Federal Bureau of Investigation

The Front

On July 25, Najibullah Zazi, a lanky man in his mid-twenties, walked into the Beauty Supply Warehouse in Aurora, Colorado, a suburb of Denver. The visit was captured on a store video camera. Wearing a baseball cap and pushing a shopping cart, Zazi appeared to be just another suburban guy. Of course, not many suburban guys buy six bottles of Clairoxide hair bleach, as Zazi did on this shopping trip--or return a month later to buy a dozen bottles of "Ms. K Liquid," a peroxide-based product.

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The AP reports that it wasn't until late August (just a few weeks before his arrest) and that it wasn't from any domestic law-enforcement agency but from the CIA: The CIA learned about Zazi through one of its sources and alerted domestic agencies, including the FBI, intelligence officials said. U.S. intelligence organizations first became aware of Zazi in late August, a senior administration official said.

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The Plot Thins

Among those who know me well, few can remember when I covered any subjects other than Al Qaeda and the global jihad. I wrote about Osama Bin Laden when he was "Usama bin Ladin." And so since September 14, all anybody's been asking me are questions about a young Afghan immigrant named Najibullah Zazi and his alleged involvement in the first Al Qaeda cell uncovered in America since the 9/11 attacks. Here are my answers to the four most common questions I've been getting.  1. Is this just another of the government's over-hyped terror plots?  U.S.

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So this is what Matt Damon has been keeping bottled up during all those taciturn hours playing Jason Bourne. In Steven Soderbergh's The Informant!, Damon plays--and plays very, very well--a character in every way the opposite of his efficient, amnesiac superspy: a babbling bumbler who goes undercover for the FBI to gather information against his own employer but winds up exposing mostly himself.

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On the advice of my physician, I do not watch or listen to Glenn Beck, preferring to follow his exploits via the serial bouts of hysteria he inspires in his fans. So it was news to me to learn that he spends a lot of time hawking the works of the late W.

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When former Democratic Rep. Jim Traficant was released from prison yesterday after 7 years behind bars, the AP reported that he "had his famously wild hair pulled back." Well, yes and no. The piled-high pompadour that had long been the congressman's calling card--the technical term for the style was, I believe, the "artichoke," and Traficant often joked that he trimmed it with a "weed-whacker"--was famous and wild, but it was not in fact his hair.

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Murthaville

Congressman John Murtha passed away today. Below, you'll find a recent magazine feature that we ran on him--and the town he represented for 36 years. One night last August, John Murtha, the U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania’s Twelfth Congressional District, paid a visit to the LBK Game Ranch, a private hunting camp in the hills above his home city of Johnstown. About 60 people had gathered in the ranch’s lodge--a luxury five-bedroom log cabin decorated with deer antlers and flat-screen televisions--to raise money for his 2008 campaign. There were two odd things about the event.

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In the summer of 1990, I was 16 years old and working as an intern on Capitol Hill. As one might expect of a high school student who spends his summer vacation interning for a senator--rather than, say, working as a camp counselor or hanging out at the beach--I had a somewhat inflated view of my importance. I came to work early and stayed late, certain my presence was vital to the smooth running of government. But about halfway through the summer, I put in for a day off. My boss, probably thinking I was going to do something fun, eagerly granted it. Little did she know.

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The Hurt Locker opens with an onscreen quote from journalist Chris Hedges declaring war to be a "drug." If so, then Kathryn Bigelow’s film is itself a drug delivery device, a harrowing, exhilarating exercise in tension and release.

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Good Knight

Over the past few days, there’s been much speculation over whether Attorney General Eric Holder will launch an investigation into the CIA’s use of torture after 9/11. One of the top contenders in leading an investigation seems to be John Durham, a name you probably don’t recognize--or may have forgotten. So who is this low-key prosecutor that may take on the most high-profile national case since Watergate?   Durham began his career at the Connecticut state attorney’s office shortly after graduating from University of Connecticut Law School in 1975.

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