabula9410197
Belmont9086197
Geauga8795157
Jefferson8455191
Huron8193139
Union809156
Washington8009137
Sandusky7677145
Athens767072
Knox7571138
Darke7530151
Seneca7184144
Ashland6776125
Auglaize664896
Shelby6392111
Brown627382
Crawford6159130
Mercer606793
Defiance6059102
Fulton590596
Highland587199
Madison585776
Clinton575190
Logan569092
Guernsey568467
Preble5640121
Putnam5238108
Williams516784
Perry511761
Champaign502971
Jackson495470
Ottawa477886
Coshocton468382
Morrow449056
Pike429962
Fayette420760
Adams409987
Gallia409865
Hardin409276
Van Wert362378
Henry357171
Holmes3549122
Hocking350378
Wyandot316561
Carroll295459
Paulding275145
Meigs257849
Monroe212153
Noble195646
Morgan190132
Harrison177842
Vinton161724
Unassigned05
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
43° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 38°
Angola
Clear
45° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 41°
Huntington
Clear
43° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 38°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
43° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 38°
Van Wert
Partly Cloudy
43° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 38°
Sunday is another cool day with breezy conditions and plenty of sunshine.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events