Episode #17 – 9/11 and Beyond with Toby Harnden

    CIA case officer David Tyson found himself in the fight of his life at the Qali-i Jangi fortress near Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan on November 25th, 2001. The fortress was being used as a prison camp for more than 400 captured al-Qaeda fighters, representing nearly every Muslim majority nation on Earth.

    Tyson fought his way through an armed uprising by the prisoners and single-handedly killed at least twelve of them, and possibly as many as 40 in the space of eleven minutes. He fired 75 rounds from his Browning Hi-Power and expended magazines from three different AK rifles that he picked up along the way as he battled through the compound.

    Tyson’s partner, Johnny Micheal Spann was killed in the first minute of the uprising as he was swarmed by prisoners. A group of 18 of the most hardened, senior al-Qaeda figures used hidden pistols to quickly kill several guards in the basement room in which they were being held, then charged up the stairs straight at Spann, who was just outside the ground-level doors, interrogating prisoners. Spann faced them alone and killed the first three out the door before he was swarmed by unarmed prisoners seated behind him. He managed to get at least one or two more of them with his Glock 17 before they wrestled it away and killed him with it.

    Spann became America’s first casualty in the war in Afghanistan, forty days after he’d arrived in country. A former Marine Corps officer, he left behind three children and his newlywed wife Shannon, another CIA employee who he met while in training at The Farm less than two years previously.

    For episode 17 of the Spycraft 101 podcast I interview Toby Harnden, author of the brand-new book First Casualty: The Untold Story of the CIA Mission to Avenge 9/11. We discuss the factors that led America into war in the first place, how the CIA spearheaded the first few weeks of the war rather than the Department of Defense, and what happened in those critical first weeks as a handful of paramilitary operatives and Special Forces Soldiers waged war in one of the most complex and ancient battlefields of all.

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