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Publisher's Summary

American ISIS tells the story of Russell Dennison, an American who converted to Islam and traveled to Syria to fight for the Islamic State. For more than six months, Russell secretly communicated with journalist Trevor Aaronson, sending more than 30 hours of recordings that detail his suburban upbringing, his pursuit by the FBI, his embrace of extremism, and his decision to live and die on distant battlefields. Russell’s recordings provide an unprecedented firsthand account of what it was like for an American to be part of one of the world’s most fearsome terrorist groups. A remarkable work of journalism and narrative storytelling, American ISIS brings listeners into a hidden world few Americans have witnessed - filled with jihadis, human smugglers, FBI agents, government informants, and nightly bombings. Trevor Aaronson, a journalist for The Intercept, tracks down the people who knew Russell in the United States and in the Middle East as he investigates and corroborates Russell’s incredible story, from his childhood in Pennsylvania to bombed-out Syrian villages thousands of miles from the life he’d once known. An Audible Original produced by The Intercept, Topic Studios, and Western Sound.
©2021 First Look Institute, Inc. (P)2021 Audible Originals, LLC

About the Creator and Performer

Trevor Aaronson is a contributing writer for The Intercept and a 2020 Arizona State University Future Security Fellow at New America. He is also executive director of the nonprofit Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and author of The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism. His 2015 TED Talk, "How this FBI strategy is actually creating U.S.-based terrorists," has been viewed more than 1 million times and translated into more than 20 languages. A two-time finalist for the Livingston Awards, Aaronson has won the MOLLY National Journalism Prize, the international Data Journalism Award, and the John Jay College/Harry Frank Guggenheim Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award. His work for The Intercept has won honors from the Online Journalism Awards for investigative data journalism and feature writing. Aaronson has been featured on CBS This Morning, NPR’s All Things Considered, MSNBC, This American Life, C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, WNYC’s On the Media and The Leonard Lopate Show, among others.

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What listeners say about American ISIS

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TYPICAL

the story is awesome. the left leaning view is not. He chose his path as well as his wife. the victims are his children and parents oh yeah lets not forget about the victims of isis. the author risked nothing but gained a story and reputation.

10 people found this helpful

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Unique story

You Won’t hear another story like this. But to say the least, I wasn’t impressed with Russel. He was completely delusional and selfish. No one is required to do anything in any respect, however, he took his jaded interpretation of islam - one of the ancient religions that now plague humanity with antiquated social dogma - and forced himself into a culture that despises his. Russel’s attempt to create a legacy in a world he believed to be beneath him speaks to his delusion. Bringing two innocent girls into the world and leaving them with nothing, filling the imagination of a poor Bedouin girl with dreams of more before he died easily, abandoning his mother, never facing the reality of the violent, amoral, relinquishment of reason that is ISIS; this is his legacy.

Trevor did great work tracing Russell’s demise and provides a one-of-a-kind insight into the mind of someone that would pursue such a goal. Russell was nothing to fear.

6 people found this helpful

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Fantastic Podcast

This is an incredible story- very well researched and told. I binged it because I found it so intriguing. It’s definitely worth listening to.

6 people found this helpful

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Original and very Important

This is very important and really speaks to the time we live in and the challenges we face.

5 people found this helpful

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JOURNALISM AT ITS BEST

Few stories better illustrate the banality of evil and the human capacity to rationalize participation in heinous acts. It provides a frightening, insightful analysis of religious zealotery in the modern world.

4 people found this helpful

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Overly sympathetic to evil

The documentation and storytelling from the author are excellent. Where this story begins to fail is when the author fails to press issues related to ISIS’ evil and how it relates to Russel’s decisions. I think the author tried to press occasionally, but perhaps didn’t want to alienate Russel during the discussions. Unfortunately, the result is the story comes off as feeling overly sympathetic to a subject who was demonstrably wrong and deliberately ignorant (by the author’s own admission). There is a lot of sadness in the tale, not all of which is Russel’s fault. But when there are opportunities the author had to really probe and explore how comfortable Russel was with the evil in his life, this podcast doesn’t go there. As a result, there is a clear sympathetic bent to the narrative and it is jarring when juxtaposed to the actions of Russel.

