Enemies: A History of the FBI

Enemies: A History of the FBI

3.8 30
by Tim Weiner

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The Washington Post • New York Daily News • Slate

“Fast-paced, fair-minded, and fascinating, Tim Weiner’s Enemies turns the long history of the FBI into a story that is as compelling, and important, as today’s headlines.”—Jeffrey Toobin,…  See more details below


The Washington Post • New York Daily News • Slate

“Fast-paced, fair-minded, and fascinating, Tim Weiner’s Enemies turns the long history of the FBI into a story that is as compelling, and important, as today’s headlines.”—Jeffrey Toobin, author of The Oath
Enemies is the first definitive history of the FBI’s secret intelligence operations, from an author whose work on the Pentagon and the CIA won him the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.
We think of the FBI as America’s police force. But secret intelligence is the Bureau’s first and foremost mission. Enemies is the story of how presidents have used the FBI to conduct political warfare, and how the Bureau became the most powerful intelligence service the United States possesses.
Here is the hidden history of America’s hundred-year war on terror. The FBI has fought against terrorists, spies, anyone it deemed subversive—and sometimes American presidents. The FBI’s secret intelligence and surveillance techniques have created a tug-of-war between national security and civil liberties. It is a tension that strains the very fabric of a free republic.
Praise for Enemies

“Outstanding.”—The New York Times
“Absorbing . . . a sweeping narrative that is all the more entertaining because it is so redolent with screw-ups and scandals.”—Los Angeles Times

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Editorial Reviews

Bryan Burrough
…outstanding…even-handed, exhaustively researched, smoothly written and thematically timely…certainly the most complete book we are likely to see about the F.B.I.'s intelligence-gathering operations, from Emma Goldman to Osama bin Laden. The problem with some F.B.I. histories is that they come off as a list of unrelated cases—case after case after very old case. Where Mr. Weiner excels is in connecting the dots…Another weakness of some F.B.I. books is their portrayal of Hoover as either a Machiavellian villain or, worse, a figure of unassailable power. He was neither. Mr. Weiner does a superb job, maybe the best I've seen, at charting the ebbs and flows of Hoover's power, chronicling in detail his relationship with presidents over 40 years.
—The New York Times
Dina Temple-Raston
What makes Enemies so compelling is that it draws heavily on previously unavailable intelligence files…Weiner uses them, and previously unheard oral histories, to set the record straight about the bureau's conduct both in times of war and in times of peace…Enemies is more than a definitive history of the FBI. Weiner…is really writing about the basic tension between civil liberties and national security in this country.
—The Washington Post
Kevin Baker
…important and disturbing…Wisely concentrating on the F.B.I.'s secret intelligence operations, Weiner lays bare a record of embarrassing, even stunning failure, in which the bureau's lawlessness was matched only by its incompetence…Weiner…has done prodigious research, yet tells this depressing story with all the verve and coherence of a good spy thriller.
—The New York Times Book Review
From the Publisher
“Outstanding.”—The New York Times
“Fast-paced, fair-minded, and fascinating, Tim Weiner’s Enemies turns the long history of the FBI into a story that is as compelling, and important, as today’s headlines.”—Jeffrey Toobin, author of The Oath
“Absorbing . . . a sweeping narrative that is all the more entertaining because it is so redolent with screw-ups and scandals.”—Los Angeles Times
“Fascinating.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Pulitzer Prize–winning author Tim Weiner has written a riveting inside account of the FBI’s secret machinations that goes so deep into the Bureau’s skulduggery, readers will feel they are tapping the phones along with J. Edgar Hoover. This is a book that every American who cares about civil liberties should read.”—Jane Mayer, author of The Dark Side
“Important and disturbing . . . with all the verve and coherence of a good spy thriller.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Exciting and fast-paced.”—The Daily Beast
Library Journal
The FBI during the 20th century was synonymous with J. Edgar Hoover, whose secret intelligence operations were top priority. This title examines the vital role that gathering and using intelligence played in defining the FBI and its place in American society. Weiner does an excellent job of creating a definitive history and paints a clear picture for the listener of how from the 1920s until his death, Hoover was obsessed with intelligence, obtained despite illegalities and violations of civil liberties, and how it fueled his vast power through several Presidents. There are many revelations here: Hoover's real obsession was anticommunism, and he wove this into everything from the civil rights movement to his distrust of the CIA. Another eye-opener is the lack of evidence relating to rumors of Hoover's sexuality. VERDICT Stefan Rudnicki does an outstanding job of conveying the mood, gravity, and emotion of the text via his energetic reading. ["Weiner's book is so engrossing that even the footnotes make for worthwhile reading," read the also starred review of the Random hc, LJ 4/15/12.—Ed.]—Scott R. DiMarco, Mansfield Univ. of Pennsylvania Lib.
Kirkus Reviews
Drawing on thousands of pages of recently declassified documents and oral histories, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Weiner (Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, 2008, etc.) delivers an authoritative and often frightening history of what has been, in effect, America's secret police. The history of the FBI is easily divided into two periods: the J. Edgar Hoover period and after. In 1924, before he was 30, Hoover took over a tiny, tawdry Bureau and built it into a fearsome empire he ruled as a personal fiefdom until his death in 1972. The Bureau under Hoover did as it pleased and answered to no one. Illegal wiretapping, bugging, black-bag jobs--the organization did it all in the service of Hoover's relentless pursuit of communist subversives real and imaginary. In the process he assembled files of devastating information on thousands of Americans from the presidents on down. Much of this scurrilous information was obtained on the direct orders of presidents and attorneys general, and was supplied to them for their own uses. After Hoover's death, these abuses were reined in, but the Bureau has since endured a series of flawed directors who have proven unable to bring order to its sprawling and insular chaos or overcome a culture of rigidity and bureaucratic ineptitude. Weiner focuses on the FBI's activities investigating and attempting to prevent subversion and terrorism and writes little about the Bureau's pursuit of gangsters and white-collar criminals, which has taken up far fewer resources than the public supposes. A major theme is the difference between investigations intended to support criminal prosecutions and those intended to disrupt potential subversive activity. The former require strict adherence to constitutional safeguards; the latter, however necessary they seemed at the time, have all too often trampled on civil liberties. Striking an appropriate balance between liberty and security remains an ongoing challenge for the FBI. Weiner contributes much new, troubling and thoroughly substantiated information to any serious consideration of that issue. A sober, monumental and unflinchingly critical account of a problematic institution.

