In 2005, the Pakistanis captured Al-Suri and reportedly turned him over to the Central Intelligence Agency. How long and where the Agency held him is not known to the public, but eventually he was “renditioned” to the tender mercies of the Syrian security forces serving President Bashar al-Assad. Yes, that Bashar al-Assad.

At the time, the CIA was trying to maneuver a delicate relationship with Damascus, which involved the kind of cynical commerce in lives that John Le Carré often writes about. The Syrians were a problem. They were facilitating the flow of radical jihadists into Iraq who were blowing up Americans and their allies by the hundreds. But it was assumed the Syrians didn’t really like Al Qaeda; they just wanted to use its minions to stir up trouble for their enemies. At the same time, Washington was looking to enhance its own cooperation with Damascus. Throwing the skin and bones of Al-Suri to Assad’s minions would be one way to do that. What the deal was precisely we may never know, but if Congress wants to investigate a critical mistake in the fight against Al Qaeda, the Al-Suri case would be a good starting point…

“It’s a mystery where Al-Suri is, but I wonder if he could be trusted by his former comrades,” says French scholar Gilles Kepel, author of Beyond Terror and Martyrdom. Al-Suri had been held for seven years in some of the cruelest prisons in the world: the Pakistanis’, the CIA’s and the Syrians’. Among their technicians are expert manipulators of fear and hope. Conceivably, Al Suri could have been sent back into the ranks of the jihadists the way the soldier-hero of the television series “Homeland” was sent back to America: programmed to betray. Indeed, Al-Suri may be more useful to Al Qaeda at this point as a legend than as a living ideologue. But there is no question that his ideas are gaining ground in places such as Indonesia, France, Britain and the United States. And it is conceivable that he is playing a more direct role in the spreading incidents of supposed lone-wolf terror.