BADASS BOOK – ‘Brooklyn to Baghdad’ – An NYPD Intel Cop Fights Terror in Iraq

The Brooklyn to Baghdad book / Screenshot via Amazon

As a former U.S. Marine and human intelligence (HUMINT) officer with DIA, I thought I had a good grip on this topic, but along comes Chris Strom to teach me a thing or three about counter terror intel in a war zone – from a unique New York City Police Department (NYPD) perspective. And make it a great read in the process.

His book, coauthored by Jerome Preisler and Michael Benson, is exciting, informative, and infuriating all at once. A MUST READ.

Brooklyn to Baghdad is the true story of Strom, a retired NYPD intelligence sergeant, applying his New York street-cop tactics and interrogation skills against the lethal insurgency that was taking untold American and Iraqi lives.

The book contains many photos and numerous humorous and emotional anecdotes that reveal the men behind the missions and the toll this war took on all those who participated.

However, his memoir also highlights the infuriating politics back in Washington, DC, as well as within the U.S. Army, that continually hampered success while preserving careers.

Strom was a Marine before he served as a narcotics cop and with the NYPD Intelligence Division. But in 2007, as the war in Iraq was in full deadly swing, and after he retired from the force, Strom was recruited by the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO).

This was a government agency that devised classified strategies for combating the horrific threat of IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Within that effort, a group of retired Special Forces soldiers and law enforcement experts came together to form the counterinsurgency group codenamed “Phoenix Team.”

As the lead tactical debriefing officer on the ground, Strom went on over 110 combat missions and was involved in 91 captures of high-value targets (HVTs) in southern Iraq. He was often part of the first breach team entering a terrorist safe house. This was immediate tactical battlefield interrogation and intelligence, not ‘back in the rear with the gear’ at a detention facility.

Though as Strom points out, they never entered a vacant building until their K-9 bomb-sniffing German Shepherd dogs, Rocky and Bickel had cleared it.

Overall, he performed more than 200 battlefield interrogations of Iraqi terrorists and bomb makers. But it was the team’s ability to process forensic evidence and human intelligence gained through interrogations immediately at the point of capture that really impresses. This HUMINT was then used to direct targeting for follow-on kill or capture missions.

Strom’s job wasn’t to get all the answers, but to create the first behavioral snapshot of the detainee’s psychology, physiology, and level of compliance for the next level of interrogators.  This, along with valuable forensic evidence found at the site of capture provided critical insights for further exploitation.

Strom explains how he was quickly able to decipher the fact that detainees who claimed to be ‘technicians who repaired generators’ were actually bomb makers creating deadly IEDs and EFPs (Explosively Formed Projectiles). And even how, during one raid, he discovered a modified machine or press that helped make EFPs.

Over time, Phoenix became a very big deal, as Strom notes “grabbing up high-value targets one by one, dismantling their cells, and taking away their safe harbors.” And the Army took notice.

But their work often exposed the corruption of both the Iraqi and U.S. governments, creating serious setbacks and challenges for the team.  The reader feels their growing frustration and anger knowing that often fighting your own government’s bad faith and incompetence is the biggest part of modern American warfare.  ADN


Paul Crespo is the Managing Editor of American Defense News. A defense and national security expert, he served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. Paul holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. He is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and President of the Center for American Defense Studies, a national security think tank. - - PAULCRESPO.COM

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