3 people found this helpful

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incredibly informative

I have really enjoyed listening to and this and finally putting more than just a face to those that were on the other side of the G.W.O.T. in which I gave years of my life.

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liked it.

very well done compilation of a madman and his thoughts. I feel bad for his daughters.

3 people found this helpful

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Worth listening to...

Very sad and very interesting. This speaks volumes about the contrast between two vastly different cultures.

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A better understanding in the war on terrorism.

Even though I believe that Isis is evil and we see the brutality of it, I also see the humanity because of this book. They are husband's and fathers who love their families as much as we do. They truly believed in their cause so much that they would die for it. How many people could really do that? The author really opened my eyes to the suffering of war. I still believe that Isis should be wiped out , I just hope that more lives could be spared in the process.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Mr K Symon
  • 08-08-21

A well told story

A personal journey of unfathomable depth that captures interest easily. A well narrated story about a person's thoughts, impressions and life experience, in their own words. The travels and background were very easily visualised and supported by credible research. Well done.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Bruce
  • 01-28-22

Did not enjoy it

Very interested in the subject but did not like the way it was put across.
Also I can’t remove it from my library which is very frustrating.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Peter Swift
  • 09-27-21

humanising a monster

lets hope this pig burned alive along with all the other monsters. Trump and putin but a end to that evil. the absurdity of the pig when he said he was living in a humanity crisis, what that vile disgusting pig did to all those poor yazidis was and he's crying about his living conditions. thank god that scum is dead

1 person found this helpful

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  • edward daly
  • 09-08-21

Loved it

brilliant podcast
insightful hopeful sad mesmerising poetic revealing human despairing soulful addictive
loved it.

1 person found this helpful

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  • C. Doyle
  • 08-25-21

A necessary story

A tremendous story told by a great storyteller. A riveting listen ... top class!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Erin King
  • 08-09-21

Great story!

How could you not help get the out!!!!
Those camps are horrible and a woman and two children are there ,
How could you not try to get them out.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-01-22

Terror-able State of Affairs

Insightful. Much to think on. The relationship that developed between the US Muslim convert and the reporter has revealed so much but has left so much undone. I guess given the restrictions, its understandable, well worth a listen . . . .

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 03-17-22

Excellent work

This is a supremely engaging podcast. Compelling listening. Only thing I didn’t like is the background music. There is no place for background music in a podcast like this. Superb work.

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  • BessieRay
  • 02-04-22

a fascinating dark tale

What is really intriguing to me is this guy's motivations, an extreme reaction to always feeling misunderstood and on the outskirts? why does he share his story? as surely such detailed personal account is really useful to governments trying to understand how someone becomes radicalised and the inner workings of ISIS so he is creating an act of betrayal to the very religious ideas he states are so important. I hear a guy who though intelligent is very naive and really wrapped up in his own bizarre ego trip.
I binged this series. Well presented and thought out .

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  • Christopher McHarg
  • 10-04-21

Trevor Aarondson

Worth a watching that one. I can’t tell them about their grandchildren as they won’t ask me.

As for Russell, horrible attempts at justification.

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  • barnaby sullivan
  • 07-20-21

wouldn't have expected anything less from intercep

I have been a big fan of the intercept for a long time, donated at points as well. this kind of content is the reason. level headed, well thought through and explaining topics with a clear perspective of how all the parties see the matter.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-11-21

Very interesting listen

Recommended listen. Interesting insight into isis and why some westerners end up in the terror organisation

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-31-21

Amazing story

What a story, kept me hooked the whole time. Sad story but very interesting.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-10-21

Interesting

Good insights into Isis, factual accounts of the war. Not particularly well narrated.
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