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The Targeter

My Life in the CIA, Hunting Terrorists and Challenging the White House
Narrated by: Christine Lakin
Length: 10 hrs and 42 mins
4.7 out of 5 stars (10 ratings)

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Summary

"A revealing and utterly engrossing account" of the world of high-stakes foreign intelligence, and her role within the campaign to stop top-tier targets inside Al-Qaida from former CIA analyst Nada Bakos. (Joby Warrick)
 

In 1999, 30-year-old Nada Bakos moved from her lifelong home in Montana to Washington, DC, to join the CIA. Quickly realizing her affinity for intelligence work, Nada was determined to rise through the ranks of the agency first as an analyst and then as a Targeting Officer, eventually finding herself on the frontline of America's War against Islamic extremists. In this role, Nada was charged with determining if Iraq had a relationship with 9/11 and Al-Qaida, and finding the mastermind behind this terrorist activity: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Her team's analysis stood the test of time, but it was not satisfactory for some members of the Administration. 

In a tight, tension-packed narrative that takes the llistener from Langley deep into Iraq, Bakos reveals the inner workings of the Agency and the largely hidden world of intelligence gathering post 9/11. Entrenched in the world of the CIA, Bakos, along with her colleagues, focused on leading U.S. Special Operations Forces to the doorstep of one of the world's most wanted terrorists.
 

Filled with on-the-ground insights and poignant personal anecdotes, The Targeter shows us the great personal sacrifice that comes with intelligence work. This is Nada's story, but it is also an intimate chronicle of how a group of determined, ambitious men and women worked tirelessly in the heart of the CIA to ensure our nation's safety at home and abroad. 

©2019 Nada Bakos and Davin Coburn (P)2019 Little, Brown & Company

Critic reviews

"A revealing and utterly engrossing account of the campaign to stop the terrorist mastermind behind the rise of ISIS. Former intelligence officer Nada Bakos takes the reader deep inside the CIA's secret war in Iraq with a fast-paced narrative that is at turns thrilling, funny, maddening and remarkably candid." (Joby Warrick, author of Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS, winner of the Pulitzer Prize)

"For the last decade, Nada Bakos has been a go-to source for understanding terrorist networks. Her memoir offers a gripping tale on how terrorists, and the counterterrorists who hunt them, actually operate in the real world." (Clint Watts, senior fellow at Foreign Policy Research Institute and author of Messing with the Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians, and Fake News)

"Nada Bakos takes you deep inside the tense, stressful, and driven world of the CIA's analysts as few others have. Life and death issues are on the line more than most know - but Ms. Bakos is one who does and she shows you that in the Targeter with candor, drama, integrity, and grit."(John McLaughlin, former acting director and deputy director of CIA)

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Profile Image for More Yahalom
  • More Yahalom
  • 06-09-19

interesting

it's a good book with interesting stories about intelligence and CT. my only issue was with the narrator, who's accent for Arabic speakers sounds more like she's trying to do an Eastern European accent... it bothered me a lot

4 people found this helpful

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  • Dean
  • 23-01-20

Too much personal information too little targeting

The title captured my attention. I was eager the learn new insights into this relatively new type of analysis — ‘targeting’. The book disappointed me, though. It contained very little about the art of targeting and far too many details about the author’s personal life.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Emilyn Kennedy
  • 02-12-19

Narrator Knew Nothing About the Military

My only gripe is that the narrator clearly was unfamiliar with the military and therefore mispronounced military acronyms such as SOF and M240B, which detracted from the credibility of the reading.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Matt Abrams
  • 11-06-19

A Montana girl goes to DC: inside the CIA and the fight for the truth and against extremists

I can't recommend this enough. Nada tells a personal story of service and sacrifice and fighting for facts while standing up against political agendas. Importantly, she shows the human story of those that are serving in our Intelligence Community who are our neighbors and our friends...patriots who give their all for the service of others and, all too often, at great sacrifice to themselves and their families vs some “deep state” portrayed so often in movies and by politicians with personal agendas. This is an important read in a time where false information, attacks on facts, and extremist views and ideologies are front & center across the globe. Nada and those with whom she worked, set an example as to what it means to serve and fight (both inside and outside the Intelligence Community) for the truth.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Dan Wells
  • 24-08-19

Terrible book. Feminazi Propaganda

I was actually really interested in listening to a book on the war on terror written by a female but Nada Bakos seems to be a political opportunist whose small role in the CIA is exploited to voice a feminist agenda. It's really not worth reading.

