Tamer Elnoury is an Arabic-speaking Muslim American, a longtime elite counterterrorism undercover agent, and co-author of American Radical: Inside the World of an Undercover Muslim FBI Agent.
What We Discuss with Tamer Elnoury:
- What unique psychological skills (and desire for thrills) drew Tamer to the exciting and dangerous life of undercover law enforcement work?
- Why, when working undercover, you’re only as good as your informant.
- How an agent is trained to work undercover (and why the FBI undercover school only has a 50 percent graduation rate).
- How an undercover agent blends in with criminals without breaking the laws they’ve been recruited to enforce.
- What an undercover agent does to hook a mark into noticing and eventually confiding in them.
- And much more…
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Law enforcement is a tough enough job as it is. But it takes a certain type of person to go into (and live to make it out of) undercover work. Compound the danger of fraternizing among the dregs of the criminal underworld with a dose of murderous jihadist fundamentalism, you’d almost have to be insane to take on such a task.
Enter the agent known to more than a few terrorists as Tamer Elnoury, co-author of the book American Radical: Inside the World of an Undercover Muslim FBI Agent. Here, we discuss the blend of skills and desire for thrills that allow him to excel in this field — at first investigating narcotics peddling, political corruption, gun trafficking, and child abuse before moving on to counterterrorism post-9/11. He also shares how someone is trained to work undercover (as well as why only 50 percent of those who try actually graduate to field work), what he does to pass as a criminal without breaking the laws he’s been recruited to enforce, how he gains the trust of his targets, and much more. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
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Miss the conversation we had with famed science guy Bill Nye? Catch up with episode 366: Bill Nye | Radical Curiosity Saves the World!
Thanks, Tamer Elnoury!
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- American Radical: Inside the World of an Undercover Muslim FBI Agent by Tamer Elnoury and Kevin Maurer | Amazon
- Daniel Day-Lewis’ 10 Craziest Method Acting Stories | Far Out Magazine UK
- National September 11 Memorial & Museum
- 11 Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Your Body | Healthline
- Can the Police Commit Crimes While Undercover? | Today I Found Out
- An Exploration of Well-Being in Former Covert and Undercover Police Officers | Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology
- When Social Media Complicate the Undercover Work of Police Officers | Baltimore Sun
- El Chapo: How Mexico’s Drug Kingpin Fell Victim to His Own Legend | BBC News
- Who Exactly Are ‘Radical’ Muslims? | The Conversation
- FBI Agent Fears American Sleeper Terrorist in the Wind | Code and Dagger
- Stop Mixing Up Islamic Flags: A Guide for Lazy Journalists | Mother Jones
- Al Qaeda: Inside the Terror Network | Frontline, PBS
- Formal Discovery: Gathering Evidence for Your Lawsuit | Nolo
572: Tamer Elnoury | Undercover with a Muslim FBI Agent
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:03] Tamer Elnoury: We're going up to his apartment and it was right next to Ground Zero. And he put his arm around me and looked up to where the towers were. And he said, "Tamer, this town needs another 9/11, and we're going to give it to them." I've heard him say so much horrible things for so long that you think at that moment in time, I could have just accepted it and gone up and did my job, but I couldn't. I imagined killing him right there and then. I imagined stabbing him in the eye with a pen I had in my pocket and leaving him for dead.
[00:00:41] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with people at the top of their game, astronauts, entrepreneurs, spies, psychologists, even the occasional mafia, enforcer arms dealer, or neuroscientist. Each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical thinker.
[00:01:07] If you're new to the show, or you want to tell some friends about it — of course, I always appreciate it when you do — check out our episode starter packs. These are collections of top episodes organized by topic. It helps new listeners get a taste of everything that we do here on the show. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start to get started or to help somebody else get started here with the show.
[00:01:27] Today, Tamer Elnoury, not his real name, deep undercover in the US and Canada to infiltrate Islamic extremist terror groups, kind of a big mission there. We'll dive into how undercover agents are recruited, trained, and placed, how he was able to get hardcore terrorists to trust him like a brother and divulge their secrets resulting in their arrest, and how to spot a terrorist among other stories from our hero of a guests today. By the way, if you're watching us on YouTube and all you see is a pixelated blob that's because Tamer still has a lot of people who want to kill him, not surprisingly. Obviously, I'm the other blob, the pale blob, the blob that's less pixelated.
[00:02:03] And if you're wondering how I managed to book all these amazing thinkers, creators, authors, undercover agents every single week, it's because of my network. And I'm teaching you how to build your network for free, no credit card nonsense, none of that stuff, over at jordanharbinger.com/course. By the way, most of the guests you hear on the show, they subscribe and contribute to the course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[00:02:24] Now, here's Tamer Elnoury.
[00:02:30] You've bought more crack, heroin, and other drugs than most Muslims. Am I right? Is that a good place to start?
[00:02:35] Tamer Elnoury: I'd like to think so, yes.
[00:02:36] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. So maybe tell us why, so people aren't just confused.
[00:02:41] Tamer Elnoury: I cut my teeth and my career as an undercover narcotics enforcement officer.
[00:02:46] Jordan Harbinger: So you were doing undercover drug buys, right? I mean, in the beginning of the book, you're kind of like, you're playing like this sort of, well, first of all, you're not even playing anybody close to yourself, you're playing like different ethnicities. And you're basically being like, "Yo, let me get that crack or whatever from drug dealers."
[00:03:00] Tamer Elnoury: Oh, yeah.
[00:03:00] Jordan Harbinger: When you're in a kitchen, With a drug kingpin and another drug dealer, and they've got their guns somewhere in the house or on their person and they're doing drugs right in front of you, are you nervous? Are you excited? Like what's going on? What are you feeling in that moment?
[00:03:16] Tamer Elnoury: It definitely is an adrenaline rush, unlike anything I could describe. Working undercover, putting your arm around someone, telling them that you're their best friend, getting them to believe you, I think the psychological aspect of my job in that is what really drew me to it more than anything else. Getting someone to believe your legend or your persona that you are representing. You're not acting, it's hard to describe. You have to believe what you're selling, and if you keep the truth as close as possible to reality, then you're not acting and doing so you get to see the underbelly of society in a way that most law enforcement can't because they'll see you coming a mile away. You get to actually understand their point of view. And that was always a big thing for me.
[00:04:02] Jordan Harbinger: You say that it's not acting and I'm no, I'm no actor. So I really don't know, but it almost sounds like the definition of acting where you're kind of believing it's so much that you become that character, right? I mean, you've heard of like method acting, right? Where Daniel Day-Lewis will pretend to make people call him Mr. President, because he's going to be Abraham Lincoln and like he's eating what Abraham Lincoln ate and chopping wood in the backyard or whatever, with an ax.
[00:04:23] Tamer Elnoury: Yeah.
[00:04:23] Jordan Harbinger: It seems almost like method acting where at least half of you believes that you're a drug dealer or whatever at that point, right?
[00:04:31] Tamer Elnoury: You know what, I guess if you look at it that way, you're exactly right. I don't know much about acting. I know what little I learned.
[00:04:38] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, you did it well enough to not get murdered. So there's that.
[00:04:42] Tamer Elnoury: Yeah, I guess you can call it acting, of course, because obviously I'm not a drug dealer. Obviously, I'm not a killer. I'm not planning the deaths of thousands of Americans regularly and being a normal human being. But yes, there is some level of acting, but I can't look at it that way because the second, and I guess that's what actors do. Actors don't think about the fact that they're acting, you just get in a role. You convince yourself first before you convince your subject. And as long as you're convinced, everything should fall in suit.
[00:05:11] Jordan Harbinger: So how long were you doing undercover narcotics? And it was this what you wanted to do when you got into the police force. Were you like, "Look, I hate drugs. They've ruined communities. This is what I want to do"? Or was it kind of like, "Oh, hey man, we need you to do undercover stuff because you're not a white looking cop like everyone else here"?
[00:05:27] Tamer Elnoury: That's funny, Jordan, because no one's ever asked me. I got into law enforcement for, you know, the stereotypical answer to help people. I didn't want a typical nine-to-five job. I couldn't sit in a cubicle. I couldn't be a business major anymore in school. When I got into law enforcement, I didn't really know where I would fall in that spectrum. And I realized quickly in the police academy that there isn't a military bone in my body. Apparently, I have a very big lack of authority, lack for authority, lack of respect.
[00:05:58] Jordan Harbinger: Lack of respect for authority, right?
[00:05:59] Tamer Elnoury: Yes.
[00:06:00] Jordan Harbinger: So like someone telling you what to do, you're like, "I'm not doing that because I don't want to, because you said it."
[00:06:04] Tamer Elnoury: Yeah. And my father always joked that, "I should have sent you to the military when you were 18, because I failed." He said jokingly, of course.
[00:06:12] Jordan Harbinger: Right, because now the joke is sort of on him where it's like, actually you being a disrespectful bastard was like the perfect cover for what you ended up doing.
[00:06:21] Tamer Elnoury: Exactly. I was always a little bit of a diva and a little of, you know, skirt the line, so to speak. And I think that. Looking back on it now, when the FBI tested us prior to the FBI undercover school, you have all of these type A personalities taking the test and you see them all on the spectrum. And they're all given letters. Mine was U. And every one of them is a nine or 10 in that arena. And I was always a one or a two. So finally I had to raise my hand and asked a psychiatrist, "Why is it that I'm nowhere near everyone else?" And that was the joke in undercover school is that, my ability to relate to people and not really follow rules helped me understand basically the criminal mindset, the terrorist mindset, and put me in a better position to understand and live outside of rules.
