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Posted January 1, 2006
Despite the melodramatic title, there is not enough quality material in this book to justify it's price. There are at least a dozen better written, less partisan and more objective and educational books out there on the subject of Jihad, Islam, and the subject blurring 'War on Terror.' Just off the top of many head, ANY of the books below will serve you better.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 5, 2005
The Problematical World of HUMINT
I can't decide whether Congressman Weldon is a lousy writer or a devilishly clever one. Given the conversations that I have heard about the book, perhaps it is the latter. The point of this book is not the intelligence that Weldon received from 'Ali.' It cannot be. The intelligence is -- at the time of the book's release -- either common knowledge or common suspicion. Apparently 'Ali' was (is?) a pretty good source, since most of his predictions about Iranian moves against the U.S. proved accurate after the predictions were passed to Weldon. In fact, one of 'Ali's' predictions has been fulfilled in the weeks AFTER the book's release ... namely that the Iranian election would be rigged to elect as president not only an extreme hard-liner but one who is non-clerical. The issue of 'Ali' and the treatment of his intelligence -- in particular by the CIA -- is the hook on which the Congressman chooses to hang his continuing justifiable outrage over the bungling bureaucratic structure of U.S. intelligence. It is Weldon's contention (probably a sound one!) that the 'feel-good' reforms of the four years since 9/11 have skirted around dealing with the real problem. The real problem, he says, is a set of precepts and ways of doing business that protect the least competent and penalize enterprising agents and analysts at lower levels. The worst of these practices is 'groupthink' that dumbs intelligence down to something that even the lead-heads will agree with and does not allow competing views to filter up to policy-makers. 'Ali's' intelligence falls victim to a second fatal foible -- the tendency to ignore any source that is not 'owned' by the agency. The solution, he says, is to fire some folks. OK, Congressman. It works for me! So what are the problems with the book? First, 'Ali' brings up all the perennial problems of HUMINT. As a former member of the Shah's government and an avowed active promoter of the overthrow of the Islamic Republic, 'Ali' has an axe to grind and an agenda of his own. 'Ali' also wants money in order to keep the information coming. (Quelle surprise!) Finally, he has been associated with Gorbanifar. (Remember Iran-Contra?) None of these facts obviates the significance of 'Ali's' information. They just mean that a) if CIA bureaucrats want to discredit him they have obvious starting-points and b) 'Ali's' information -- like all HUMINT -- cries out for independent confirmation or some measure of skepticism. Second, to those of us who try to follow this stuff, 'Ali's' inconsistent transliteration of Arabic names should really have some explanation imbedded in the text. It takes a second look sometimes to figure out who we are talking about. e.g. Alzavaheri (Ayman Al-Zawaheri), Alzrghavi (Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi), and Emad Mognie (Imad Mugniyeh, one of the bloodiest and most dangerous terrorists in Iran's Hizb'allah stable). Still, despite the flaws, the book is a great read and ought not be passed up.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.