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See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

See No Evil

Embarrassingly, perhaps, I knew very little about terrorism when the attacks of 9/11 happened. Maybe I was in line with most Americans in that, terrorism was not exactly the top thing on their minds. But suddenly the news were filled with names and titles that had my he...
Embarrassingly, perhaps, I knew very little about terrorism when the attacks of 9/11 happened. Maybe I was in line with most Americans in that, terrorism was not exactly the top thing on their minds. But suddenly the news were filled with names and titles that had my head spinning. And along with that came all sorts of allegations and commentary regarding the failures of the CIA in the events that led up to this catastrophe.

After watching the movie Syriana, which is essentially a film about the oil industry and the politics involved, I grew interested in this book, simply because it clearly dealt with problems regarding the agency.

Not by any means meant to be an unbiased account, See No Evil is a former agent¿s account about the events that made, in his opinion a mockery of the agency he once loved to work for. Doing his best to present the facts, the author does so without every trying to hide the fact that all of this is coming from his own point of view and his own experiences in the field. What he relates is an interesting account of numerous events that clearly show the disintegration of the CIA into the troubled organization it now is.

Broken up roughly into four parts, Mr. Baer tells his story in specific categories. The first is mostly autobiographical, an explanation of his background, his childhood and his training. The second part of the book relates his stories as a field agent, brand new to the job. The third focuses on the terrorism side while the fourth focuses on the oil companies, two concepts that seemingly often go hand in hand. All of this is tied together with bookend narrations of his own problems within the Agency.

This book reads well, with plenty of details and decent narrative, but it assumes that you have some background knowledge of the themes it deals with. In general, I would say that anybody that listens to the news will not be entirely lost here, but there are a number of times where a little wikipedia did not hurt. Unfortunately, the book was not entirely as in-depth as I would have wanted it to be and while it works as a good entry into the genre, it certainly does not stand alone and needs to be balanced with either some counter arguments or a more thorough tome that will shed greater light on the subject.

posted by FocoProject on October 27, 2008

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Most Helpful Critical Review

4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

Why U.S. Intelligence Missed the Build-Up to 9-11

Author Robert Baer made a career in CIA operations from 1976 to 1997. His memoirs, SEE NO EVIL, went into print weeks after the 9/11/2001 terror attacks by air against Manhattan's Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Baer blames their success largely on the deteriorat...
Author Robert Baer made a career in CIA operations from 1976 to 1997. His memoirs, SEE NO EVIL, went into print weeks after the 9/11/2001 terror attacks by air against Manhattan's Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Baer blames their success largely on the deterioration in American government intelligence gathering which he had observed and protested. *** SEE NO EVIL highlights Robert Baer at work in CIA headquarters in Virginia, training and learning languages (especially Arabic) and spying abroad in India, Lebanon, Cyprus, Tajikistan and Iraq. The book's cover says that SEE NO EVIL is 'the true story that suggested the major motion picture 'Syriana.' *** Like Syriana the film, SEE NO EVIL draws attention to the power of American petroleum multinationals. Baer asserts that more than one oil giant, such as AMOCO and EXXON, have their own advocates at work in sensitive positions within the U.S. Government. It is not just Congress that has a revolving door of people leaving for well paid jobs in the private sector. So does the CIA, asserts Baer. He gives the example of Ed Pechous, who made a meteoric career in the Agency then the next day joined petroleum barracuda Roger Tamraz as an employee, having just had official responsibility for liaison with Tamraz while heading the CIA office in Manhattan. *** The book is a good review of the successful end of the cold war and the repeated American ball dropping that occurred in the early phases of international Islamo- terrorism. Familiar names pop up: Ahmad Chalabi, now in the government of Iraq, national security advisors Tony Lake and Sandy Berger and others. Baer's book adds a colorful tessera to the evolving mosaic of what went wrong with American intelligence gathering of terrorist plans and capacities. -OOO-

posted by Anonymous on February 20, 2007

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  • Posted October 27, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    See No Evil