[00:07:11] Jordan Harbinger: You know, I always wonder this about the FBI, because they recruited from our school and stuff like that, and from our law school. And I remember thinking like, okay, I get why you want lawyers and the FBI. I mean, it's good. You want overachievers trying to solve crimes. But a lot of the people that wanted to apply they would say things like — and I'm talking about like good looking tall, athletic, super smart guys with a really good pedigree. And your mom's like a Senator or something like that. And they'd go, "Yeah. I'm not going to make it because I smoked pot in college and like kind of a lot, but not a ton, but kind of a lot." And I'm like, "But weren't you on the varsity rowing team of some blue bloods school." And they're like, "Yeah." And I thought, okay, why do you think that a bunch of dudes who spent every free moment in church — and I don't mean to, I'm not disparaging religious people. What I'm saying is like really good, you don't want really the best people trying to think like criminals, because they're not used to it. You want like a touch of scumbag in there, right? Just like—
[00:08:09] Tamer Elnoury: Without a doubt.
[00:08:09] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:08:10] Tamer Elnoury: It's a catch-22, though. If you think about it.
[00:08:12] Jordan Harbinger: It is.
[00:08:13] Tamer Elnoury: You're trying to get the best of society. But at the same time, when you shoot too high, there has to be a happy middle. There has to be someone who's actually lived their lives. And I think the bureau, I think law enforcement in general is starting to take that turn and starting to understand that people who represent law enforcement should be representative of the community they serve. They should be a mirror image of who they serve. If there's too much of a discrepancy between law enforcement, the government, and the people they serve, I think that's when you run into some problems.
[00:08:44] Jordan Harbinger: I think so. I also think like you want to find — and look, I'm no expert, I'm running this by you more as a question, but it seems like you would want people who would probably do some bad sh*t, but they're so afraid of getting caught that the best way for them to do this is like under the auspices of law enforcement, right? Like I would love to hack systems and learn how to do that, or like go and do this and that, and the other thing and bus people, but I don't want to get caught and then thrown into a jail. So the best thing to do is make me go after the people that are doing that, because I'm basically giving them a taste of their own medicine. And then at the end I get an award or something like that. Perfect for somebody like me, right?
[00:09:21] Tamer Elnoury: I'll tell you, Jordan. We had a saying back in my drug days, "You're only as good as your informant." And some of the best informants I've ever had were the people that you're describing. Those who are super smart, super savvy, got caught doing something stupid, could never have a law enforcement career, but they're the ones that you hit your wagon. They're the ones that — I had that informant that I mentioned in the book, he put more coke on the table than any detective or any cop I ever worked with. That's how smart he was, how well he knew the game, how plugged in he was. And he wasn't a bad guy, he wasn't a killer, he wasn't any, he was just a businessman in the wrong side of the fence and he was my best informant.
[00:09:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Yeah. It totally makes sense. I get that it could be kind of a slippery slope though, right? Like you don't want to empower smart people to do tons of bad things. We've seen that go awry in Afghanistan and other places where we're like, "No, we can totally control this rebellious army of guys that live in caves, but we just need to give them tons of weapons and training. Nothing's going to go wrong." You have to be kind of careful with that sort of thing, which leads me to sort of, to the point of the book, which is at some point you switched from buying drugs, from drug dealers to focusing on Islamic terror. And that is kind of a personal term for you, right?
[00:10:32] Tamer Elnoury: Absolutely. Essentially, it was the perfect storm. As I mentioned, I was getting into law enforcement to help people and all the right reasons. And I found narcotics enforcement undercover, specifically to be my forte, if you will, because of my ability to relate to people and because of my need to not be the SWAT guy hitting the door. But the guy getting to know these individuals who were causing havoc on a personal level prior to, and helping to build a case that way. That skillset set me up for something I had, no idea was coming.
[00:11:06] I'm a Muslim, I'm American, I'm in law enforcement. I have friends, best friends of every race, ethnicity, religion. It was never an issue. It was never a thing. But after 9/11, we got punched in the face by an enemy that mainstream America just simply didn't understand they didn't know enough about. It didn't really matter what religion someone was, but all of a sudden, thousands of people are getting killed in our backyard in the name of a religion that most people didn't understand. And that's how it became personal. 9/11 was personal to all of us, but that's what took a turn for me. And I was hoping that I could help out in some way.
[00:11:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. This is interesting to hear, because I remember distinctly a lot of obviously just hateful kind of bullsh*t conversations where people would say things like, "No Jews died on 9/11," and I'm like, "Are you, what, who told you that?" you know, or like, "Where do you even think that the information comes from? Or they'd say, "Oh, so the Muslims that we have," because I lived in New York after that, they'd say like, "Ooh, there's a lot of Muslims here, but they're like sleeper cells." And I'm like, "Just do even the basic math on how many people that is." That is a ridiculous comment to make, not to mention how many Muslims and Jewish people died in the Twin Tower. I mean, it's just like, none of it makes any sense, but there was all this distrust. So I can understand how, as a Muslim who lives in America, you're like, oh man, not only does this make everyone look bad, but if you're religious, it's probably the most blasphemous thing that anybody could do to your religion, right? They're using it to murder people like lots of innocent people.
[00:12:38] Tamer Elnoury: Absolutely. I'll flat out tell you right now, I'm not as religious as I should be. As we all think for people who do follow over religion, we all feel like we could be more religious than we are. And I'm definitely on that spectrum as well. I'm not as religious as my sister or my father, but I lived with and grew up with the religion of Islam and knowing full well that this was not the religion that was being portrayed. It kind of broke me a little bit inside. I think that's what kind of had me trying to help.
[00:13:09] And at the time, none of us really knew what was happening. It took us all by surprise. My initial reaction, my knee jerk reaction was to simply help with translations with wire taps, whatever I can do. I was in law enforcement. I spoke Arabic, I'm a Muslim, let me do what I can to help. But the FBI wasn't prepared at that time to take on this new enemy, you know, the way things played out.
[00:13:33] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Okay. So how did you end up getting into it though? Where they just like, "Find every brown guy in the department and send them to the FBI"? You kind of mentioned that that's how it went in the book. They were kind of like, "Wait, you speak Arabic? Follow me right now." It was a little ad hoc.
[00:13:47] Tamer Elnoury: It was definitely the recruiting that was prior to, I remember at my police academy graduation, which was 1996. I remember being recruited into potentially joining up at that time, it was on the heels of the '93 World Trade Center bombing. It was still coming to light, but it was still a criminal thing. It wasn't really intelligence yet, but it wasn't until several years had passed and I was doing about a little over 10 years strictly undercover narcotics when I met the FBI undercover coordinator out of Newark, New Jersey at a private DMV office, that kind of shifted my gears.
[00:14:25] Jordan Harbinger: You just met them at the DMV?
[00:14:27] Tamer Elnoury: Well, it's not an actual DMV. It's an actual private office run by the state police. And it's essentially made for undercovers, specifically, at least it was supposed to be.
[00:14:38] Jordan Harbinger: I see. So you get your fake credentials and everything from this.
[00:14:42] Tamer Elnoury: Correct.
[00:14:42] Jordan Harbinger: I kind of wondered about that because I'm like how do you get that without some schmo at the front desk being like, "Oh, hey, here's your fake driver's license guy who's definitely doing something shady". That makes sense because they've got to clear those people too, right?
[00:14:55] Tamer Elnoury: Oh, yeah. It's actually all law enforcement specifically. So when I was there and what I thought was some sh*t head was walking in dress like a biker and he looked like a mobster/biker, I was a little annoyed at the state trooper, the sergeant at the desk, like, "What are you doing? This is where I buy drugs. This is where I'm working. Why are you letting some guy like this?" And it wasn't until I took a peek at his Blackberry and realized, because thank God his eyes were bad because his font was huge, that he got an email from the Department of Justice.
[00:15:25] That's when I asked him, I said, "Man, who are you with?" And he says, "Who are you with?" like Sopranos extra. And that was it. He asked me what I did and I explained to him and he said, "What nationality are you?" because he couldn't place it. When I told him I was Egyptian. He goes, "Do you speak Arabic?" "Yeah." "What religion are you? If you don't mind me asking." I tell them all about myself. He buys me a cup of coffee, and then he asks me to help them out on a case. And that's when essentially, they were testing me and making sure I wasn't just — because you speak a language and you look a certain look, it doesn't mean you have what it takes to act in an undercover capacity, especially over a long term. That's a different animal altogether.
[00:16:01] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That's interesting. Tell me about that because you hear that a lot. How hard could it be to find somebody to work on undercover? A lot of people speak Arabic or a lot of people speak — but it's like the hard part is not finding the Asian dude who speaks Mandarin. The hard part is finding somebody who can pretend to be someone they're not for three months at a time or a year.
[00:16:20] Tamer Elnoury: Honestly. And I'm going to tell you there's many obstacles, especially as we get more and more into the digital age. For example, the last few years of undercover schools, I've noticed that a lot of kids coming on are socially awkward. They can't communicate with—
[00:16:36] Jordan Harbinger: Guilty as charged.
[00:16:37] Tamer Elnoury: Well, they can't communicate without Bitmoji or texting. And just, if I were to tell you right now, go sit in the bar and talk to that guy and get as much information as you can from — a lot of people would struggle with that.
[00:16:47] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:16:47] Tamer Elnoury: It's that old fashioned human contact that we found was a major hurdle. Putting that aside, we're all type A personalities at least most people who get into law enforcement or military are. And when you're a type A personality, it's very, very hard to dangle a carrot and not go after it. So as an undercover, you have to be disciplined enough to walk away from doing dirty, from walk away from giving up too much of yourself. And make it as natural as possible. You have to almost step outside yourself — and trust me when I tell you. It took me years of listening to myself on tape. Before I tell myself, "Shut the f*ck up. We don't need to hear you anymore. Let the bad guy talk because as an undercover, you're desperately trying to get your legend across. You're desperately trying to get your story across and you're not actively listening to what the targets are telling you." So there's so many nuances and layers to doing undercover work. That it takes time and it takes a certain kind of personality before you get a couple who are special.
[00:17:51] Jordan Harbinger: How do you test them? Do you just have them—? Obviously there's an undercover school. I assumed some testing happens there and some people, you just shake your head and go this guy's going to get killed in the first job. But there's got to be some sort of like rubber meets the road. Okay, we think maybe they're ready, but we're not sure. How do you test somebody out?
