We already knew, before this book, the grisly details of the murder of Daniel Pearl. We just didn't know what to do with them.
Until the last day of January, 2002, Daniel Pearl was the Wall Street Journal's man in Pakistan. Sent the previous October by the Journal to cover the impact of the American war on the Taliban, the 38-year-old Pearl was already a veteran of alarums and excursions around the globe. He had taught himself enough Arabic and Urdu to get by, and had even written the Journal's handbook on the safety precautions journalists need to take in unsafe places--like Pakistan. In December 2001, Pearl turned his attention to a fresh investigation, on "the risks of the transfer of nuclear know-how from Pakistan to Afghanistan and the Taliban."
Pakistan exploded a nuclear device in 1998, and for some time now the unstable borders between Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the onetime Soviet-stans to the north have been darkly populated with rumors of suitcase bombs for sale by ex-Soviet scientists. (Someone offered to sell Pearl some nuclear stuff bootlegged from Ukraine, but the deal turned out to be bogus.) In December, Pearl published a preliminary article in the Journal on the possibility of nuclear transfers, and then turned his attention to investigating a list of Islamist groups newly outlawed by Pakistan's president, Perez Musharraf. Pearl was delighted to make contact with an intermediary named Bashir, who promised to arrange a meeting for Pearl with Sheikh Mubarak Ali Shah Gilani, the head of the radical sect Al Fuqrah and the mentor of the aerial "shoe-bomber," Richard Reid. Bashir met Pearl at a restaurant in Karachi on January 23, and they drove off to meet Gilani.
But there was no meeting. Instead, Bashir disappeared with Pearl, and the next news was a demand for his ransom, relayed by e-mail from the anonymity of a Karachi cyber-cafe.
But there was no ransom, either. On the morning of January 31, Pearl was executed--decapitated--by a knife-wielding Yemeni who slit the reporter's throat before a video camera. (1) …