Mitchell, Chris 1964-
MITCHELL, Chris 1964-
PERSONAL: Born 1964.
ADDRESSES: Offıce—c/o Author Mail, Hyperion Editorial Department, 77 West 66th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10023.
CAREER: Journalist and author. The Week, New York, NY, senior editor.
(With Jack Maple) The Crime Fighter: Putting theBad Guys out of Business, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1999.
(With John Miller and Michael Stone) The Cell: Inside the 9/11 Plot and Why the FBI and CIA Failed to Stop It, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: An experienced crime writer and a senior editor at the Week, Chris Mitchell has collaborated with New York City cops, commissioners, and FBI agents to tell the stories of the men and women who try to keep the streets safe and also to examine the terrorist plot that came to fruition on September 11, 2001.
In The Crime Fighter: Putting the Bad Guys out of Business Mitchell collaborates with Jack Maple, a transit cop who rose to become deputy commissioner of the New York Police Department, to give readers an inside view of policing a modern metropolis. "With a mixture of autodidactic erudition and street smarts, Maple reflects on what he learned about effective policing in a career that started on the lowest rung of New York City law enforcement," as a Publishers Weekly reviewer explained. From patrolling New York's underground tunnels and subways, Maple worked his way up to a position where he could put his policing principles to work and help Commissioner William Bratton bring down the city's homicide rate by over 50 percent, from 1993 to 1995. At the same time, Maple became something of a social fixture, mortgaging his house to enjoy the extravagant lifestyle made possible by his own celebrity. Maple emerges as an unusual mix of street-savvy beat cop and high-living department officer, but his dedication to serious, painstaking police work remains apparent throughout the book. The result, for Library Journal reviewer Tim Delaney, is a "refreshing, uniquely clear observation of policing in New York City."
In The Cell: Inside the 9/11 Plot and Why the FBI and CIA Failed to Stop It Mitchell and fellow newsmen John Miller and Michael Stone tell the "highly intricate story of how FBI agents in New York City anticipated a possible attack by Osama bin Laden's followers," as a Washington Post Book World contributor explained. The story starts with the 1990 assassination of right-wing Israeli extremist Meir Kahane in a New York hotel. When police raided the apartment of Kahane's assassin, el Sayyid Nosair, they found evidence of a terrorist conspiracy encompassing cells throughout the United States and western Europe as well as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Egypt. They also found connections to Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, soon to be notorious in his own right. "In Nosair's apartment they discovered a virtual road map to jihad in America. . . . One of Nosair's papers urged his confederates to knock down the 'tall buildings of which Americans are so proud,'" noted Jeff Stein in the New York Times Book Review. Tragically, the police department decided to treat Nosair as a lone, deranged gunman, choosing the ease of an open-and-shut murder case over the complexities of an international conspiracy. The FBI did not even bother to translate most of Nosair's papers until Sheik Rahman was implicated in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
From there, the authors recount a series of mistakes and bureaucratic intransigence that ultimately led to tragedy. Miller himself followed the growing threat of al Qaeda throughout the 1990s and even obtained a rare interview with bin Laden in 1998, and his investigations are a major source for the book. In addition, the authors interviewed numerous counterterrorism FBI agents, including the legendary John O'Neill, who was forced out by the FBI for obsessing about the al Qaeda threat only to die in his new job as head of security for the World Trade Center. "To read . . . the seamless narrative from Nosair to bin Laden in The Cell, is to be convinced that if the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. had simply been able to connect the dots what happened on September 11th should not have been a surprise at all," noted Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker. But, added Gladwell, "Is this a fair criticism or is it just a case of creeping determinism?" Similarly, USA Today contributor Bob Minzesheimer questioned some of the reliance on third-hand information and vague speculation, but concluded, "Despite flaws, the book is a useful reminder of how terrorists targeted the USA long before Sept. 11 and how the government responded when an unnamed State Department official talked about an 'acceptable level of terrorism,'" noting that the book "asks the tough questions."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 5, 1999, David Pitt, review of The Crime Fighter: Putting the Bad Guys out of Business, p. 202.
Library Journal, October, 1, 1999, Tim Delaney, review of The Crime Fighter, p. 112.
New Yorker, March 10, 2003, Malcolm Gladwell, "Connecting the Dots," p. 83.
New York Times Book Review, September 8, 2002, Jeff Stein, "Cops and Plotters," p. 6.
Publishers Weekly, September 13, 1999, review of TheCrime Fighter, p. 69; July 1, 2002, review of The Cell: Inside the 9/11 Plot and Why the FBI and CIA Failed to Stop It, p. 69.
USA Today, August 7, 2002, Bob Minzesheimer, "Consider the Sources in 9/11 Book 'The Cell,'" p. D1.
Washington Post Book World, September 8, 2002, review of The Cell, p. T8.*