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Random House Publishing Group
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Chapter 1

. Edgar Hoover went to war at the age of -twenty--two, on Thursday morning, July 26, 1917. He walked out of his boyhood home in Washington, D.C., and set off for his new life at the Justice Department, to serve as a foot soldier in the army of lawmen fighting spies, saboteurs, Communists, and anarchists in the United States.

America had entered World War I in April. The first waves of her troops were landing in France, unprepared for the horrors that faced them. On the home front, Americans were gripped by the fear of sabotage by German secret agents. The country had been on high alert for a year, ever since an enemy attack on a huge warehouse of American munitions bound for the battlefront. The blast at Black Tom Island, on the western edge of New York Harbor, had set off two thousand tons of explosives in the dark of a midsummer night. Seven people died at the site. In Manhattan, thousands of windows were shattered by the shock waves. The Statue of Liberty was scarred by shrapnel.

Hoover worked for the War Emergency Division at the Justice Department, charged with preventing the next surprise attack. He displayed a martial spirit and a knack for shaping the thinking of his superiors. He won praise from the division’s chief, John Lord O’Brian. “He worked Sundays and nights, as I did,” O’Brian recounted. “I promoted him several times, simply on merits.”

Hoover rose quickly to the top of the division’s Alien Enemy Bureau, which was responsible for identifying and imprisoning politically suspect foreigners living in the United States. At the age of -twenty--three, Hoover oversaw 6,200 Germans who were interned in camps and 450,000 more who were under government surveillance. At -twenty--four, he was placed in charge of the newly created Radical Division of the Justice Department, and he ran the biggest counterterrorism operations in the history of the United States, rounding up thousands of radical suspects across the country. He had no guns or ammunition. Secret intelligence was his weapon.