    Embarrassingly, perhaps, I knew very little about terrorism when the attacks of 9/11 happened. Maybe I was in line with most Americans in that, terrorism was not exactly the top thing on their minds. But suddenly the news were filled with names and titles that had my head spinning. And along with that came all sorts of allegations and commentary regarding the failures of the CIA in the events that led up to this catastrophe.<BR/><BR/>After watching the movie Syriana, which is essentially a film about the oil industry and the politics involved, I grew interested in this book, simply because it clearly dealt with problems regarding the agency.<BR/><BR/>Not by any means meant to be an unbiased account, See No Evil is a former agent¿s account about the events that made, in his opinion a mockery of the agency he once loved to work for. Doing his best to present the facts, the author does so without every trying to hide the fact that all of this is coming from his own point of view and his own experiences in the field. What he relates is an interesting account of numerous events that clearly show the disintegration of the CIA into the troubled organization it now is.<BR/><BR/>Broken up roughly into four parts, Mr. Baer tells his story in specific categories. The first is mostly autobiographical, an explanation of his background, his childhood and his training. The second part of the book relates his stories as a field agent, brand new to the job. The third focuses on the terrorism side while the fourth focuses on the oil companies, two concepts that seemingly often go hand in hand. All of this is tied together with bookend narrations of his own problems within the Agency.<BR/><BR/>This book reads well, with plenty of details and decent narrative, but it assumes that you have some background knowledge of the themes it deals with. In general, I would say that anybody that listens to the news will not be entirely lost here, but there are a number of times where a little wikipedia did not hurt. Unfortunately, the book was not entirely as in-depth as I would have wanted it to be and while it works as a good entry into the genre, it certainly does not stand alone and needs to be balanced with either some counter arguments or a more thorough tome that will shed greater light on the subject.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2007

    Why U.S. Intelligence Missed the Build-Up to 9-11

    Author Robert Baer made a career in CIA operations from 1976 to 1997. His memoirs, SEE NO EVIL, went into print weeks after the 9/11/2001 terror attacks by air against Manhattan's Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Baer blames their success largely on the deterioration in American government intelligence gathering which he had observed and protested. *** SEE NO EVIL highlights Robert Baer at work in CIA headquarters in Virginia, training and learning languages (especially Arabic) and spying abroad in India, Lebanon, Cyprus, Tajikistan and Iraq. The book's cover says that SEE NO EVIL is 'the true story that suggested the major motion picture 'Syriana.' *** Like Syriana the film, SEE NO EVIL draws attention to the power of American petroleum multinationals. Baer asserts that more than one oil giant, such as AMOCO and EXXON, have their own advocates at work in sensitive positions within the U.S. Government. It is not just Congress that has a revolving door of people leaving for well paid jobs in the private sector. So does the CIA, asserts Baer. He gives the example of Ed Pechous, who made a meteoric career in the Agency then the next day joined petroleum barracuda Roger Tamraz as an employee, having just had official responsibility for liaison with Tamraz while heading the CIA office in Manhattan. *** The book is a good review of the successful end of the cold war and the repeated American ball dropping that occurred in the early phases of international Islamo- terrorism. Familiar names pop up: Ahmad Chalabi, now in the government of Iraq, national security advisors Tony Lake and Sandy Berger and others. Baer's book adds a colorful tessera to the evolving mosaic of what went wrong with American intelligence gathering of terrorist plans and capacities. -OOO-

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Excellent! Insight from a CIA Field Agent

    Robert Baer shares stories of his life as a CIA field agent in the Middle East. Great insight into the function/dysfunction of players in the region and the difficulty he had gathering intelligence while being stonewalled by political decision makers. His anger and frustration with an agency that he believes lost its way and failed America can't be mistaken. An interesting lesson in the dynamics of terrorism, broken promises, the Middle East and how politicians decimated the capabilities of the CIA.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2007

    An Insiders Look

    Anyone interested in getting an insiders look at terrorism and how our systems work, needs to read this. Forget political party lines, this is one man's view of his time he put in and it's quite an interesting read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2002

    A hero for all....

    this is truly one of the best no nonsense book that I've read in a while. It certainly gives a refreshing view of the world that most of us only fantasize about.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2013

    Mystery

    Howled in anger

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2011

    Good read

    Gave me insight on the politics of oil & US-middle east relationship. Make me wonder about the true intentions of those we vote into office.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2011

    Excellent book

    Great look into the mind and lifestyle of a CIA operator

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2008

    Memoirs of a CIA Field Agent

    See No Evil is Robert Baer's memoirs as a field agent for the CIA in the Middle-East. While in the field, Baer was able to observe first-hand the decline of the CIA as an intelligence-gathering organization throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Baer asserts that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 can and should be directly attributed to this decline (which he prefers to blame primarily on the Clinton administration, although he grudgingly admits that the Reagan and Bush administrations also contributed to the problem). It's interesting to read about the ins and outs of the Middle East, not to mention the inner workings of the CIA. However, Baer often uses his narrative to make unnecessary political statements and at times to needle perceived rivals and antagonists in the federal government. Also, Baer tries to dramatize situations as though he were writing a novel (he did subsequently publish a novel in 2006, Blow the House Down, which was surprisingly well-received). By the way, this book was the inspiration for the movie Syriana, and while George Clooney's character at times appears to be based on Baer, the book is not much like the movie.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2006

    Gripping, eye-opening, smart and chilling.

