- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Only Ronald Kessler, an award-winning former Washington Post and Wall Street Journal investigative reporter, could have gained the unprecedented access to tell the ...
Only Ronald Kessler, an award-winning former Washington Post and Wall Street Journal investigative reporter, could have gained the unprecedented access to tell the story. Kessler interviewed fifty current CIA officers, including all the agency's top officials, and toured areas of the CIA the media has never seen. The agency actively encouraged retired CIA officers and officials to talk with him as well. In six years as director, George J. Tenet has never appeared on TV shows and has given only a handful of print interviews, all before 9/11, but Tenet agreed to be interviewed by Kessler for this book. He spoke candidly and passionately about the events of 9/11, the war on terror, the agency's intelligence on Iraq, and the controversies surrounding the agency.
The CIA at War tells the inside story of how Tenet, a son of Greek immigrants, turned around the CIA from a pathetic, risk averse outfit to one that has rolled up 3,000 terrorists since 9/11, was critically important to winning in Afghanistan and Iraq, and now kills terrorists with its Predator drone aircraft.
The book portrays Tenet as a true American hero, one who overcame every kind of Washington obstacle and the destructive actions of previous director John Deutch to make the agency a success. As Tenet said in a recent speech, "Nowhere in the world could the son of an immigrant stand before you as the director of Central Intelligence. This is simply the greatest country on the face of the earth."
The CIA at War discloses highly sensitive information about the CIA's unorthodox methods and its stunning successes and shocking failures. The book explores whether the CIA can be trusted, whether its intelligence is politicized, and whether it is capable of winning the war on terror. In doing so, the book weaves in the history of the CIA and how it really works. It is the definitive account of the agency.
From the CIA's intelligence failure of 9/11 to its critical role in preventing further attacks, The CIA at War tells a riveting, unique story about a secretive, powerful agency and its confrontation with global terrorism.
The CIA at War reveals:
About the Author:
Ronald Kessler is the New York Times bestselling author of thirteen non-fiction books, including The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI, Inside the White House, The FBI, Inside the CIA, Moscow Station, The Sins of the Father: Joseph P. Kennedy and the Dynasty He Founded, Inside Congress, and The Season: Inside Palm Beach and America's Richest Society. A former Washington Post and Wall Street Journal investigative reporter, Kessler has won sixteen journalism awards, including two George Polk Awards. Kessler lives with his wife Pamela in Potomac, Maryland.
— Gilbert Taylor
— Gilbert Taylor
"A compelling and timely exposition of the real FBI. Kessler's fresh information and command of the facts . . . rings with authority."—The Los Angeles Times Book Review
"An assiduous journalist, Kessler has written numerous books about behind-the-scenes stories at the national security agencies. His reportage on the abuse of office perks by ex-FBI director William Sessions, for example, precipitated Sessions' exit in 1993. His latest book is a history of the FBI since its origin in 1908 and is structured around directors' tenures . . . Kessler's access to reliable sources results in a richly detailed overview."—Gilbert Taylor, Booklist
Barnes & Noble.com: The CIA at War is a follow-up to your bestselling book The Bureau, which centered on the FBI. Why did you decide to write about "the Company?"
Ronald Kessler: The CIA is even more secretive than the FBI, and I like a challenge. When it comes to protecting us from another al Qaeda attack, the CIA is our first line of defense. Finally, because the CIA's role is so amorphous, ranging from recruiting spies to using Predator unmanned aircraft to kill terrorists, it can easily go off course. In the book, I explore what is right and what is wrong about the agency.
B&N.com: How has the CIA traditionally been used in times of war?
RK: The most important function of the CIA is to detect a planned attack before it occurs. But during the wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq, the CIA obtained intelligence about the enemy using everything from human spies to Buck Rogers sensing devices. Based on CIA intelligence, the Air Force bombed areas where Saddam Hussein was thought to be hiding. Unfortunately, he escaped.
B&N.com: What was the CIA's most embarrassing wartime blunder?
RK: The invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. It was incredibly stupid.
B&N.com: How would you categorize the tenure of current CIA director George Tenet?
RK: As far back as 1997, Tenet was warning publicly that Osama bin Laden was the greatest threat to the U.S. No one listened. Tenet focused the CIA on developing intelligence on al Qaeda. It was not enough. Since 9/11, the agency under Tenet has been extraordinarily successful, rolling up more than 3,000 terrorists with the help of other countries. Tenet reversed a trend under former director John Deutch of avoiding risk. The fact that we have not had another attack is directly traceable to Tenet at the CIA and Bob Mueller at the FBI. Most people who comment on the CIA don't know how it has changed since 9/11. Tenet gave me extraordinary access to the CIA, and I think most people will be amazed at what they are doing now.
B&N.com: The FBI and CIA have often had a difficult relationship. Are they doing better at cooperating during the war on terror?
