January 28, 2019  (Web Review)

The Terrorist Hunter

(2018) 33 min. DVD: $79: public libraries; $149: colleges & universities. DRA. The Video Project. PPR. Closed captioned.

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Ann Shin’s documentary short focuses on Rita Katz, one of the nation’s most prominent and controversial counterterrorism experts. Katz was born in a Jewish family living in Iraq, where her father was executed after the Six-Day War—on espionage charges—leading the family to flee to Iran and then on to Israel. Katz is best known for her work at the Search for International Terrorist Entities (SITE) Intelligence Group, a private intelligence firm based in Washington that she co-founded and runs. Katz’s fluency in Arabic has enabled her to penetrate jihadist communications and uncover crucial information regarding al-Qaeda and ISIS, and her SITE-based research has been used to supplement American intelligence efforts in the war on terror. Indeed, Katz has been responsible for locating ISIS videos showing the execution of foreigners before the terrorist group officially released these grisly recordings to the media. Katz’s 2003 book Terrorist Hunter, published anonymously, detailed her research into seemingly benign nonprofits that served as financing fronts for jihadist groups. Over the years, Katz has generated criticism for her work, particularly among American Islamic organizations that insist she has repeatedly stereotyped Muslims as being a monolithic terrorist force. Although the documentary feels a bit too short, the story of Katz’s life is truly fascinating. Recommended. Aud: C, P. (P. Hall)