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Political Science Terrorism

Decade of Fear

Reporting from Terrorism's Grey Zone

by (author) Michelle Shephard

Douglas & McIntyre
Initial publish date
Aug 2011
Terrorism, 20th Century, General
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2011
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Aug 2011
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One of Canada's leading journalists takes readers on a rollicking ten-year journey around the globe to uncover the tragic mistakes made in a post-9/11 world.


In the complicated world of terrorism and national security, issues are frequently reduced to sound bites or 500-word stories. But for a decade, the Toronto Star's national security correspondent Michelle Shephard has travelled where others have not, witnessing the impact of Western foreign policies that all too often make the world a more dangerous place, rather than a safer one. The intrepid journalist's ten-year journey through terrorism's grey zone began on September 11, 2001, when as a young crime reporter she stood where the World Trade Center once towered, her arms coated with debris that still fell from the sky. Like everyone else, she asked, .Why?.


Shephard chased answers from Syria to Somalia, from the mountains of Pakistan and Yemen and into the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison. She had tea with men on the U.S. terrorism watch list, Osama bin Laden's bodyguard, a leader of Somalia's al Shabab; celebrated her thirty-sixth birthday in an Irish pub in Cuba's Gitmo; chewed the leafy narcotic qat in Yemen with high-level government officials and tribal leaders; and met a seventeen-year-old teenager in Mogadishu who broke her heart.


She was one of only a handful of journalists to experience the .Arab Awakening. from the streets of Sanaa in Yemen. Shephard ends where she began, at Ground Zero, reporting on the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.


Decade of Fear is a sweeping non-fiction narrative, a journalist's journey, an analysis and indictment of all that went wrong since 9/11. It is also a look ahead at what could now go right after 2011's .Arab Spring..

About the author

Michelle Shephard is the Toronto Star's national security reporter and speaks frequently on issues concerning terrorism and civil rights. She has appeared on CNN, NBC, Al Jazeera, BBC, and CBC and has contributed to or been quoted in the New York Times and Guardian as well as other television, radio, newspaper and magazines throughout Canada, Europe, Australia and the Middle East. Shephard has won Canada's top two newspaper awards -- the National Newspaper Award for Investigations and the Governor General's Michener Award for public service journalism. Her first book, Guantanamo's Child: The Untold Story of Omar Khadr, was published in March 2008 to wide acclaim.

Michelle Shephard's profile page


  • Long-listed, BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction

Editorial Reviews

.Reading Decade of Fear is essential to understanding the post-9/11 world. It is well written, intelligent, and informative without ever becoming boring or preachy. I couldn't put it down. Throughout the book, Michelle Shephard's compassion, dedication to understanding the human experience, and desire to expose the truth guide us through a very complicated world that is plagued by violence, ideology, and bad policies. If you care about the world you live in and you can only read one book this year, this should be it. I cannot recommend it highly enough..

Marina Nemat, author of "Prisoner of Tehran" and "After Tehran"

.Offering smart analysis and humane narrative, Shephard takes readers into her own journey of understanding of the global impact of Western foreign policy since 9/11...the book introduces us to the very real people behind the labels: terrorists, torturers, warlords, radicals...As Decade of Fear makes clear, in reporting on terrorism for the Star, Michelle Shephard has taken readers on a 10-year journey from Ground Zero to that grey ground beyond our own horizon..

Toronto Star

.As is the case for many others, the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks has made me reflect on their impact over the past decade. To this end, Michelle Shephard's Decade of Fear has been indispensable...Michelle's account puts a human face on the knotty legal, ethical, and political problems the United States and its allies have grappled with as they tried to stop al-Qaeda and its supporters: torture for information, overthrowing stable governments who might align with terrorist groups, rendition, entrapment, collateral damage, and indefinite detention..


.Decade of Fear is so thrilling and terrific, I wish it wasn't true. You know any book that opens with an ex-CIA director using beer nuts to illustrate torture techniques is going to be wild, and it only gets more gripping from there. Michelle Shephard is a rock'm-sock'm storyteller and an absolutely heroic reporter..

