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In this compulsive page-turner, six-time New York Times bestselling author John Weisman blows the lid off one of Washington's deepest real-world secrets. The CIA, currently incapable of performing its core mission of supplying critical and time-sensitive human-based intelligence for the global war on terror, must now outsource the work to private contractors. Drawing on real-world crises and actual CIA operations, Direct Action takes readers deep inside this new and unreported covert warfare that is being fought ...
In this compulsive page-turner, six-time New York Times bestselling author John Weisman blows the lid off one of Washington's deepest real-world secrets. The CIA, currently incapable of performing its core mission of supplying critical and time-sensitive human-based intelligence for the global war on terror, must now outsource the work to private contractors. Drawing on real-world crises and actual CIA operations, Direct Action takes readers deep inside this new and unreported covert warfare that is being fought on a daily basis by anonymous shadow warriors all across the globe.
Racing against the clock and shuttling between Washington, Paris, and the Middle East, one of those shadow warriors, former CIA case officer Tom Stafford, must slip below the radar to uncover, target, and neutralize a deadly al-Qa'ida bombmaker before the assassin can launch simultaneous multiple attacks against America and the West. And as if that weren't enough, Stafford must simultaneously open a second front and mount a clandestine war against the CIA itself, because for mysterious and seemingly inexplicable reasons the people at the very top of the Central Intelligence Agency want him to fail.
The characters and operations in Direct Action are drawn from true-life CIA personnel and their real-world missions. With Direct Action, John Weisman confirms once again Joseph Wambaugh's claim that "nobody writes better about the dark and dirty world of the CIA and black ops."
On 21 September 1995, at 11:47 A.M., five senior officers from the Central Intelligence Agency's Directorate of Operations -- the CIA's clandestine service -- quietly gathered in room 4D-627A, one of the sensitive compartmentalized information facilities colloquially known as bubble rooms, on the fourth floor of the headquarters building at Langley, Virginia. The Agency was still reeling from the February 1994 arrest of Aldrich Hazen Ames. Ames, an alcoholic, money-hungry wreck of a career case officer, had betrayed dozens of America's most valuable Russian agents to the KGB, resulting in their arrests and executions. He had also handed over many of CIA's technical tradecraft secrets and the identities of American undercover operatives.
Two of the clandestine officers at the meeting had been tasked with writing a Top Secret/Codeword damage assessment of the Ames debacle, a preliminary draft of which, at their peril, they were now sharing with three of their most trusted colleagues.
The assessment was grim. One had, it said, to assume that CIA had been completely penetrated because of Ames's treason. The Agency, therefore, was now transparent. Not only to the opposition, which still included Moscow, but to all of Moscow's current clients, including Libya,Syria, Sudan, Iraq, and -- equally if not more critical -- to the transnational terrorist organizations supported by those states. Transparency meant that the entire structure of the Directorate of Operations had to be considered as compromised; that every operation, every agent, every case officer was known to the opposition and its allies.
The only way to ensure that the clandestine service could survive in the coming years, the seniormost of the report writers suggested to his colleagues, would be to build a whole new and totally sterile spy organization inside CIA -- a covert clandestine service within the overt clandestine service. But such a utopian solution, all five knew, would be impossible to achieve. The current director of central intelligence, John M. Deutch, would never allow it. Deutch, a tall, bumbling, angular, bookish MIT professor of chemistry who had served as undersecretary of defense, had been sent over from the Pentagon the previous May to clean CIA's post-Ames house. Instead of selecting savvy advisers to help ease his way into Langley's unique culture, the new director -- himself a neophyte in matters of spycraft -- brought with him as his closest aides two individuals neither of whom had any operational intelligence experience.
Deutch's executive director was Nora Slatkin, a presidentialappointee assistant secretary of the Navy. His deputy and right arm was George John Tenet, an NSC staffer who'd toiled on Capitol Hill for Senator David Boren among others. Itdidn'tt ake more than a few weeks for the great majority of seasoned intelligence professionals of CIA's clandestine service, the Directorate of Operations or DO, to detest all three. The situation was made even worse when Deutch appointed David Cohen, a DI (Directorate of Intelligence) reports officer, to head the DO. Cohen, the corridor gossip went, absolutely detested spying and those who did it.
So no one was surprised that it took only a few months for Deutch and his associates to promulgate a series of orders that, in effect, prevented CIA's clandestine service from . . . spying. Under the new rules of engagement, every agent who had a criminal record, or was suspected of human rights violations, or who might be involved in any kind of criminal or terrorist activity, was to be jettisoned. Dumped. Ditched. Discarded. Their agent networks were to be disassembled.
By the 21 September meeting, more than half of CIA's foreign agents had been struck from the rolls and their names erased from BigPond, CIA's computer database run by Nora Slatkin's administrative division. More than fifty productive agent networks in Europe, the Middle East, South America, and Asia were summarily disbanded. Unable to recruit the sorts of unsavory but productive individuals it had targeted in the past, American intelligence quickly found itself going deaf, dumb, and blind. After the BigPond debacle, the old hands started referring to Slatkin as "Tora-Tora" Nora.
And voting with their feet. By summer's end of 1995, more than 240 experienced case officers -- 40 percent of those with more than fifteen years of field experience -- had resigned or taken early retirement. The Agency's Counterterrorism Center (CTC) had been eviscerated, with many of its physical and technical assets either eliminated altogether or handed over to other agencies, including CIA's detested rival, the Federal Bureau of Investigation. CTC operations at Rhine-Main airport, Frankfurt, where its European crisis-management "crash team" was forward-deployed, was shut down completely.
It wasn't long before it was proudly announced during a closed-door session of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) that the new CIA leadership was saving more than $3.6 billion annually by closing nine CIA stations in sub-Saharan Africa and CIA's bases1 in half a dozen Western European cities. The rationale was that with the Cold War over, America didn't need to keep tabs on Soviet agents anymore and the Agency outposts in such places as Dusseldorf, Barcelona, Marseille, and Milan were superfluous.
Alan Martin, CIA's assistant deputy director for collection, couldn't get an appointment with Deutch or his deputy, George Tenet. So he finally corralled one of Tenet's growing army of special assistants in the cafeteria.
Excerpted from Direct Action by John Weisman Copyright © 2006 by John Weisman. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted August 4, 2006
I have a lot of problems with this book. Weisman is praised for his authentic insight into the counter intelligence world. While I have no back ground to find fault with his authenticity or scenarios, I feel that Weisman is weak in his execution in telling a story. For example he spends several chapters in the beginning introducing characters that fall quickly into the background. It isn't until page 55 that we hear mention of the main character and until page 75 that the story begins focusing on him. By that time it took another 50 pages before I was certain this person was the main character. In other words I was more than a quarter into the book and I was unsure of the identity of the main character. We don't need entire chapters to introduce secondary characters, particularly at the expense of getting the story moving. I felt that Mr. Weisman is constantly sidetracked in telling his story with irrelevant reminiscences. In my opinion with Mr. Weisman's ability to create realism in his world, working with another polished writer or at the very least a better editor could give his books the lift they need. Get the story moving and don't get sidetracked.
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Posted November 21, 2006
This book made it past the censors and yet gives the layman an inside look at the frustrations for operations personnel in the CIA. While the detail can bog you down in the first few chapters, it's well worth it as you move through the book. Finally a book that exposes the political correctness that has hog tied our operative. Well thought out detailed and true to life senarios.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 17, 2012
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