[00:18:08] Tamer Elnoury: Well, the school is very sensitive, obviously. So I'll talk around a bunch of different things, but I will say this, there are scenarios and things of that nature and believe it or not, everything is real in the sense that everything has happened to an actual undercover. So you put people in situations to see how they would react. Are they going to break cover? Are they going to stay on point, stay on track? Keep the train moving if you will, because the undercover is the engineer of the investigation for the case officers and everyone else.
[00:18:38] Jordan Harbinger: That's interesting, right? Because that means that you're kind of a boss if you're the one who is doing the actual undercover work. Is that correct?
[00:18:46] Tamer Elnoury: Oh, absolutely. I tell my undercover — right now I'm an executive management. And the first thing I tell my undercovers is there is no rank and undercover work. You're the boss because you're the one that's on the ground. You're the one that sees everything and hears everything and feels everything before we do by the time you get back to us and tell us. So every decision you make is yours and yours alone. And as long as you know what the goals of the investigation are, what is, and isn't acceptable, what you can and cannot do, and what matters most, we trust your judgment. That's a big, huge amount of trust that you're putting in one person.
[00:19:21] But it has to be that way, because if you're a frontline soldier, you got a chain of command. Same in law enforcement. You're a patrolman all the way up to the chief. At the end of the day, everything goes through the chain of command. But those decisions in an undercover covert operation have to absolutely need to go by the undercover. If they're not comfortable, they can't be pushed. A supervisor can't tell them you're going in there. You're buying this much heroin and you're doing X, Y, and Z. That's not how life works. That's not how reality is.
[00:19:49] Jordan Harbinger: That makes sense. They can't say, go into this dark basement with no radio communication where we can't see you, even though you totally don't feel safe and you're getting all the creepy red flag vibes, just do it anyway, like from the safety of his van or the office. I guess, first priority is to make sure that you don't get killed or injured on the job.
[00:20:08] Tamer Elnoury: Absolutely. It's the only thing in law enforcement that's still voluntary. You can never be told you have to work in an undercover capacity.
[00:20:14] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, interesting. So what do they — I mean, you mentioned that the school is sensitive, so obviously describe as much as you can without giving away trade craft, but it's got to be kind of like acting school and in some respects, right?
[00:20:26] Tamer Elnoury: To an extent, the biggest thing I can tell you, and I think the most, what I didn't understand when I was going through it is the sleep deprivation. You're sleep deprived, okay, for those two weeks.
[00:20:37] Jordan Harbinger: By design?
[00:20:37] Tamer Elnoury: By design, 1000 percent, because of the fact that. When you're sleep deprived, your true colors come out. And when you're working a long-term covert op, there'll be times when I'm hanging out with bad guys here, overseas, it doesn't matter. And I'll spend hours with them. We'll travel together. And when they go to sleep, they think I'm going to sleep. I'm actually going to a safe house to debrief the team. So I'm getting maybe one, two, three hours max of sleep at night before I go in the next day in addition to remembering things. If I'm overseas, I can't really take notes. There's a lot of things that I have to put into memory. So there's a ton of work that makes you sleep deprived. And I didn't realize this when I was going through the school, but that sleep deprivation, your true colors bleed out. Whether or not you believe it, when you're sleep deprived, who you are, will come out. And that's one of the main reasons why the FBI undercover school has a 50 percent graduation. You make terrible decisions, terrible mistakes, life and death mistakes when you're sleep deprived. If you can't handle sleep deprivation, you'll never be able to work covert ops.
[00:21:39] Jordan Harbinger: Do they give you any sorts of those drugs that keep pilots alert for eight hours at a time? They don't mess with that stuff?
[00:21:46] Tamer Elnoury: Not at all.
[00:21:47] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:21:47] Tamer Elnoury: The only thing I've ever taken was some Ambien to flip my schedule when I'm traveling really far and stuff. So I can avoid jet lag so I can work when I hit the ground running.
[00:21:57] Jordan Harbinger: It seems like though, if you're undercover as a drug dealer and you're tired, you got options, right? I don't know. I'm just saying like, there's stuff you could maybe get your hands on that might help with that. Or is that frowned upon?
[00:22:08] Tamer Elnoury: Yeah, that's a big no-no. That's always—
[00:22:11] Jordan Harbinger: Okay, I understand. It's a big no-no because of what your insurance or the health care, but like, what happens if I am a drug kingpin or a drug dealer and I've got a new shipment of drugs in, and all of these thugs are hanging out and they're blowing lines of cocaine and I'm like, "Yo, sit down and join us." And you're like, "No, thanks. I don't do that stuff." I mean, how's that going to fly, right?
[00:22:32] Tamer Elnoury: Well, let me put it to you this way. If in that scenario, that guy put a gun to my head and said, "You're doing a line of coke." I'd ask them, "How many would you like me to do?"
[00:22:40] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. You want me to cut it up for you?
[00:22:42] Tamer Elnoury: Of course, that's obviously a life and death situation. You can articulate it, but it's just not a good look or a good feel when a police officer is acting in an undercover capacity and is breaking the law as well. It's illegal for starters. We technically can't break the law. We can't be a part of burglaries, robberies, things of that nature. As a matter of fact, in federal work, you have to get what's called OIA, which is Otherwise Illegal Activities and things like that in an effort to make sure that whatever crime you're committing, you're protected for and the government can't go back in and prosecute you later on.
[00:23:18] Jordan Harbinger: Look, this is a dumb question and I'm sure I'm not the first person to think about it here though. So if I'm a criminal, don't I just make everybody do crimes with me and the guy who goes like, "Oh guys, I'm pretty busy today. Can't join the burglary." Like that's the cop, right? Come on, there's got to be a way.
[00:23:32] Tamer Elnoury: Yeah, there is a way. There's a way to avoid certain situations. And sometimes, there's a way, if you know, that's where you're headed, then you jump in front of it. I always tell my undercovers this, that I trained, you're only going to be held back by your own imagination. If you feel like that's where this movie's headed, you had them off at the past. You set up your own criminal activity, have them join you and everybody that's happening, whether it's a burglary or robbery, is all in a controlled situation where there are other undercovers and things of that nature. You can paint whatever picture you want to the bad guys to help believe your legend. There's nothing holding you back from what you can do.
[00:24:14] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, okay, so instead of me having to go with you on your thing, or that might happen later, and I guess it would have to be cleared, but maybe I'm the one who's like, "Hey guys, I got this idea. There's this person who lives alone. She's old, she's got a bunch of art. I know we can fence it."
[00:24:26] Tamer Elnoury: Bingo.
[00:24:27] Jordan Harbinger: "Help me get in, keep a look out for me, I'll go in and grab it." And then you just get a bunch of stuff that was seized from the previous bust.
[00:24:33] Tamer Elnoury: That's exactly right. Something to that effect. You can actually orchestrate your own soft crimes, if you will, in an effort to maintain your cover. There's so much you can do.
[00:24:43] Jordan Harbinger: How does the backstopping work? Not like the background investigation, but you mentioned in the book that the FBI gives you a website for whatever fake business you have, and you've got an office and there's a secretary. Like, what do you have to prove that you're legit when you're undercover?
[00:24:58] Tamer Elnoury: It's a lot. Actually that's a full-time gig. And again, I hate to be the guy that says, "Well, that's sensitive. I can't talk about it," but it is.
[00:25:06] Jordan Harbinger: No, of course, some of it is. Yeah.
[00:25:07] Tamer Elnoury: But that is one of the main reasons when people have asked me that before they asked me, "Aren't you scared going to these different places with all these horrible people?" And I said to them, the truth of the matter is no, because these terrorists they viewed me as access to the west, money. Someone who could help them further their plots, all their acts of terror that they wanted to do. So they actually took care of me better than they took care of themselves. Now, I'm not naive. I understand the fact that if my cover was blown, I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you today.
[00:25:43] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:25:43] Tamer Elnoury: I get that. But as long as my cover was intact, I was more valuable to them than anybody else in the world would be. So that backstopping unit was crucial. And when I got to see the inner workings of the lengths that they went to, to protect our identities, it gives you the warm and fuzzy because you know that you're as real as real can be no matter who digs.
[00:26:10] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Tamer Elnoury. We'll be right back.
[00:26:15] This episode is sponsored in part by Empower. Are you experiencing chronic stress over money? You're definitely not alone. 70 percent of millennials live paycheck to paycheck. With the increasing cost of living in wage stagnation, millennials are financially worse off than prior generations. Before I was in the financial position I am now, in part duty, all supporting our sponsors like this, I remember the stress and worry of having to cover all of my expenses at the end of the month. If you're experiencing financial anxiety between paydays, Empower can help alleviate that. With the Empower card, you can get paid up to two days early and get cash advances of up to bucks. Imagine having an unexpected purchase, life happens no matter how careful you are with your finances. Your car breaks down, your grandma's birthday is coming up. Empower can really help provide a financial cushion between paydays. Empower charges no interest and no late fees. No credit checks, no minimum balance and no overdraft fees. Try Empower's 14-day free trial. Cancel any time and get up to 10 percent cash back at places you shop daily.
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[00:28:55] Don't forget. We've got worksheets for many episodes. If you want some of the drills and exercises talked about during the show, those are all in one easy place. jordanharbinger.com/podcast is where you'll find those right there in the show notes.
[00:29:06] Now back to Tamer Elnoury.
[00:29:10] And you mentioned this in the book, so I'm not blowing anything, but you had a phone number where if someone calls and asks for you or your fake name, your alias, your undercover identity, your secretary would say, "Oh, he's traveling. Can I take a message?" And she would give the same story that you gave or the one that you told her to give. And you've got your website and it's like working and things like that. That all makes sense because I don't know how far a lot of terrorists dig, right? Maybe a couple layers deep, but it seems like backstopping could withstand even a decent background investigation, right? Like if I assume a foreign intelligence service itself could probably poke holes in it though.
[00:29:49] Tamer Elnoury: I would imagine so.