Hoover lived all his life in Washington, D.C., where he was born on New Year’s Day 1895, the youngest of four children. He was the son and the grandson of government servants. His father, Dickerson, was afflicted with depression; deep melancholy cost him his job as a government cartographer and likely hastened his death. His mother, Annie, was doting but dour. Hoover lived at home with her for the first -forty--three years of his life, until the day she died. He told several of his closest aides that he remained a single man because he feared the wrong woman would be his downfall; a bad marriage would destroy him. Hoover’s niece, Margaret Fennell, grew up alongside him; she stayed in touch with him for six decades. She knew him as well as anyone could. “I sometimes have thought that he -really—-I don’t know how to put -it—-had a fear of becoming too personally involved with people,” she reflected. If he ever expressed love beyond his devotion to God and country, there were no witnesses. He was sentimental about dogs, but unemotional about people. His inner life was a mystery, even to his immediate family and his few close friends.

Hoover learned how to march in military formation and how to make a formal argument. The drill team and the debate team at Central High School were the highlights of his youth. Central High’s debate squad was the best in the city, and Hoover became one of its stars; his school newspaper praised his competitive spirit and his “cool relentless logic.” He told the paper, after a stirring victory over a college team, that debating had given him “a practical and beneficial example of life, which is nothing more or less than the matching of one man’s wit against another.”

Hoover went to work for the government of the United States as soon as he had his high school diploma. Its monuments were all around him. His -two--story home sat six blocks southeast of Capitol Hill. At the crest of the hill stood the chandeliered chambers of the Senate and the House, the colossal temple of the Supreme Court, and the Library of Congress, with its vaulted ceilings and stained glass. Hoover dutifully recited the devotions of the Presbyterian Church on Sundays, but the Library of Congress was the secular cathedral of his youth. The library possessed every book published in the United States. The reverent hush of its central reading room imparted a sense that all knowledge was at hand, if you knew where to look. The library had its own system of classification, and Hoover learned its complexities as a cataloguer, earning money for school by filing and retrieving information. He worked days at the library while he studied in the early evenings and on summer mornings at George Washington University, where he earned his master’s degree in law in June 1917. He registered for military service but joined the Justice Department to fight the war at home.
“The gravest threats”

On April 6, 1917, the day America entered World War I, President Woodrow W. Wilson signed executive orders giving the Justice Department the power to command the arrest and imprisonment, without trial, of any foreigner deemed disloyal. He told the American people that Germany had “filled our unsuspecting communities and even our offices of government with spies, and set criminal intrigues everywhere afoot.” The president’s words stoked fear across the country, and the fear placed a great weight on the Justice Department. “When we declared war,” O’Brian said, “there were persons who expected to see a veritable reign of terror in America.”

O’Brian watched over Hoover and his colleagues as they labored day and night in cramped and smoky rooms at the War Emergency Division and the Alien Enemy Bureau, poring over fragmentary reports of plots against America. They were like firemen hearing the ceaseless ringing of false alarms. “Immense pressure” fell upon them, O’Brian recalled; they faced demands from politicians and the public for the “indiscriminate prosecution” and “wholesale repression” of suspect Americans and aliens alike, often “based on nothing more than irresponsible rumor.” Before Black Tom, “the people of this nation had no experience with subversive activities,” he said. “The government was likewise unprepared.” After Black Tom, thousands of potential threats were reported to the government. American leaders feared the enemy could strike anywhere, at any time.

The German masterminds of Black Tom had been at work from the moment World War I began in Europe, in the summer of 1914. They had planned to infiltrate Washington and undermine Wall Street; they had enlisted Irish and Hindu nationalists to strike American targets; they had used Mexico and Canada as safe havens for covert operations against the United States. While Hoover was still studying law at night school, at the start of 1915, Germany’s military attaché in the United States, Captain Franz von Papen, had received secret orders from Berlin: undermine America’s will to fight. Von Papen began to build a propaganda machine in the United States; the Germans secretly gained control of a major New York newspaper, the Evening Mail; their front men negotiated to buy The Washington Post and the New York Sun. Political fixers, corrupt journalists, and crooked detectives served the German cause.