RK: George Tenet's and Bob Mueller's biggest secret is that about every three weeks, they socialize at a Washington restaurant with their wives. Contrary to many of the media reports, the FBI and CIA are now working seamlessly at every level.
B&N.com: Did the CIA fail to detect the events leading up to 9/11?
RK: Yes. Ultimately, the way to detect such a planned attack is to penetrate the organization. As bin Laden said on a videotape, very few in his own organization knew of the planned attacks. So it's very hard to penetrate such an organization and find out what's going on, but it can be done.
B&N.com: Director Tenet recently took responsibility for not deleting the "sixteen words" in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union address that alleged that Saddam Hussein was attempting to purchase African uranium. Was Tenet just being a good soldier in this instance?
RK: Yes. Tenet succeeded in deleting the reference from a previous speech by the president. Ultimately, it was the responsibility of Bush's national security staff to make sure everything relating to Iraq in the speech was solid. But the speech carefully attributed the information about Saddam Hussein trying to obtain uranium from Niger to British intelligence, and in fact the British MI6 still insists the information was accurate. When a British Parliament committee reviewed the MI6 intelligence in early September, it concluded the intelligence agency had good reason to come to that conclusion. Guess what? That finding was virtually ignored by the media in the U.S.
B&N.com: As this interview is being conducted, the troops have not yet located the massive inventory of weapons of mass destruction that Americans were told existed. Based on your discussions with Agency personnel, do you feel that there are WMDs still to be found in Iraq?
RK: Yes. It's common sense that people don't hide things unless they have something to hide. And Saddam Hussein was clearly hiding a lot. The CIA has found two mobile biological weapons factories that could have produced enough anthrax in a weekend to kill 60,000 people. As far as I'm concerned, that's enough reason to have taken out the Iraqi regime. In the new world where terrorists and rogue regimes can easily manufacture and use weapons of mass destruction, we simply can't hope for the best and wait until others attack us as they did on 9/11. That is the lesson of 9/11, and if we don't learn it, we will not survive.
Whether weapons of mass destruction are found, or whether Hussein relied on mobile labs to manufacture them overnight, is almost as relevant as whether a serial killer who reaches into the backseat of his car when an FBI agent orders him to keep his hands up actually has a handgun in the back. If the agent waits to find out, he may be shot dead.
B&N.com: It's been alleged that Vice President Cheney placed undue pressure on the CIA intelligence analysts to come up with proof that would justify the invasion of Iraq. Did Cheney attempt to politicize the agency?
RK: No. Cheney was trying to make sure the White House understood the CIA's intelligence and how good it was. The story that reported that some analysts considered his questioning to be "pressure" said in the third paragraph that other analysis welcomed the vice president's interest. If that point had been included in the lead of the story, do you think it would have been a page-one story? Moreover, no one has alleged that Cheney's questioning actually produced any changes in CIA intelligence.
B&N.com: What's the current CIA role in Iraq and Afghanistan, now that the major fighting in both countries has ended?
RK: The CIA is in charge of finding weapons of mass destruction and is also trying to locate Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. It has its hands full.
B&N.com: Your prediction: If George Bush is unseated in 2004, will DCI Tenet be asked to stay on the job?
RK: Traditionally, CIA directors change with administrations. Tenet could get a very high-paying job in the private sector. He has stayed on because he believes in what the CIA is doing, and he is loyal to George Bush. If Bush is not reelected, I think Tenet would want to leave.
Posted February 12, 2008
Although it thrusts for the current aged-CIA, Mr. Kessler didn't reach the Zeitgeist. There are great secrets of bungled break-ins, odd sex orgies, and other lesser-known facts of the Cold War era CIA, which, honestly, the book deals with more anyway than the current US government's war against Muslim terrorism. There are copious accounts supporting the war in Iraq in here that are dated now: which, by now, have proven to be false. On the whole, Mr. Kessler does a terrific job analyzing George Tenet's much-needed modernization and revamping of the CIA to its past glory. On the other hand, his wrath does descend on such unsympathetic characters as James Jesus Angelton, the paranoid Soviet 'spyhandler', Robert Baer, Louis Freeh, and James Deutch. I thought this lacked a coherent theme as it progressed from an agency fighting a state-based government (the Soviets) to Al-Qaeda and other spawns, but there was no transition. Didn't something happen during those 50-plus years of espionage and exchange?Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 21, 2005
Without any clear principles of organization, Kessler meanders aimlessly from point to point. This, coupled with an obvious bias for human intelligence over signals intelligence and for Republican politicians over Democrats, undercuts the veracity of his ideas. For a balanced look at intelligence, this should be read alongside the work of William Bamford.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 8, 2010
No text was provided for this review.
Posted May 20, 2009
No text was provided for this review.