[00:29:50] Jordan Harbinger: Your average schmo is trying to buy Semtex or whatever big explosives to take down a plane is just going to call and make sure that you have a real office look at some Yelp reviews or whatever, if your legal, your law firm and that's it.
[00:30:01] Tamer Elnoury: Yeah, there's that. But they do dig deeper and it's so easy for 1995 on the Internet. You could pretty much do a full background on someone at any day. I mean, there's services everywhere where you could do that. So it has to be able to withstand the deeper dive. But yeah, the deepest of dives, the government services, the intelligence community, I can't imagine anything would hold up to that type of scrutiny.
[00:30:24] Jordan Harbinger: That makes sense. At the end of the day, though, you have government resources, right? So you can have a secretary of state business certificate that says you've been in business since 1979.
[00:30:32] Tamer Elnoury: Yeah.
[00:30:33] Jordan Harbinger: Even though you don't.
[00:30:33] Tamer Elnoury: Exactly, exactly.
[00:30:35] Jordan Harbinger: What happens when the operation's over? They just knew all that stuff. And it's out of operation because they can't reuse it.
[00:30:40] Tamer Elnoury: No they can't. It's funny because it was weird with Tamer Elnoury because they literally just pulled the plug. Everything was just gone. You could Google it and you could see that there used to be a website, there used to be a company that used to be this. You could tell that there was something. But it's not there anymore. It was a little creepy.
[00:30:58] Jordan Harbinger: Did you feel like a part of you died? You know, like, "Hey, this identity that I've been working with for a long time has just vanished." Like nothing, no email, nothing's there.
[00:31:06] Tamer Elnoury: Yes and no. I mean, Tamer Elnoury was very unique because he was tied into so much, but all the other aliases, they come and go. Every now and then a name will come up and I'll be like, "Oh, I remember that guy.
[00:31:19] Jordan Harbinger: I'm wondering if your mother passing away in 9/11 kind of — did those things sort of coagulate a little bit into you working in this area to fulfill a similar need or a similar vacancy? Does that question make sense?
[00:31:33] Tamer Elnoury: Absolutely, it does. And yes, I'm not ashamed to say it, but I was pretty much, I was a big mama's boy. and my mom was my best friend growing up and she meant the world to me and her passing was sudden. And I remember when she was on her deathbed and her last words to me were, she told me, "I know you're going to change the world, do as much good in this world as you possibly can. And we'll all be reunited soon." It was coming, but it kind of rang true. I didn't need someone to tell me to be a good person. It's just the way I was raised. But like I mentioned earlier, it was the perfect storm in situation like this. There isn't any other American in my shoes that wouldn't have done what I did if they happened to have the right language, the right background, and the right training. And that's exactly what happened here. I happen to have such a personal connection to this world. That I knew things that most people in my career in my field didn't know. I had a head start, if you will, on the Islamic fundamentalist mindset. So I was able to hit the ground running.
[00:32:39] Jordan Harbinger: How did you get introduced to the terror networks that you later infiltrated?
[00:32:42] Tamer Elnoury: Everyone was different? Some people like in drug worlds, we mentioned earlier about talking about having good informants. I preferred called bumps more than most. A lot of people like coming in with an informant. The problem with coming in with an informant is you're always going to be married to that individual. So if that person has some kind of debt or some kind of baggage with the bad guys, you're now married to that debt. You're not married to that baggage.
[00:33:09] For example, in drug terms, if you have a junkie introduced you to a multiple-kilo dealer. You're always going to be looked upon as the junkie's friend. But if you meet that guy cold and he sees you in a Mercedes or a Jaguar and you develop a relationship with him, you're coming in at whatever level you want to. And that's the same thing with terrorism. I prefer to come in cold. I like to do my homework. I cheat, okay. I study the sh*t out of you. I know everything about you before our paths cross. And if I feel like there's certain buttons I can push and there's certain things I can say or do that will bring you into my world and vice versa, that's what I prefer, because then I get to select where I come into your life and how, and what I represent.
[00:33:55] Jordan Harbinger: So the story about how you get the mark, this guy, his name is Chiheb, you say the mark has to choose you. You kind of just hinted at that, right? Not the other way around. I can't put on a Hawaiian shirt and sit at a bar in Kabul, Afghanistan and be like, "I sure would like to meet this bin Laden fella," right? Like I have to make it so that you come to me and say, "Hey, we need you working for us. I know you're so-and-so's friend, I've seen you around. You've got a good head on your shoulders about this, that, and the other thing and we're looking for those skills," but you're engineering that interaction. You're engineering people, knowing that you're good at whatever it is that they need, things like that, right?
[00:34:30] Tamer Elnoury: Absolutely. I think it would be best case scenario, Jordan, if they choose you. That's not always a luxury that you have, but if you do your homework and you put yourself in a position — let me put it to you this way. Let's say you and your wife are out to dinner and you're hanging out and you have your life. I don't know about you, but I got plenty of friends. I don't need anymore. So if someone were to come up to you in a restaurant, what would he or she need to say to you for you to want them to be in your life, for you to want them?
[00:34:58] So I would have to study you very well. Maybe you're a hockey fan. Maybe you're obsessed with a certain tennis player. I don't know, but I would have to have something to offer you that would make you want me to be in your life. And that's essentially the mind games. That's essentially the homework of undercover work and the psychological warfare that happens prior to getting in front of a subject.
[00:35:21] Jordan Harbinger: This reminds me of how they got El Chapo, right? They follow this actress that they knew he had a crush on who was like visiting with him and stuff like that. And then I think they'd followed freaking Sean Penn down there to go and meet him. I mean, it was like of all the ways for a guy like that to get caught, this was the dumb, like one of the dumbest ways to get caught, I felt like.
[00:35:42] Tamer Elnoury: But think about it, that's human nature. All right. Every single person has a thing. I don't care if you're a Jihadi or a drug dealer, you're a gun runner, dirty politician. We all have some. Everybody has a vice of some sort, maybe not an unhealthy habit, but something that you want to be able to connect with someone else too. And the trick in undercover work is essentially finding that thread and pulling it.
[00:36:08] Jordan Harbinger: And you find that thread by studying their files or whatever, the information that you have on this person.
[00:36:13] Tamer Elnoury: There's only so much classified files going to reveal about a person's humanity, about a person's pattern of life. You have to get eyes on it. And again, that was another diva thing of mine, but I preferred 24/7 surveillance on our subjects prior to if they were properly vetted as to being really bad guys and everything in the classified files say these are really bad guys, then less pour the time and effort into following this bad guy. Tell me what he's doing when he's not being a Jihadi. Tell me what he's doing when he doesn't think anyone's watching. That's when you get glimpses into a person's soul. And when you can get that and you could put the classified stuff along with the pattern of life, you could start to put together a profile for who that individual is. And then you could actually take one of your 17 aliases and your legends and say, "Well, this guy, I think Samir would be perfect for this guy because we can change it so that he happens to run this particular building. Or he does this thing because we know he wants X, Y, and Z." It's a mathematical equation. And then you just kind of pop yourself in online in Starbucks one day, say the right thing on the phone to someone else. And he or she chooses you.
[00:37:24] Jordan Harbinger: Okay. Right. So if you're doing surveillance or they're doing surveillance on this guy, and they're like, he spends three hours a night watching college volleyball online. This is so weird. Then when you see them at Starbucks, you're like, "Hey honey, I'm going to be late now. I want to watch the college volleyball championships at the bar. No, I'm just going to be alone. Yeah, I'll be out of so-and-so," and then the guy goes, "You watch college volleyball?" And you're like, "Yeah. Why?" "Oh, I love college volleyball," and then you're like, "No way. Me too." "Yeah. I used to watch it at Michigan all the time. I miss that. Are you going to watch thingamajig tonight at Scorekeepers?" "Yeah. Sure." And then it's like, suddenly your buddies, but it was his idea to talk to you. You were just telling your wife why you're going to be late from work, right?
[00:38:01] Tamer Elnoury: Bingo.
[00:38:01] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:38:01] Tamer Elnoury: It's literally that simple. And that's the initial threat. That's the hook as I call it. Once you have that hook and then you have somebody who's attention. Then you can drop the breadcrumbs that you know he's looking for.
[00:38:13] Jordan Harbinger: Okay. What then do you do to develop the relationship? Do you spend a lot of time just kind of hanging out with them doing nothing, just bro-ing out?
[00:38:20] Tamer Elnoury: No, not necessarily. It all depends because no one just stops their lives and starts hanging out with someone they just met.
[00:38:28] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:38:28] Tamer Elnoury: It's not realistic. Everything has to fit the mold of life. So in this case with Chiheb, for example, Tamer Elnoury is a real estate investment guy. He's on his way to San Jose. He happens to bump into him. In that plane ride, we get to develop a relationship. And I also had another advantage when you have a target in this country who happens to speak Arabic and Arabic is their first language and English is a bit of a tough sell for them. It gives me another leg up because now that person can speak his native language to me in this Western world and feel more comfortable.
[00:39:03] So that also draws another, hey, two brothers from another world are in the same place here together. So there's so many things you can draw on, but you have to live your life, Jordan. You have to, at least your fake life, I should say. I have to go look at it. Real estate properties. I have to go to meetings. I have to meet with people, but you can integrate this individual into your life.
[00:39:24] Jordan Harbinger: The part in the book where you're talking about this Bangladeshi scientist who went to Iran, his name is Chiheb, right? You're telling him the Americans and the Canadians that he may be radicalized. You catch on the fact that the guys stopped going to the mosque, even though he was religious. And that was weird. It's like, well, what does it say about somebody who stops going to the mosque while they are still religious after they got back from Iran? Like that made sense to me after I thought about it for a while, but I thought that was a really interesting catch.
