His name was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. A petty criminal who grew up in Jordan, the man who would one day found ISIS — and pioneer the blueprint for attacks like last week’s wave of deadly car bombings in Iraq — was nicknamed “the green man” because of the tattoos that covered his body. He had a reputation for using drugs. There were even rumors that he had worked as a pimp.
But eventually, he would emerge from a five-year stay in a notorious Jordanian prison a jihadist firebrand, dedicated to the establishment of an Islamic caliphate — and as the below excerpt from the new FRONTLINE documentary, “The Secret History of ISIS,” explores in detail, there was a moment more than a decade ago when former CIA insiders say they could have stopped him.
“This seemed like the perfect moment,” former CIA analyst Nada Bakos tells FRONTLINE of a window prior to the US invasion of Iraq when Zarqawi was operating out of a terrorist camp in Northern Iraq where the CIA had people on the ground.
“We literally had guys that were working for us that were inside the camp,” retired CIA operations officer Sam Faddis, who ran a kill/capture team, tells FRONTLINE.