But after a German -U--boat torpedoed the British passenger ship Lusitania on May 7, 1915, killing 1,119 people, including 274 Americans, the German ambassador glumly cabled Berlin: “We might as well admit openly that our propaganda here has collapsed completely.” Americans were enraged at the attack on civilians; Germany’s political and diplomatic status in the United States was grievously damaged. President Wilson ordered that all German embassy personnel in the United States be placed under surveillance. Secretary of State Robert Lansing sent secret agents to wiretap German diplomats. By year’s end, von Papen and his fellow attachés were expelled from the United States.

When Hoover arrived at the Justice Department, O’Brian had just tried and convicted a German spy, Captain Franz von Rintelen. The case was -front--page news. Von Rintelen had arrived in New York a few weeks before the sinking of the Lusitania, carrying a forged Swiss passport. On orders from the German high command, he had recruited idle sailors on New York’s docks, radical Irish nationalists, a Wall Street con artist, and a drunken Chicago congressman in plans to sabotage American war industries with a combination of business frauds and firebombs. But Captain von Rintelen had fled the United States, rightly fearing the exposure of his secret plans. British intelligence officers, who had been reading German cables, arrested him as he landed in -En-gland, roughly interrogated him in the Tower of London, and handed him over to the Justice Department for indictment and trial.

“America never witnessed anything like this before,” President Wilson told Congress after the captain’s arrest. “A little while ago, such a thing would have seemed incredible. Because it was incredible we made no preparation for it.”

Terrorists and anarchists represented “the gravest threats against our national peace and safety,” the president said. “Such creatures of passion, disloyalty, and anarchy must be crushed out. . . . The hand of our power should close over them at once.”
J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI would become the instruments of that power.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher

“Pulitzer-Prize–winning author Tim Weiner has written a riveting inside account of the FBI’s secret machinations that goes so deep into the Agency’s skullduggery, readers will feel they are tapping the phones along with J. Edgar Hoover. This is a book that every American who cares about civil liberties should read.”—Jane Mayer, author of The Dark Side
Enemies is a research masterpiece. Picking through seventy thousand newly declassified documents and using on-the-record interviews, Weiner reveals startling new truths and debunks nagging old myths about the FBI. Enemies reads like a thriller, but don’t let the heart-pumping prose fool you. Weiner has written a scholarly tour de force that will be an instant classic for any serious student of American national security.”—Amy B. Zegart, Ph.D., Stanford University, author of Spying Blind
“Tim Weiner’s Enemies is the most comprehensive history of the FBI as an intelligence agency we have ever had. Based on extensive research in previously unavailable materials, Weiner gives us a fresh way to think about J. Edgar Hoover, the many presidents he worked with, and the FBI as a national security agency. The book is also a cautionary tale that is essential reading for anyone concerned about American civil liberties.”—Robert Dallek, author of An Unfinished Life