[00:39:52] Tamer Elnoury: Yeah. When you go to an actual mosque, you're hearing sermons every Friday and they're always preaching this pretty much the same things as far as different verses from the Quran, what it means in your day to day life. But they all have the same overall meaning. It's peace, submission, it's love each other. And when a radicalized individual, a person who has been turned to the dark side, for lack of a better word, they don't want to be around that. They don't want to be around these so-called Muslims in their mind, because they call them munafiqun or hypocrites to the religion. They hate them. And the actual Muslims, the mainstream Muslims, they would point them out in a heartbeat. They would say, "You're out of your mind, that's terrorism, that's this, that's that." And they don't want to be around that. They're almost on the exact opposite spectrum as two people could be. So when a mainstream Muslim stops going to a mosque who normally is, and their so-called religious, that's the first thing that would be a major red flag to me. And it would scare the sh*t out of me.
[00:40:52] Jordan Harbinger: Okay. So the guy goes to Iran, comes back, stops going in the mosque. The reason that there's a tell is it's like, wait a minute. If you're not religious, you don't go to church. But if you are super religious, you don't go to a church that is not as radical as you, because you feel like they're fakers. That's basically it, right?
[00:41:08] Tamer Elnoury: Correct.
[00:41:09] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:41:09] Tamer Elnoury: That's exactly right.
[00:41:10] Jordan Harbinger: So you're looking to say, like, what happened to this guy? He was so religious that he went overseas, came back, stopped going there. By the way, nobody should read this book if you're hungry and you like Middle Eastern food, because it's going to drive you crazy. Because descriptions of food in the book are really vivid. And I could eat Middle Eastern food every day. And it's always like, you must love it because you didn't say we got something to eat. You're like we got this, this, this, this, and this and this plate came out with the olives on and that together. And I'm like, okay, this is a guy who likes food.
[00:41:36] Tamer Elnoury: Yeah. It's funny. It wasn't until I read the book all the way through. For the first time that I said to Kevin Maurer, my coauthor, I said to him, "Wow, dude, we ate a lot in this case," and it's true. That's the Arab way. That's the custom in the Middle East is you all sit down, you break bread together. That's when most of the — I mean, when you go to dinner in Egypt it's an event. It's not a meal. Whereas here you can grab something to go and rock and roll and go wherever you got to go. Whereas in the Middle East, if you're going to dinner at seven, you're not getting home until 10:30, 11 o'clock because it's an event. And that's when you're with family and when you're with friends, there's the Turkish coffee. There's the hookah. There's a whole list of things that go with it. So that's why you see that a lot in American Radical.
[00:42:22] Jordan Harbinger: Now, your mark Chiheb, if that's even the right term, what do you call them? What do you call a guy when he's like the target of an investigation?
[00:42:28] Tamer Elnoury: He's the target. He's a mark until you get in front of him.
[00:42:32] Jordan Harbinger: Right. That makes sense. Okay, so the target, he eats these huge plates of food in the restaurant because it's haram or against the rules to waste things. So you can't take — this is another, just sort of weird tangent though, but like what you can't take food home and say, "All right, I'm going to eat later."
[00:42:46] Tamer Elnoury: Of course, you can. The reason why I brought that up in the book is what you need to understand is, radicalism in its purest sense isn't just religion. It's everything this guy does is to the 100,000th degree. So in the Quran, in the Bible, everywhere you see, "waste not, want not." It's something we all learned. Your mother and your father taught you growing up, clean your plate. Of course, I take doggy bags home. We all do. I'm full. I order too much, whatever, but in his mind, "waste not, want not" means you finish it and you finish it. Like clean the plate, literally with your fingers. To the point where we were at a steakhouse in Midtown Manhattan, eating lobster and I said, this is the only way I can get this guy to stop licking the freaking plates was to order lobsters. If he eats shells and dies, then so be it. At this point, I just couldn't think of anything else. And he got me, it got me to the point where the surveillance team listening was hysterical because the waiter was going to take the bread and butter away and he grabbed it from him. And I'm like, all right, there's some crumbs in there. He goes to the crumbs, he eats the crumbs. I'm like, okay. Then he takes the soft butter dish and starts scooping it with his fingers and eating butter, just butter. So my knee jerk reaction at the time, "You know, that's butter, right?" And he just said, "Thank God." And he just literally cleaned the butter dish. And I said, I just can't win with this guy.
[00:44:14] Jordan Harbinger: Is that radicalism? Or is he like OCD? But like, he has other stuff going on. I mean, that's not — I don't want to disparage people with OCD because I know plenty of them that are functional, but this sounds like mental illness. Who does that? That's so freaking weird.
[00:44:26] Tamer Elnoury: I have plenty of OCDs, okay. I have some all kinds of crazy tendencies. And I'm going to tell you right now, it's a warp mind. And let me explain something to you, Chiheb did have some craziness for lack of a better word, but what attracted me a great deal to this case or what blew my mind about this case was the fact that he was arguably one of the smartest, most brilliant men I've ever been in front. This guy was on the precipice of curing infectious diseases. The sh*t that he talked about in his work was science fiction to me, creating micro nanobots to go into a body, remove cancer into their little metal bodies and come out. He was world renowned for his ideas in this world, curing and preventing infectious diseases. How could someone so smart, so brilliant, such a gift to humanity, turn into a f*cking killer, an absolute disgusting piece of garbage overnight? And that's what the deep dive into the terrorist mindset for me became personal on several different levels, not just because of my history, not just because of my upbringing, but because of who this person was and what he offered to humanity, what he just essentially threw away.
[00:45:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. He threw it away. I mean, he's never getting out of prison, right?
[00:45:43] Tamer Elnoury: I hope not.
[00:45:44] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:45:45] Tamer Elnoury: There's always a chance obviously, but—
[00:45:47] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I mean, he's obviously a flight risk and he's obviously also wanted to kill hundreds of people. By the way, what was his plan? Or he had a few plans, what were they? Because I think a lot of people are going to go, "Well, the guy didn't even do anything," right? We have to sort of explain he was a brilliant scientist, but also he had planned to kill as many innocent people as he possibly could.
[00:46:04] Tamer Elnoury: That's correct. Yes. He wanted to blow up a train from Toronto to New York City, the VIA train line, and he picked the bridge to do it over, that had as little water as possible. So he can maximize the casualties. He was trained by Al-Qaeda senior leadership overseas and brought here to create and operate his terror cell and terror network in North. America. He also had a plan to blow up Times Square on New Year's Eve. He had a plan to poison military bases, using chefs and cooks. He was the epitome of evil.
[00:46:36] Jordan Harbinger: There's a lot of folks that will say — and I didn't look at your court transcripts or anything because I couldn't necessarily get my hands on them, but there's a lot of people who say things like, "There's a lot of talk. They're not really going to do any of this stuff. They can't really do any of this stuff. They're just trying to curry favor with their homeboys." You know how like guys talk tough? Like, "Yeah, man, I'm going to go do this and I'm going to do that." It's like gangster talk, but how do you separate that from, no, these guys are for real. They're going to do this. Like they have taken steps to do this. It's on.
[00:47:03] Tamer Elnoury: That's a great question. And I very much appreciate the way you asked it because other people in the past have just accused the FBI and law enforcement of, quote-unquote, "entrapping" these terrorists.
[00:47:13] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:47:13] Tamer Elnoury: It's been said in numerous places, sometimes in my inner circles, I will say this much, that obviously wasn't the case here. In any case that I was involved and the people that I know worked in, it wasn't the case. And here's why, what I like to do is a little trick called, I nicknamed it, the Christian Burial Speech, because when you get on the stand, if this eventually goes to trial in any court, the last thing in the world you want a jury hearing is the most Jihadi, crazy person, being the undercover agent. Okay, that just doesn't bode well. It doesn't sound well. You're the guy radicalizing the target that's in trial. What you want is the target to lead the plots. You want the target — it all to come from him. You don't want to be the one adding to it, and you can be the one fueling the fire. You could be the one engaged in it with him.
[00:48:04] However, what my Christian Burial Speech as I nicknamed in the book is when all is said and done, and I wholeheartedly believe the case is wrapped up in a bow and this guy's going to get arrested for attempted murder, I try to back out. I try to show that I'm not ready to kill innocent women and children. And I see, and I try to placate to their human side, "Are you sure there might be another way? Maybe we could just post a video. Maybe we could do something else. Do we really want to kill women and children?" And you'd be surprised, it's got a hundred percent success rate. The venom that comes out of their mouth at that moment in time, their intentions and their fear that they're now losing me as a partner in this crime highlights whose idea it is and why.
[00:48:52] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, I see. So you're almost trying to talk them out of it and they're like, "No, here's why we're going to do it. Here's our plan. Don't be a wimp. You know, come and do it with us."
[00:49:00] Tamer Elnoury: Yeah.
[00:49:01] Jordan Harbinger: "Don't back out now." So that shows this is a hundred percent their idea. You're like, "Hey man, maybe we shouldn't do this." And they're like, "Come on. You're either in or you're out Tamer," right?
[00:49:10] Tamer Elnoury: Exactly. That's exactly right. You have to give them an out. You can't be the bully in this situation. You have to give them opportunities to walk away from it.
[00:49:19] Jordan Harbinger: They actually went to the rail bridge. You went with him, right? to inspect the tracks.
[00:49:24] Tamer Elnoury: I did, yes.
[00:49:25] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. So that's got to be kind of a, there's a little bit of a smoking gun, right? When it's like, "Well, here's a footage of them," because I saw the video on 60 Minutes where they're — you and them are literally walking on these train tracks and it's like, well, what was their argument in court? "No, we were just hiking." I mean, how do they sort of even try to defend some of this stuff?
[00:49:44] Tamer Elnoury: Chiheb had absolutely no defense. He just sat there. He wholeheartedly didn't even recognize the court system. They had what was called a friend, like a defense attorney that was a friend to the court, basically, in case he wanted to raise some sort of defense, but for all intents and purposes, he sat it out. Jaser's defense was a little different, okay. He was basically saying he was a con man trying to get money off of Tamer Elnoury, knowing that he was rich and everything, but we were able to blow that out of the water, using his own words against them.
