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Excerpt: 'Body of Lies'

Ed Hoffman, head of the CIA's Near East Division, is running underground operations out of the CIA. He and his colleague Sami Azhar are in the process of dressing up "Harry Meeker" — a corpse, to which the title Body of Lies refers — who will deceive and hopefully lure the enemy.

Finally, they added the pocket litter — the little bits of paper in the pockets and the wallet that would make Harry Meeker convincing or give him away. They had a charge slip from Afghan Alley, a restaurant in McLean frequented by CIA officers on their lunch break, charged to Meeker's Visa card. Hoffman added a second charge from the agency's favorite expense account restaurant, Kinkead's Colvin Run Tavern in Tyson's Corner — nearly $200 for dinner for two. Maybe Harry was getting serious about Denise. Ferris supplied the card of a jewelry store in Fairfax, with the handwritten notation, "2 carat — $5,000???" Harry was thinking about getting engaged, but worried about the money. Azhar suggested a receipt for dry cleaning at Park's Fabric Care in the McLean shopping center. People always forgot to pick up their laundry before going on a trip. And a receipt from the Exxon station on Route 123, just before the entrance to Headquarters. That was a nice touch. So was the coupon for a free car wash at a gas station in Alexandria, near Harry's apartment.

Hoffman wanted to give Harry an iPod, and they debated what sort of music their imaginary case officer would like. But then Azhar had a brainstorm — they shouldn't download music onto the iPod, but an Arabic language course. Whoever found the body would spend hours puzzling over the phrases — wondering if they were a secret code --and then realize it was just a language lab for spoken Arabic training. That was precisely what an ambitious, self-improving case officer would be carrying with him — so earnestly, annoyingly American. Hoffman had an old ticket stub from a Washington Redskins playoff game, and he put that in one of the jacket pockets, too.

They would add the finishing touches later: the documents Harry Meeker would be carrying to his contact in Al Qaeda; the photos and cables that would explode like virtual time bombs as they made their way up the network — the evidence that the enemy's cells had been turned and betrayed. What they were constructing with such care was a poison pill, one wrapped so believably and tantalizingly that the enemy would swallow it. The poison pill was Harry Meeker, and he could burst every node and capillary in the body of the enemy.

But first, they had to swallow the lie.

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David Ignatius