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Enemies 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
alring More than 1 year ago
Very well written. Extremely we'll documented and presented. A mind blowing historical review of our ineptness (and sometimes greatness) in times past and as a modern society, to do what apparently must be done, to protect ourselves, indeed, preserve our nation and our way of life -- such as it seems to be. A clear case of what America and Americans must learn, and how we must behave, to survive in our world today.... and tomorrow.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Scrolling along the timeline of history, Weiner dismantles the FBI incident by incident and presents the realities of our nation's police force. I found the perspective deeply refreshing. The "view from within" through the Cold War, the Space Age, the New Tech Age gives new life to old histories and a better understanding for the realities of the times. One of the most revealing histories I've come across.
Boysie More than 1 year ago
Great read - and well researched and documented
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very well written and informative.
richardcolonel More than 1 year ago
The book starts of at a fairly good pace, and continues throughout the rest of the book. Contrary to what we were led to believe by television programing and movies, There was a whole lot of anecdotes that films always leave out for sake of time and space. ENEMIES fills in those spaces. Anybody wanting to know about the FBI, this is the book. Anyone wanting to know about the history of the United States over the past century, this is the book to read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you love history, this is a great book. The history of the FBI and the effects of FBI policies and activities on life in the US are engrossing reading. The writing is brisk and moves right along, which I didn't expect because it delves so much into historic files.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had always pictured the FBI as this super-secret,highly effective agency with flaws. Surprise,surprise! Great research! Read it and learn.
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Man_Of_La_Book_Dot_Com More than 1 year ago
Ene­mies: A His­tory of the FBI by Tim Weiner is a non-fiction book which tells of the 100 year his­tory of the famous orga­ni­za­tion. Mr. Weiner is a Pulitzer Prize win­ning author and a for­mer New York Times reporter who wrote largely about Amer­i­can secu­rity. Ene­mies: A His­tory of the FBI by Tim Weiner is a fas­ci­nat­ing book and an excel­lent treat­ment of what basi­cally amounts to domes­tic spy­ing. In his research, Mr. Weiner invoked the words of the Found­ing Fathers that we must be vig­i­lant; buy not com­pro­mise our civil lib­er­ties in the process. In this treat­ment, with each Pres­i­dent of either major party, this com­pro­mise is con­stantly tested with J. Edgar Hoover play­ing a major role. The por­traits of men in power are one of the most dis­turb­ing aspects in this book. Nixon, Rea­gan, Clin­ton, LBJ, Hoover and more are all com­plex peo­ple who, once in the seat of power, dis­miss their for­mer beliefs in the notion that they are above the law (Nixon stated that if a Pres­i­dent does “some­thing” it’s not ille­gal and every other Pres­i­dent has agreed with him so far). Even Obama, a Con­sti­tu­tional scholar, signed the National Defense Autho­riza­tion Act, which allows for unspec­i­fied mil­i­tary impris­on­ment, with­out trial, of any Amer­i­can cit­i­zen “who was a part of or sub­stan­tially sup­ported Al Qaeda, the Tal­iban or asso­ci­ated forces that are engaged in hos­til­i­ties against the United States or its coali­tion part­ners”. Obama did pledge that he would not use this power, but what about the next guy (or gal)? Hoover is so blinded by his hatred of Com­mu­nists that he jus­ti­fies all his uncon­sti­tu­tional acts (throw­ing Amer­i­cans in jail, spy­ing, etc.) by that logic. Even the Civil Rights move­ment was a tar­get, not because Hoover was racist, but because he believed the Com­mu­nist Party was behind it. But Hoover wouldn’t do any­thing to embar­rass the Bureau (which allows for a lot). Being an orga­ni­za­tion with no for­mal char­ter from Con­gress, an orga­ni­za­tion which its basic fund­ing is still some­what secret since the days Theodore Roo­sevelt cre­ated a “Bureau of Inves­ti­ga­tion” con­trary to the wishes of Con­gress the FBI had much to prove. Being secre­tive is no recipe for suc­cess as the reader finds out; con­cen­trat­ing on secret intel­li­gence oper­a­tions, the author tells of many fail­ures and tales of stun­ning incom­pe­tence which occurred despite the secrecy, law­less­ness and pow­er­ful friends in high places. But Ene­mies is not an all out crit­i­cism of the FBI, Mr. Weiner does con­trast how the FBI has changed under Direc­tor Robert Mueller who believed in doing the right thing and even offer to resign (with other senior mem­bers) if the Bush 43 admin­is­tra­tion
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banner45 More than 1 year ago
The author goes into elaborate details to describe the FBI's effort over the years in combating counter terrorism & communism. The brief life sketch on Hoover is also enjoyable.
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Description at slash 3rd res.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After reading this book I began to see Hoover in a new light. I would highly recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I want to be in the fbi when i grow up because itis seceret and like being a secret agent (FBI means fedral bureau of investgation) bye the way my name is gretel i am 8 years old i have my own nook