Recently someone pointed me to an interview by Mark Stout at the Spy Museum with Morten Storm, the agent that infiltrated al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Based on his account of events, he gained the confidence of Anwar al-Awlaki. Readers of this blog may remember my references to Morten Storm in the context of the justification for targeting Awlaki. Previously, I had read some summaries of the Storm coverage and it didn’t always make sense. However, Mark Stout does a masterful job interviewing Storm and in less than an hour the Morten Storm saga is explained – and its well worth a listen.
Here is a quick summary of some of the interview but definitely check it out for yourself.
- The beginning of the interview discusses Storm’s radicalization. While its bizarre that he went from being in a motorcycle gang to being a jihadist adherent in only months, this is a similar pattern for converts to Islam that end up attracted to al Qaeda. Western recruits travel bizarre paths into al Qaeda’s arms. My general rule for Western al Qaeda members, the whiter the al Qaeda recruit, the weirder the story – Gadahn, Lewthwaite, John Walker Lindh – its never what you expect. Looking at Morten Storm, I’d swear he was in the crowd at the Packers-Lions game on Thanksgiving.
- Al Qaeda wants Western recruits so badly that they routinely seem to open themselves up to problems. I imagine in Storm they saw an ideal candidate for delivering attacks in the West. For Omar Hammami, they enjoyed his propaganda and the fact he was an American. But in both recent cases. the Westerner recruits have created a series of problems for al Qaeda. I bet Adam Gadahn is a real pain in the ass in Pakistan as well.
- I learned in this interview that Storm seems to be more of an asset for infiltrating al Qaeda operations in Somalia. Storm talks about helping facilitate fighters from Europe and purchasing/providing gear, setting up a business in the Horn of Africa. In particular, Storm discusses the connections between AQAP and al Qaeda operations in Somalia. Storm mentions Warsame and American Jehad Mostafa as being connections between the two al Qaeda affiliates. Take a listen around the 30 minute mark. Storm provides some fascinating linkages that have been long sought in open source.
- Lastly, I had gotten the impression from new stories that Storm had been betrayed by the CIA or had a falling out with the U.S. According to this interview, I get a very different impression. It seems his disagreements and betrayal rest more with the Danish government rather than the U.S. – but I guess that story doesn’t sell as well in mainstream press.
- Hats off to Mark Stout for a great podcast. He gets Storm’s entire story out in a concise fashion. Take a listen.