    I bought this book because I thought the author being a former CIA agent would have a fresh and real perspective other than the barrage of political spin and pundit's hypothesis based on personal ideology. Since 9/11 I have wanted to learn more about the middle eastern conflicts, its basis and where we really stand as a country from it. This book is very eye opening and I believe he is fair - he blasts the Democrat and Republican administrations alike for the decline of the CIA and its subsequent failures to protect the United States. Its very well written, is sharp and articulate but the recounts of it make you feel like he is sitting next to you telling a story to a friend. It was an easy read, very much a page turner, like many reviewers here it is very scary and chilling once you realize how imbedded politics is in the CIA (and FBI) to the point of choosing oil over Americans lives and choosing to overlook damning intelligence of terrorist activities in favor of not offending the Saudi royal family. This book is not about fear-mongering either - in a very plain-spoken tone the author conveys his alarm and disappointment at the state of an agency that is supposed to use intelligence to protect Americans from attack, and instead cherry-picks for political purposes. And like many reviewers here, you will want to recommend this book to everyone you know.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2005

    This book will make you tell others to buy it

    Baer's career is frightening and captivating. He goes through painstaking detail with you as the reader as if you were taking over from him. I learned more about terror networks, politics, spying, and the like than in any civics class. Baer's accounts make you wonder if we elected the right people in DC and calls us to action to be active citizens in the fight on terror. Thank you for this book and your story Mr. Baer

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2005

    must read

    Excellent book. Must read for everyone. I know the topic of terrorism is hot now, every college, and school is offering it, but i am not sure that people who teach really understand what the terrorism is all about. this book is 'must read' book. Will show you all the aspects of politics. Will show how US slept and did nothing, while US citizens were murdered. Accounts of Russia are true, I was born there and lived, and saw it first hand, nothing was made up.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2004

    This is what the CIA has come up to...

    An excellent book by an outstanding man, dedicated to serving his country and standing up for its beliefs even after the ones back home stopped caring. Mr. Baer walks you through the fine lines of the CIA, from the beginnig until the end, a beginning so promising and an end that makes you think if you are really safe in this society of ours, how the CIA sunk in the bureaucracies of Washington when it should've stuck to what it was founded on and what it knew best from the beginning. I found this book very enlightening and an excellent read. I am also a strong supporter of what the United States is doing at the time in Iraq and it boggles my mind how our government chose a man like Ahmad Chalabi to be part of Iraq's reconstruction, I'm sure Mr. Baer had a fit when he heard the news...Personally, I never knew anything about Mr. Chalabi until I read this amazing book. I highly recommend this book to any reader that is interested on what some people sacrifice for this country.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2003

    This book should scare everyone!

    I loved this book with all the details Mr.Baer included. Its hard to believe that anyone would have risked his life for the small salary and lack of support that was given. As I continued reading I became more an more frightened. I wish the media would investigate the many facts in this book. I fear that they to are to afraid to shake the tree. They just want to write about gossip.I look forward to more books from Mr. Baer and I thank him for his contribution to the American people.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2003

    Time For Americans to take back America!

    I read Mr. Baer's second title (Sleeping With The Devil: How Washington Sold Our Souls For Saudi Crude) before reading See No Evil, so I thought I would be braced for what he had to say in See No Evil, but I must admit that I'm even more intrigued and disturbed by the events as told by Mr. Baer in this book. I've ALWAYS said that we, as nation, lost sight our founding fathers credo of 'a government by the people and for the people' Today, the powers in modern government have transformed our system into one that's by the rich and special interest groups and for the rich and special interest groups. Maybe it's time that Americans wake-up and take-back America from the despots that are running it or should I say ruining it! Read this book and pass it on to a friend. Thanks Mr. Baer for all you've done or tried to do for our country!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2003

    EDUCATION IN TERRORISM

    AMAZING BOOK FOR AN AVERAGE, FIRST TIME READER LEARNING OPERATIONS INSIDE THE CIA, AND THE HERO'S THEY REALLY ARE!!!! BOB BAER IS AN AMAZING MAN.....HOPEFULLY HE'S BACK FROM RETIREMENT. NEED MORE DEDICATED MEN LIKE HIM. FASCINATING, INTRIGUING, DISTURBING...MAYBE 9/11 COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2002

    On the Money

    I approached this book with some suspiscions and still don't agree with everything the author has to say. That being said, this book provide the average reader with an inside look into the real world of espionage in the field as well as political and bureauocratic realities in Washington. Baer's book is not unbiased but his center conclusions are valid. This is a must read for anyone interested in espionage,terrorism,and foreign policy and the disconnects between field operatives and decision makers.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2002

    Read THE TRUTH!

    Finally, a true American that tells it like it is! I respect and honor Mr. Baer so much for doing his job and staying true to the spirit of what the CIA is supposed to be doing. My only hope is that those who make the decisions for our country will read this book NOW!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2002

    A Must Read for all Americans

    This book tells all. It confirmed how 9/11 was possible. Please read this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2013

    Dead Tree

    A Dead Tree Towers High Above Them In A Mossy Clearing. ((Gathering Place.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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