[00:50:17] Jordan Harbinger: These guys are pretty, they're pretty scary. And you described in the book some of their plans and stuff. They're so angry that I almost feel bad for them. You know, like living your whole life that angry is it's got to be, it damages you psychologically over and over again. Like everything they said was how much they hate America and Americans. It's like they couldn't — could these guys even have normal conversations? Did they even do that?
[00:50:39] Tamer Elnoury: No. There are times when you'll see a lot of just smoke and mirrors, you know. You'll see a lot of passion between Red Sox and Yankees fans, Giants and Eagles fans. You understand the passion and everything, but for the most part, no one's going to put an IED in the other's car. We kind of know where the line is. The problem is they have this heightened level of passion and they feel that their purpose in this life, this particular life, is to overcome the burdens of the west that the west is putting on them. And that burden, if you think of it as a mixed life sort of thing, adds a whole new caveat to it. And they feel that they're oppressed and they feel that they can't fight and they feel that they're the ones that have to take a stand and they're willing to die for a cause. And that's what makes them dangerous.
[00:51:29] Jordan Harbinger: So a lot of these guys are recruited when they go overseas to Afghanistan to fight. And then it seems like sometimes they're turned back to America or Canada to attack over here instead, right? Like they want to go and carry a rifle in Syria and they're like, no, or Afghanistan, like, "Hold on, hold on, hold on. Go back and live in Toronto and just wait for instructions."
[00:51:46] Tamer Elnoury: Yeah. A lot of times that does happen. Sometimes they're homegrown. ISIS was the petulant child of Al-Qaeda if you will. They were the teenagers that knew everything. So what did they do? They took radicalizing to a whole new level. They did it online. They screened it and they just said, "Okay, if you're a loner sitting in your mother's basement, boom, here you go. This is all you need to do. Grab a machete, go kill a cop, go kill this person, go do this. And just say Allahu Akbar and you're on your way. And you're a part of the team." They found a very unique way using social media and the Internet to radicalize people who are susceptible, who had those vulnerabilities, whereas Al-Qaeda was much more succinct about it. They took their time and they recruited and they vetted you. So two different forms, two different groups, but at the end of the day, the same individual person.
[00:52:33] Jordan Harbinger: I found it interesting that groups like Hamas, Al-Qaeda, ISIS, they compete for recruits. They compete for money and there's a lot of differences. Like you call these Jihadi bitch fights. And like a lot of the guys are always bickering and infighting even amongst themselves, but the groups are doing it too, right?
[00:52:49] Tamer Elnoury: That's exactly right, because every single group feels that there's something that's more important to them. Whereas, you know, Hamas is all about removing Israel from the Middle East and giving Palestine its state. Whereas Al-Qaeda is all about in Yemen, Al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula is focused on the Americans and the west and the things that they're doing in the Middle East. So each group has its own little thing. So they all interpret the Quran differently. They all misinterpret, I should say, the Quran differently. And they all use different Hadiths and passages from the Quran to actually further their own political agendas. So of course, there's going to be in there fighting because everyone has a different goal.
[00:53:32] Jordan Harbinger: You mentioned how dangerous and scary these American Jihadi types are. What keeps you up at night, generally speaking, when it comes to these kinds of guys?
[00:53:39] Tamer Elnoury: I still think that Al-Qaeda is the sleeping giant more than anything. Obviously, the lone wolves, you'll see them all the time, people who act out who are on US soil scares me. Like it's just scaring everyone else but—
[00:53:53] Jordan Harbinger: Like sleeper cells, is that what you're talking about?
[00:53:55] Tamer Elnoury: Yeah, the Al-Qaeda playbook that I was able to get an inside look at over the years scares me more than anything.
[00:54:02] Jordan Harbinger: Why? What's different about that than say, like your run of the mill ISIS bullsh*t?
[00:54:07] Tamer Elnoury: The long game, Jordan, they play the long game, okay. And they're smart. They're cunning. And they're resourceful. Whereas I mentioned before ISIS is that petulant teen that knows everything. Al-Qaeda is the educated grandfather who's been there, done that, and does know everything.
[00:54:25] Jordan Harbinger: So what sort of the difference in their game plan? You know, ISIS is like, you go get a machete and kill random people to cause news and get us in the media. What is Al-Qaeda doing differently? Because honestly, I feel like I haven't heard about AQ for a long time. You know, everyone thinks they're just kind of done.
[00:54:40] Tamer Elnoury: Yeah, we haven't heard about anything with terrorism for a long time and that's a good thing. I'm not trying to scare anyone. I'm not saying that I know of anything. Obviously, that's not what at all what I'm saying.
[00:54:50] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, of course.
[00:54:51] Tamer Elnoury: You asked me personally, what scares me the most, it's Al-Qaeda simply because of, let me put it to you this way. Their ammo is exactly how 9/11 punched us in the face. We recovered. We understand our enemy much better today than we have in the past. And I think we're more prepared than we ever have been. I think our intelligence community and our law enforcement is much more educated in the world of counterterrorism, but our biggest enemy, our biggest threat down the road, I believe wholeheartedly is Al-Qaeda because of their capabilities.
[00:55:27] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Tamer Elnoury. We'll be right back.
[00:55:31] This episode is sponsored in part by Scribd. Y'all know, I read at least one to two books a week to prep for the show. And as I read through my ears, I can also exercise and get my steps in. I really wish I had Scribd back when I was a teen, instead of watching TV all the freaking time, I could have been getting that sweet, sweet knowledge through Scribd. With Scribd, you get instant access to millions of e-books, audiobooks, magazines, and more. You also get curated picks and smart recommendations based on what you've read. So you can discover new books and authors, which makes choosing your next book that much simpler. Although let's admit it, you choose books based on my show guests, come on. I love Scribd. They have made listening to audiobooks, easy and affordable access to the world's largest digital library, all for just 9.99 a month, which is less than the cost of a single book or if you're in the bay area, a freaking cup of coffee.
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[00:58:11] And now for the rest of my conversation with Tamer Elnoury.
[00:58:16] What are your undercover rituals? You kind of mentioned this, right? You shower off the identity of, well, you shower off your own identity and you get dressed in your cover clothing, but what else is there? You kind of have this ritual of transforming into Tamer Elnoury or whoever.
[00:58:31] Tamer Elnoury: Yeah. I know it's a little corny and I'll be the first to admit it. It is, I get it.
[00:58:35] Jordan Harbinger: It makes sense. Baseball players kick their cleats off. Basketball players are relacing their shoes.
[00:58:39] Tamer Elnoury: Yeah.
[00:58:40] Jordan Harbinger: It's a thing.
[00:58:40] Tamer Elnoury: I know. It became a thing when I had some early-on success when I started doing long-term undercover work. In the morning, when I know I'm traveling the next day, let's say for this case, it's Tamer Elnoury. I go to bed as my true identity. I wake up in the morning as my true identity, obviously. And then as soon as I go in the shower, I have everything laid out. I mean, my closet looks like a serial killer's because there's literally like multiple personality disorder going on in there. Clothes and outfits for different situations in different aliases that I have.
[00:59:12] So that morning, I'll shower. I'll put on Tamer's clothes, slide his watch on, his shoes. I drive his car. And the second I leave the house, I don't have any phones or identifications other than Tamer's. And when I meet people and I go to the beach, I sit on the beach and I go over every single thing in his legend. I go over mother's maiden name, every identifier you can think of, business, phone numbers, cell numbers, home addresses, properties, you name it once. I feel like I have it all kind of right there on the tip of my tongue in the front of my brain, then I jumped in my car. And I get to the airport and I don't look back until I come home.
[00:59:49] Jordan Harbinger: That's man. That's a lot of pressure, right? Because you have to forget about who you really are and just get all that stuff out there, because the last thing you want to do is make some sort of slip up under pressure.
[00:59:58] Tamer Elnoury: Yeah, and I realized and I told people, I tell my young undercovers coming up right now is the minute you're not scared or the minute you're not over-prepared is the minute that you need to walk away from this job. And I realized that too late, thankfully, without getting hurt in my drug career. I was doing undercover narcotics for almost 12 years. And towards the end I was getting a little bit more flippant. I took a lot more chances, shortcuts, things of that nature, where it put me in a position, I felt like I could have easily gotten hurt or hurt the investigation. So my big thing is being over prepared is a good thing until you're done.
[01:00:37] Jordan Harbinger: You got a rule as well. Never pretend to know someone or something if you don't actually know it because it'll bite you in the ass. Do you have an example of that? That seems like a really good rule, obviously, right?
[01:00:46] Tamer Elnoury: Absolutely. Perfect example: in the first week I met Chiheb, we were going to a restaurant and I went out of my way to say, I didn't know the area. And I was only there once, which was true in San Francisco. So I said, I know San Francisco, but I don't know San Jose. When we found the one restaurant, if I pretended to know that restaurant that would have bit me in the ass because there was a bar in there, there was a belly dancer. There was all kinds of everything wrong that you're trying to bring a Jihadi to. And if I pretended to know that place, that kind of would have blown up in my face. I basically said, "I don't know, a friend of mine told me this is a good spot." And thank God I did because that's when I was able to hang my hat on how appalled I was that halal restaurant had alcohol and belly dancing.
[01:01:32] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Okay. Because if you'd said, "Hey, I know this place well," and then you show up and he's like, "So either you lied about knowing this place or you come to a place that is totally not cool. It has booze and a woman showing herself off. So which one is it like, are you a liar or just a really bad Muslim, right? Which one is it?"
[01:01:49] Tamer Elnoury: That's exactly right. And the most important thing in doing undercover work, especially long-term undercover work, the least amount of lies that you can make the better it is for you because they do compound and they do become an issue. If you remember your legend, you stay in your outline. That's it. Anything in those boundaries you're going to lie about obviously, but the lie is real. Anything outside of those boundaries that you don't have to lie, i.e. Have you ever been to Houston? Have you ever been to this? Have you ever been in jail? There's no reason to lie. No, I haven't. No, I don't know that place. Have you ever heard of this guy? You know, we do that in conversations all the time. Yeah, I heard of him. No, you haven't, okay, because no one's heard of him. The point is there's no reason to lie, ever, when you're in an undercover capacity, because you're already doing so much lying that any other light could blow everything else off, if that makes sense.