11 people found this helpful

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  • ESB
  • 17-07-20

Title is Misleading

When I ordered this book, I thought I would actually be reading about someone who had extensive targeting experience, and would provide a professional viewpoint. However, she had really less than 3 years targeting at best. I worked with a lot of people with far more targeting experience, and a lot of people with a lot more analytical experience. I was further dismayed that she did not even hang around long enough to have a hand in Zarqawi’s death. I learned almost nothing about targeting in this book. Another issue she has is the arrogance of too many in the CIA (not all, but enough). That overblown opinion of themselves just because that is where they work, and poor ability to share and work with the military (team-player) are reasons why her experience working with the military was not the greatest. The fact she even wrote this book tells you that she is a bit self-absorbed. There’s a lot of silent professionals with real experience who quietly do their job, are committed, and don’t do these tell-alls, that in this case don’t tell much. She comes across as immature and emotional. Reminds me of Specialists in the Army--smart enough to be snarky, be not in a position of adult responsibility. Would have been more impressive if she stuck around to be part of the solution to the problems she identified than being a quitter. A more humble attitude would also have given more credibility. She gets frustrated and quits repeatedly. And quitting after a relatively short period, in contrast to many I know who slogged through it for more than a decade. And the whole PTSD...give me a break. Acute stress syndrome, yes, but PTSD? That’s a slap in the face to those who actually suffered real threats. I would have been embarrassed to mention it for the little action the author experienced. There’s lots of people in the civilian world that have incredibly stressful jobs too. Her politics are a perfect example of when intelligence agencies are accused of being politicized. I get that everyone is annoyed by how we ended up in OIF--a lot of badness there (Fiasco describes it well). However, I would have been interested in knowing how she tried to fix problems, vice throwing hands in the air. The fact she has the “challenging the White House” in the title tells you she is politicized and all you need to know about the politicization. And frankly that reference to the White House is also deceptive...she had minimal interaction. Yeah, she did some PDBs, contributed some intel, and other stuff, but frankly there’s a whole lot of people better positioned to be able to reference the White House than her...and none of them had it in her title. She’s also pretty focused on the being a female in agency, and highlighting that. The positive. It can be entertaining to read, and there are a few nuggets of good information. But, if you want to learn something about targeting and analysis, it’s pretty skimpy. “How to Break a Terrorist” is a much better book if you want to really learn how Zarqawi was gotten...and interrogations, and targeting (though I disagree with a couple things he believes, it’s definitely a good book).

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  • Jacob
  • 06-07-20

Burnt Out Experience

As someone who works in the IC, I feel like this book does a good job at portraying the hard work involved with the type of work we often do. However, I do feel like the author goes a little overboard with her view of how bad life is in the IC. I mean really.... it's not that bad. She complaints are mundane and fall on deaf ears of those who have done much harder time in service of their country. Overall a decent book though. The performance legitimacy was skewed a little at her pronouncing of acronyms that people in the community just say a one word. Especially annoying was her "S.O.F.".... we just say "sauf" when referring to SOF or Special Operations Forces.

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  • SFKOCH
  • 10-03-20

Great Read

Great read. Easy to follow and very in depth and informative. I would highly Recommended.

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  • Jack Gimm
  • 19-08-19

relatable and intriguing

Fantastic story with relatable emotion but such an intriguing setting. Nada is a fantastic writer.

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  • jag
  • 10-10-19

The Queen of USA A+

Nada, You tore the hinges off the CIA with heart and soul. Thank you for your dedication most government employees thoroughly lack and the drive of a Lioness on the hunt for her Pride. Kristin Chenoweth lacks the poise, grace and beauty you have. I think I can speak for at least 51% of USA by saying that you’re way under paid. Thank you for a job well done! Your biggest fan, D

1 person found this helpful