The Possibly-True Story of the Super-Burglar Trained to Rip Off al Qaeda

In what reads like a missing chapter from his just-published A Burglar’s Guide to the City, Geoff Manaugh details a “criminal dream come true.” The article, which was published just last week by The Daily Beast, toes the line between urban legend and true crime to tell (maybe-true) story of a convicted bank robber hired by law enforcement to steal al Qaeda’s material assets: black market gold, unmarked bags of cash, and “truckloads” of precious metals. Osama bin Laden was, reportedly, somewhat of a “gold bug,” encouraging al Qaeda operatives to invest in liquid assets. “And all of that gold,” writes Geoff, “had to be stored somewhere.” The idea of a U.S.-backed anti-terror project reliant on burglary is, as Geoff astutely points out, tinged with irony:

” . . . some of today’s most ruthless terrorist groups—including ISIS—effectively started out as bank robbery networks, funding their operations through the seizure of funds from under-protected vaults throughout Iraq and Syria. Huge stockpiles of reconstruction money sent courtesy of the American taxpayer were successfully targeted and added to the ISIS war chest—so, Rehder admitted, sending someone over there to rob the robbers would at least have a delicious symmetry. The hand that giveth becomes the hand that taketh away.

We may never know the truth of the alleged Los Angeles super-burglar retrained to fight al Qaeda. It could have been a hoax, a ruse, even a story deliberately invented by Kevin Reeve to dupe a gullible East Coast journalist—or, of course, the man could still be out there, teaching master classes in the geopolitics of burglary to a growing corps of apprentice thieves. The intriguing epistemological uncertainty here is that, even if he was real, even if he had stolen tens—hundreds—of millions of dollars from terrorist financiers, until someone talks there is no way of finding out.”

It’s a sexy story, which makes it perfect for the silver screen. Studio 8 *just* optioned Manaugh’s article. George Mastras, who wrote the pilot to HBO’s Vinyl, will adapt it for film.

Read Geoff’s article here; and buy A Burglar’s Guide to the City, out now!

Also, you can catch Geoff IRL at any of his upcoming tour dates:

April 21: Skylight Books, Los Angeles
April 27: Kepler’s Books, Menlo Park, with Robin Sloan
April 28: SPUR, San Francisco with Green Apple Books
May 3: Powell’s, Portland
May 5: Town Hall Seattle
May 9: AIA New York Center for Architecture, New York City, with Tom Vanderbilt
May 18: National Building Museum, Washington D.C., with Ross Andersen
May 27: Studio Gang, Chicago, with MAS Context and the Seminary Co-op Bookstore

Posted 04/21/16 Posted April 21, 2016