Morten Storm is a six-foot-one Danish ginger who successfully infiltrated al-Qaida.
Though it sounds like the synopsis of an HBO series, Agent Storm: My Life Inside Al-Qaeda and the CIA is a 100 per cent biographical account of Storm's involvement in the CIA, the Danish Intelligence (PET) and British MI5 and MI6.
Raised in the small town of Korsor in Denmark, Storm experienced a pretty typical rebellious childhood, including an alcoholic father, abusive stepfather, gang connections and numerous stints in jail.
In 1997, the 21-year-old Storm, inspired by a biography of the prophet Muhammad, decided to become a Muslim. It wasn't until a later jail sentence, however, that he was exposed to some more extremist ideas by radical cellmates and began to intensify his religious views.
Storm left Denmark shortly thereafter and headed to London and then Yemen, where he spent time learning Arabic and meeting incredibly influential people in jihadist circles.
Fast-forward to 2006, and Storm had moved back to London and cemented his role as a European power-player amongst Islamic extremists. He also managed to form a personal relationship with al-Qaida's second in command (after Osama bin Laden), U.S.-born Yememi terrorist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
A decade of immersed involvement passed, and then the switch flipped again.
Storm states that it was his unwillingness to hurt civilians that ultimately convinced him to abandon his brotherhood. "My loss of faith was as frightening as it was sudden," he recalled.
He then began working with PET to take down al-Qaida from the inside.
Rumours of his deep-rooted connections to al-Qaida leaders and his missions with PET spread quickly, and before long MI5 and MI6 were knocking, followed by the CIA.
This is where things take a turn; a tangible difference begins to emerge in the way Storm interacts with his handlers and the way he interacts with his former brothers. And it's not in the way you'd expect.
Morten recognizes al-Awlaki as a dangerous man, but remains oddly kind in his descriptions of him -- he's charming and "well educated" with "a good sense of humour." On more than one occasion, Storm notes that he knew al-Awlaki would give his life for him.
Storm does not offer the CIA such kind words. In a rare and refreshing twist, America does not get to be the hero; while it does get credited for the death of bin Laden and al-Awlaki, the CIA is portrayed as arrogant, overly wealthy and deceptive.
Storm's intuition ended up being correct, however -- the CIA cheated him out of a $5-million payout and, near the end of his career, Storm was told the they meant to have him killed.
Putting aside the fatally dangerous nature of Storm's job, his story is strangely relatable. At its core, Agent Storm is about a guy who has had some trouble finding his place in life. Joining gangs as a kid, then the brotherhood in his youth and the allure of leading a CIA operation as an adult were all about being part of something bigger than himself.
Storm is a captivating storyteller whose candor and willingness to let himself look like a villain open the doors to a world most people would never be privy to otherwise.
His narrative is occasionally overwhelming but is always intriguing, and provides valuable perspectives from both sides of the ongoing, convoluted saga between al-Qaida and the rest of the world.
Erin Lebar is a web and copy editor at the Winnipeg Free Press.