Christopher McDougall, author of "Born to Run"

.Decade of Fear: Reporting from Terrorism's Grey Zone...tries to unwind the complex narrative of the 'war on terror' [Michelle Shephard] has covered over the last 10 years. Shephard said that by oversimplifying things into a good-guys-versus-bad-guys narrative, we have made mistakes and may continue to do so in our quest to be safe..

Ottawa Citizen

.In her new book, A Decade of Fear: Reporting from Terrorism's Grey Zone, Shephard displays deep insight and an irrepressible sense of humor as she moves through the high and low points of America's transformation in the decade after 9/11..

Harper's Magazine

....compelling volume...One can taste the sand between one's teeth, so vivid is Shephard's language and so compelling her interlocutors...Shephard demonstrates a real desire to understand the complex world and mindset of these unfortunates... Shephard's text, at the same time, is full of anecdotes and personal encounters which deliver a 'here and now' atmosphere at its most compelling..

Literary Review of Canada

.Michelle Shephard has delivered a wide-ranging, well-written, witty account of the war that began on 9/11 that is also a serious, knowledgeable and empathetic journey through many of the countries in the Muslim world where that war has been fought. She takes the reader on quite a ride. My advice: Go along!.

Peter L. Bergen, author of "The Longest War"

.Many books and semi-academic treatises have been written on the narratives of the extremist movements, on the evolution of Al Qaeda and on the ill-fated campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Shephard's book is refreshingly different...Shephard is a master of popular journalistic storytelling and has a gift for vivid phrase-making..

National Post

.[Michelle Shephard's] gutsy stories tell of trips to Africa and Asia -- including some of the most unsafe countries in the world -- but mostly, her stories tell us about the people who inhabit these lands..

Vancouver Sun

.Michelle Shephard hauntingly describes the rage that followed September 11, and how fear affected the many victims of the decade of terror. Through her outstanding reporting, Michelle recounts how the 'war on terror' has yet to be won and bears witness to the consequences of a decade in which justice was not blind, and the world was only viewed through the prism of fear..

Lt. General (Ret) Senator Romeo Dallaire, author of "Shake Hands with the Devil"

....the vignettes and interviews [Shephard] includes in A Decade of Fear present facets of the post-9/11 world that are often fascinating and provocative...But even if Shephard finds the line between good and evil to be blurry, her readers likely won't, which is a testament in itself to the power of her writing...Perhaps the biggest strength of A Decade of Fear is its window on failed states and those who struggle to live therein..

Winnipeg Free Press

.In this age of armchair warriors and 'journalists' embedded in their air-conditioned offices, Michelle Shephard is one of those rare exceptions to the new media norm. She is a real reporter; one who is guided by that old-fashioned idea that the job of a journalist is simple: being there. And in her case, 'there' is often the most violent, hellish places the world has to offer. Michelle's reporting gives voice to the voiceless while simultaneously holding those in power accountable. Michelle Shephard is one of the great national security reporters of our time..

Jeremy Scahill, author of "Blackwater"

.Decade of Fear bears reading slowly. The book contains a wealth of clearly explained information about the war on Terror and a blunt critique of the way it has been waged...engrossing book..

Quill & Quire

.One of the strengths of Shephard's book is that it gives the reader a sense of how the war against al-Qaeda is being conducted in different places around the globe...There is no Iraq or Afghanistan here, no big army or lengthy embedded trips (although there is a 'spy cruise'), but rather this is how the war looks from the shadows, the places where the US is fighting by other means...Shephard is the right person to tell the story, a Canadian...she brings a slightly different lens to bear on events than an American see things you never noticed before...The book does what good reporting is supposed to do: it makes a complicated world understandable without dumbing it down. And that is no easy task. The fact that she does it while telling a compelling story, made all the more real through the men and women she meets, makes reading it entertaining as well as educational. If you want to know what has been happening in the shadows over the past decade this is a book for you..

The Big Think

.No one did a better job of covering the miserable decade of anti-terrorist terror just past and summing it up in hard covers. Shephard, the Star's national security reporter, is resonantly sane and without self-regard...She even goes on one of those educational cruises with CIA torturers -- me, I would have jumped off the ship to escape shaking hands with Porter Goss -- and she tells the tale, beautifully and utterly deadpan. It is a classic of narrative journalism..

Toronto Star

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