[01:02:40] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That does make sense, right? You wouldn't want to say, "Oh yeah, I've been to Disneyland when I was a kid." And I'm like, "Didn't you grow up in Iran?" And it's like, "Oh crap. We lied about that," right? Like all these things could just start cascading down. And of course, like if they catch you in something that seems small, they might say, "Huh? Well, what about this?" they may start testing you. And then if you start failing test after test about all these little things, you start to really lose their trust, which I can imagine can get you in some pretty tough spots.
[01:03:06] Tamer Elnoury: Absolutely. Ingratiating yourself to your subject, especially early on is your only task as an undercover officer. If you get caught in a lie, that bullet goes down range, and that ship will sail and you'll never ever be able to recover.
[01:03:19] Jordan Harbinger: You already find yourself in some precarious situations, man. Like getting into a meeting with a bunch of radicals or terrorists in a basement where there's like no one can hear you. No one can see you. I mentioned that at the top of the show, but that was a real thing that you did. And then a lot of these guys, they have their own counter-surveillance methods. Like what? was one, walking in the middle of the road so that no one can overhear your conversations. So these guys are not just schmoes that are watching too many movies. Who's training them to do these?
[01:03:45] Tamer Elnoury: I would imagine a lot of it for those that don't go overseas has to be found online. Okay, I'm sure if you googled tradecraft in any thing, you could figure out probably the ins and outs of how to do counter surveillance, how to play a violin, just pretty much anything you could find online for these wannabes. But the guys, the real guys, Chiheb's that went overseas to train, they're trained because as law enforcement we're our own worst enemy. We gave everyone our playbook. Everyone's got a peak at it and it's called discovery in the courts. Anything that we figure out and we do to capture a bad guy, it's revealed in the courts, obviously, through discovering when it goes to trial and so on and so forth. So they have our playbook and they share it and they talk about it. There's a manifestos in the jails talking about how to spot an undercover officer, because guys are learning from their mistakes and they share that knowledge. But as far as Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and all the terrorist groups, if you're overseas in a training camp, all these methodologies beat into you.
[01:04:48] Jordan Harbinger: Where are those training camps? Like Pakistan or Iran or Afghanistan, probably all of the above, right?
[01:04:52] Tamer Elnoury: All of the above.
[01:04:53] Jordan Harbinger: There's a time when you go and visit this Palestinian Jihadi in Toronto, and you mentioned that in the book, that he already prayed without you guys and usually you pray in a group if you can. And I thought that was kind of interesting. Like you thought it was weird that he didn't wait for you, but then it turned out he was testing you and watching you. And you mentioned in the book, he didn't really say what this was, but you said there are tells in the way that you pray if you're extra religious, like some jihadis are. So what are the tells? Like why are there different types of prayer for jihadis and like regular Muslims?
[01:05:24] Tamer Elnoury: It's not really different types of prayers. It's your mannerisms in your movements and the certain ways that you articulate, just infer that you're more religious. The best way to explain that would be to be a Muslim, you have to follow the Quran and to be a good Muslim, you have to follow the Koran and the hadiths. And hadiths are basically the ways of the prophet. So when you have someone who is much more devout, for lack of a better word, they're going to do things very specifically. So when you're praying and you put your head down and your hands are down, and if your fingers are spread apart, okay, that's what a mainstream Muslim would do. Whereas someone who's a little bit more devout would close his fingers, not cross his legs when he sits up, because the prophet never did that, if that makes sense. So there are certain mannerisms, not necessarily what you're saying. It's how you're saying it, how you're doing it, and your body language. And I knew that because those who are, quote-unquote, "more devout" do things a certain way, and those who are more mainstream are a little bit more lax, if that helps explain that.
[01:06:31] Jordan Harbinger: It does. Yeah, it does. It's interesting. So do you knew that he was watching you? So did you change the mannerisms that you use to pray when you were undercover?
[01:06:40] Tamer Elnoury: Of course, obviously even when I'm undercover and I'm praying, I'm always praying as myself and I'm always praying ironically enough for God to give me strength to defeat the animals that are on either side of me. But at the end of the day, I do have to remember that I'm in a role and I'm one of them at that point in time, so I have to play the role.
[01:06:58] Jordan Harbinger: When you're in these groups, I assume you start to like some of these guys, right? Like a lot of them are horrible people beyond redemption, but some of them seem like they just have their minds poisoned by other radicals. You know, they're hanging out with their older brother or their cousin or their uncle. And like, maybe they're not really in, they're just in because they're surrounded by it. Do you think about that at all?
[01:07:17] Tamer Elnoury: Yeah, the ongoing joke when I was working drugs with my narco squad is, "Aah, he's falling in love with another target." That was the joke that I fell in love with my targets. And it wasn't about that. I was the only person who got to see the human side of them. If I were to put on piece of paper, the subject who had six felony convictions, one for murder, weapons offenses, and multiple drug convictions, along with the fact that he had guns and violence, and he was the leader of this, and you never met the guy, you'd probably think he was Satan on earth, right?
[01:07:50] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:07:50] Tamer Elnoury: Regardless of what you know or what you hear. But when you get to know these people on a personal level, on a human level, you see them as the human side of them. So it's not a matter of falling in love with these people. It's just a matter of seeing their humanity and understanding that what they're doing they're about to pay for, and they should pay for it. But I always saw my subjects in a much different light.
[01:08:12] Jordan Harbinger: Did you think about Chiheb and the other targets? Do you test them at all for the guys that have like no possibility of redemption or are you making that determination at all during your work?
[01:08:22] Tamer Elnoury: Yeah. There's a fine line, Jordan, between collecting the elements of the crime and making a case prosecutorial, and then, you know, worrying about someone's soul. So there's only so much I can do. However, there is a lot of time, sometimes when the case is essentially wrapped up — I mean, early on within the first month of this investigation getting kicked into high gear, I believe it was September of 2011, where Jaser and Chiheb were under arrest. They just didn't know it yet. So the case was done. It was over, but we had other opportunities, other things that we needed to uncover in the investigation. So you do spend time with them and these individuals. So you want to pick their brain. You want to see what it is, what else is there? Why did they become like that? So I do go out of my way to dig a little deeper because I do have the time to when the case has wrapped up.
[01:09:18] Jordan Harbinger: I know you almost lost your cool and blew your cover. Tell me about that story. Because, obviously, you're not supposed to do that, right? You have one job and it's not to do that, right?
[01:09:30] Tamer Elnoury: Yeah. I guess I keep saying the first rule of undercover work. Let me tell you something. The absolute first rule of undercover work is not blowing your cover.
[01:09:39] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:09:39] Tamer Elnoury: Mind you, we're almost a year into this investigation and Chiheb on the heels of two straight weeks of just ranting and raving and talking about plots to kill Americans in every possible way. I think we covered poisoning reservoirs and water systems, bombs, killing them, snipers. It's just so much anger and hatred towards the west. That I pretty much had my fill this evening. I think it was just one of those nights. I was dropping him off right when he revealed to me, he wanted to go over — he called it Operation Happy New Year, the plot to put multiple bombs in Times Square for the following New Year's Eve. So of course, everyone listening to our conversation was excited about the fact that this guy was about to reveal his plans.
[01:10:29] So we're going up to his apartment and it was right next to Ground Zero. It was a chilly night in December and he put his arm around me and looked up to where the Towers were and the construction of the new World Trade Center. And he said, "Tamer, this town needs another 9/11, and we're going to give it to them." It threw me off. I've heard him say so much horrible things for so long that you think at that moment in time, I could have just accepted it and gone up and did my job, but I couldn't. I imagined killing him right there. And then I imagine stabbing them in the eye with a pen I had in my pocket and leaving him for dead.
[01:11:13] There was so much anger that I had and the Arab in me was coming out towards him. And I didn't want that to be the focus and there was no way I was walking up those stairs with him. So I actually shoved him. I didn't even realize I did this till I sought later. I shoved him away from me and I pretended to have food poisoning or not feel well. And I just got away from him. And then of course, the US attorney and everyone was not too thrilled that I just walked away from a potential plot to commit a terrorist act on New Year's US soil. But I got it the next day, I became a professional again, I just needed a night to recover from it, but we all have our limits. We are human beings, all undercovers doing this. No matter what's happening, there's only so much filth that your soul can take.
[01:12:00] Jordan Harbinger: Later on when you lure them to New York for the arrest, I got to say you got to be pretty rich and ironic when you get them on tape, idolizing Osama bin Laden. And I think you say, "Hey man, you know what about this and this?" And he goes, "Don't worry. The US government can never outsmart me." I got to ask, were you nervous at all? There's a part of me that was just like, I would have to look down at the ground and be like, "Yeah, you're so smart. And the government's never going to find you, buddy." Like he's just staring you in the face and be like, "They're never going to catch me."
[01:12:29] Tamer Elnoury: It's funny because we were struggling at that point with the one subject. I kind of went out on a limb. I knew it was almost a bit of a Hail Mary, but I freaked out on purpose. I flipped the script. I had to because if I placated that conversation and I just went along with it and, "Oh brother, tell me what you're talking about. What do you mean?" And I became defensive in any way, shape or form. I shine the light on me. And at that moment he's a f*cking stranger in my country, okay, and he's talking about killing everyone in this country. Timeout. I'm going to flip the script on him. I stood up. I lost my sh*t. I pretended to be because I was worried about my company. I'm supposed to be this crazy jihadist multimillionaire who's supporting terrorism overseas and in the United States. And this freaking guy, I do him a favor. I give him an olive branch and he brings the FBI to my world. I made it like I misunderstood what he was saying and my reaction and my smashing a tea glass and thrown a hundred dollar bill on the table and leaving him in a city by himself in New York City. He didn't know he's been there three days. It flipped him. Okay, one of two things was going to happen. Either, he was going to say, "Screw this guy. I'm done with him. I think he's government." Or he was going to make it right by me. And he was going to prove to me that he was loyal to me. And that was my only play. And thankfully it worked out.
[01:13:47] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, I see. So you deliberately misinterpreted the comment, "The US government will never catch on to me." You deliberately misinterpreted that as like him threatening you so that he would come crawling back and be like, "No, no, no, no. What I meant was—" and then explain everything.
[01:14:02] Tamer Elnoury: Yeah. I deliberately interpreted it as him, like what he was actually doing was he was basically asking if I work for the government or this was part of some elaborate scheme. And I interpreted it as, or I made him believe, I interpreted it as him potentially working for the government or bringing the heat to my company by being an informant or by being watched by the FBI. Either way, I didn't want anything to do with him. And he now needed to prove himself to me.
[01:14:30] Jordan Harbinger: You're a tricky guy, very tricky, but hey, look, we need that, right? I mean, that makes sense. I can see how well that would work and I can definitely see that working on pretty much anyone, right? Like, you're stuck in another country. "No, no, no, no, no. Here's what I meant, man. This is all I'm talking about." And you're just like, "Say that louder for the tape," right? Can you put that in writing? You know, it's a whole, it's only thing.
[01:14:49] I wonder though, look, these guys are in prison, right? You're putting them away for a long time. Is there any part of you that can separate the terrorist from the man in your head at all, right? There's like this nerdy scientist who wanted to cure infectious disease versus this crazed fundamentalist would be a murderer. You know, I sort of touched on that earlier in the show, if you could separate them at all, but I'm wondering like, is there any sort of part that's like, well, here's this nice guy that finishes all his food and like, you know, it says all these nice things, but also you know, 90 percent of them is this like Jihadi psychopath.
[01:15:22] Tamer Elnoury: Yeah. And absolutely, of course, sitting down and having a conversation like we're doing, of course, I can separate and I can say what a shame X, Y, and Z. But at the end of the day, there's no saving someone who has these beliefs. There's no saving someone who's gone to this radical side of the house because they're gone already, Jordan. There is no saving these individuals. They're only answer to life is to take lives. And when someone who reaches that conclusion, the matter whether it's terrorism or any other criminal enterprise, there is no saving that individual. So no matter how nice or their humanity, you may have been interested in, it's a shame, but they can never be free.
[01:16:02] Jordan Harbinger: So how do we defeat radical Islam? Is it possible? What's our strategy here besides having a bunch of Tamer Elnoury's throwing them all in prison.
[01:16:11] Tamer Elnoury: I wholeheartedly believe, and I asked that the first thing I asked to recruits in police academy, teaching them terrorism indicators. The first question in my lesson is how do we defeat an enemy who's willing to die for a cause. And in all the years I've been doing it, I've never gotten a right answer. And the answer is simple. It's education. It's understanding your enemy. I mean, not to get into Sun Tzu's, the art of war or all the stuff that I love. The truth of the matter is you have to understand your enemy. When you understand your enemy and you understand their motivations, you then understand that every brown guy with a kufi isn't a terrorist. You now know the culture. You know the religion.
[01:16:49] When I first started with the FBI, we were running and gunning because people would see a prayer rug and think that guy is a terrorist and things changed quickly. Americans now are more educated. They understand the difference between the radical mindset and the true tenets of the religion, at least to an extent. And that was the purpose of American Radical. So if we are more educated and can see the fundamental differences between these radicals, along with the true tenants of the religion, they're not going to get to live amongst us anymore. They can't hide amongst us anymore. They'll never be able to defeat us in our Homeland ever again.
[01:17:27] Jordan Harbinger: So it sounds like in many ways the best defense has also inclusion, right? If we let in a bunch of good Muslim Americans or future Americans, then there's always going to be somebody who can help us call it out, defeat radical Islamic terrorists. One of the reasons this was an interesting episode is because I think it's lost on a lot of us that it's not like a bunch of blue eyed, blonde haired, white dudes catching Islamic fundamentalists in sleeper cells. It's guys that look like you. Not that I know what you look like, and nobody does. That's why you're a big pixelated blob here, but I assume you blend in with the people that you're targeting.
[01:18:01] Tamer Elnoury: I do, absolutely. And I'm as Arab as you get looking obviously, and there's no denying what I look like when I'm on target, especially. I think I've cleaned up a little bit since then. Let's just say when I was working undercover, I wouldn't want to sit next to me on a plane and I understand that because that was the look I was going for. I wanted to put that kind of fear in people's heads during that time. But yes, the answer is absolutely inclusion and the answer's absolutely all of us, together as Americans. We all have something or someone that makes us unique and different, and that's what makes us Americans and that's what makes us special.
[01:18:35] Jordan Harbinger: So they're turning American Radical, they're turning your book into — what? A movie or a TV series. What's going on? What's going on there?
[01:18:42] Tamer Elnoury: There's a movie deal in place.
[01:18:43] Jordan Harbinger: Nice. Is it kind of a bummer though that like your fake personality, that's not a real person, is going to get famous and you're just going to, you still have to be like this. You're like, "That's me," and everyone's like, "Shut up, man. That's not you. You're not Tamer Elnoury. Nice try, dude."
[01:19:00] Tamer Elnoury: No, that's all right. Listen, I never did any of this to be famous. And I look forward to seeing this become a movie because I think it'll draw more attention to the story. And I think it's an important story and I did it in alias because I didn't need notoriety. I don't need anybody to know who I am. What matters is that Americans are better armed with this knowledge because this case happened to be mainly classified.
[01:19:26] Jordan Harbinger: Tamer, thank you so much for your time today, man — I really appreciate that — and your service to the country. I think this is a fascinating story and I'm looking forward to the movie.
[01:19:34] Tamer Elnoury: Thanks Jordan. I appreciate it very much. Congratulations on your success. Big fan of the show and I appreciate you having me on.
[01:19:43] Jordan Harbinger: Y'all know I got thoughts on this episode, but before I get into that, here's a preview of my conversation with Bill Nye, about why anti-vaccination activists aren't only endangering themselves in their crusade against the establishment, why climate change is real and a real threat, and what Bill thinks is even more important for the future of humanity than Elon Musk's drive to colonize Mars. Here's a quick listen.
[01:20:07] Bill Nye: It is fascinating the energy people have, the haters have to hate, but meanwhile, the climate is changing even if you hate me.
[01:20:16] Jordan Harbinger: So you mean my anger towards the things that you say is not positively affecting the climate?
[01:20:20] Bill Nye: No.
[01:20:21] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, I got to change the strategies, man.
[01:20:24] Bill Nye: The reason I want you to get vaccinated is really not that I care about you. It's me, me, me, me. Because when youe're unvaccinated, you are an incubator for mutating viruses, mutating bacteria. We can't fight with the conventional antibiotics. You're denying the discoveries made by diligent scientists over the last three centuries. You're objectively wrong about it.
[01:20:51] Hey, if you're a flat earther, if you're out there, go to the edge and take a picture and send it to us.
[01:20:57] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:20:58] Bill Nye: Go out there to the edge. "They won't let me see the edge." Who's they? You think you'll find that you're living on a big ball and you can travel any direction and never leave. "Wow, dude. That's impossible. How could something that you could go anywhere, never get off it." Because it's a ball.
[01:21:19] My claim is if you're always curious, the world is always exciting and every day you will learn something. And the big idea behind that is everybody knows something you don't. Radical curiosity, I just want to get people excited about this process. I mean, we are moving at a time. It is very reasonable that we will discover life on another world. Is there something alive on Mars? Is it like us or is it a whole nother thing?
[01:21:47] Jordan Harbinger: To hear more about why Bill Nye devotes his life to education, but has no children of his own, how to deal with cognitive dissonance, the two things that always happen when we go exploring, check out episode 366 of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:22:03] I love this story or the set of stories, because there's a lot of sort of Robert Cialdini 's Influence and psychological principles at work, making things the target's idea so they won't resist it or question it as much. A lot of rapport building like Jack Schafer taught us here on the show as well. Really interesting, really great use of psychology to keep us all safe here.
[01:22:23] Also interesting, he told me this offline, how he sizes up a room when he's surrounded by terrorists and he isn't ever sure if he's been made, if his covers are still blown, right? He knows where the exits are. He looks for all the potential weapons. He said, as you get older, you always go for the young ones first. So if you've got to fight your way out, you go for the young ones first, which, now that I'm 41 makes a hell of a lot of sense, right? You want to go with the guys with the most energy while you're still in one piece. And while you have the element of surprise. So if you're ever stuck in a basement somewhere, and there's a bunch of people that are probably going to take your head off, go for the young ones first. I don't know how practical that is. Hopefully, you never have to use it.
[01:23:00] He also told me, he said, "I'm safer, undercover than you are crossing the street in New York City. And then of course, the caveat here is as long as my legend holds up, as long as my cover holds." I'm not sure I'm gutsy enough to take that risk. Thank goodness some heroes actually are. I think that's a big caveat. Once your cover's gone, you are certainly not safe. And that's why he's pixelated and we've distorted some of his voice in detail here on the show as well.
[01:23:25] Big, thank you to Tamer Elnoury. His book is called American Radical: Inside the World of an Undercover Muslim FBI Agent. That will be linked in the show notes as it always is. If you do buy books from our guests, please use our website links when you buy the book. It does help support the show. Worksheets for the episodes are in the show notes. Transcripts are in the show notes. There's a video of this interview going up on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube. We also have our clips channel with cuts that don't make it to the show or highlights from the interviews that you can't see anywhere else. jordanharbinger.com/clips is where you can find that. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram, or hit me on LinkedIn. I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using systems, software, and tiny habits over at our Six-Minute Networking course. The course is free. jordanharbinger.com/course is where you'll find it. Dig that well before you get thirsty. Most of the guests on the show, they subscribe to the course and contribute to the course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[01:24:21] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for the show is that you share it with friends when he finds something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who's interested in this sort of undercover Jihadi terrorist infiltration law enforcement stuff, go ahead and share this episode with them. I hope you find something great in every episode of the show, please share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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