A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies

A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies

by James Bamford


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The bestselling author of Body of Secrets and The Puzzle Palace presents his most hard-hitting book to date—a sweeping, authoritative, and fearless account of the failures of America’s intelligence agencies and the Bush administration’s calculated efforts to sell a war to the American people.

In The Puzzle Palace, James Bamford revealed the existence of the NSA, the largest, most secretive, and best-financed intelligence organization in the world. In Body of Secrets, he took readers inside the ultrasecret agency, charting its deeds and misdeeds from its founding in 1952 to the end of the twentieth century. Now Bamford applies his relentless investigative drive and unparalleled access to intelligence sources to produce a headline-making book about the most pressing issues of the present day.

From the mishandling of the pre-9/11 threat to the unproven claims about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, Bamford argues that the Bush administration has co-opted the intelligence community for its own political ends, and at the expense of American security.  Bamford makes the case that the Bush administration’s Middle East policy decisions, from overthrowing Saddam to ignoring the situation of the Palestinians, are driven by long-held beliefs and goals of an elite group of conservatives inside and outside of government.

A Pretext for War
homes in on the systematic weakness that led the intelligence community to ignore or misinterpret evidence of the impending terrorist attacks of 9/11—a failure rooted in the refusal to acknowledge the central role of the Palestinian cause in igniting Arab rage against the United States.  Compounding the errors, the Bush administration’s immediate response to 9/11 was to call for an attack on Iraq, and it subsequently invented justifications for the preemptive war that has ultimately left the United States more vulnerable to terrorism.  

A Pretext for War
is an unprecedented, utterly convincing exposé of the most secretive administration in history.  

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385506724
Publisher: Doubleday Publishing
Publication date: 06/08/2004
Pages: 419
Product dimensions: 6.48(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.23(d)

About the Author

JAMES BAMFORD, the author of the bestsellers Body of Secrets and The Puzzle Palace, has written extensively on national security issues, including investigative cover stories for the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post Magazine, and the Los Angeles Times Magazine. Formerly the Washington investigative producer for ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, and a distinguished visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley, he lives in Washington, D.C.

Read an Excerpt



Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Powell's heart started pounding and he quickly raised his hand and started waving it vigorously to get attention. He sat in a quiet pool of emerald light, staring at a matrix of slowly moving white dots, cryptic flashing letter-number combinations, lines going in all directions, and green circles that would form at the center and then expand outward, like a ripple from a stone tossed in a morning pond. Represented by every dot was a small cross-section of humanity, packed in an aluminum tube and traveling in the air near the speed of sound. Jeremy Powell was sitting in front of a glowing radar screen, scanning the skies over America's East Coast for any indication of attack, invasion, or airborne drug dealers.

This green room, like a leprechaun's lair, was the Operations Command Center of "Huntress Control"--the Air National Guard's Northeast Air Defense Sector. Located in the sleepy town of Rome in central New York, it was part of the North American Aerospace Defense Command--NORAD--a relic from the days of bomb shelters, air raid warnings, and fears of invading Russians. Besides being centrally located and free from major urban electromagnetic interference, Rome was an appropriate venue for America's twenty-first-century lookouts. It was the place where the American flag first flew in the face of battle, during the American Revolution at Fort Stanwix, located in what is now the center of the city of Rome. And it was the home, and final resting place, of Francis Bellamy, author of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Lt. Col. Dawne Deskins, her eyes now adjusted to the eerie light that greeted the start of her dozen-hour shift, saw Jeremy Powell's hand waving. As the airborne control and warning officer at the center, she was expecting more activity than usual this morning because of the drill. September 11, 2001, was the fourth day of a weeklong exercise code-named "Vigilant Guardian." It was designed to create a fictional crisis affecting the United States and test the network of radar watch stations around the country. Like a rerun of an old movie, the scenario involved Russian bombers flying over the North Pole in attack formation. The Rome command center was responsible for monitoring more than half a million square miles of airspace, from the Montana-North Dakota border to the coast of Maine down through South Carolina. Included were the skies over New York City and Washington, D.C. Should a crisis develop, the radar specialists could pick up the phone and alert fighter pilots at National Guard units at Burlington, Vermont; Atlantic City, New Jersey; Cape Cod, Massachusetts; and Duluth, Minnesota.

A moment earlier, Powell had taken a call from Boston Center. "Watch supervisor, I have a possible hijack of American 11 heavy," a Boston military liaison with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) told him. "Recommend notifying NORAD." Powell passed the information on to Deskins. Part of the exercise, Deskins thought to herself, until the direct phone line to the FAA began flashing. It was 8:40 a.m.

Forty-one minutes earlier, at 7:59 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 had lifted off from Boston's Logan International Airport with eighty-one passengers and eleven crewmembers, and knifed into the crystal-blue sky. "Good morning," said the captain to the air traffic controllers disappearing quickly below. "American 11 heavy with you passing through, ah, two thousand for three thousand." As the flight climbed steeply from two to three thousand feet, window-seat passengers could clearly see the glint of sunlight reflecting off the gold dome of the State House high atop Beacon Hill. "Good morning," replied...

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A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Despite the fact that I agree with nearly everything Bamford says, this is an exceptionally bad book. The prose is terrible, it is long-winded beyond belief, and it says absolutely NOTHING new about the topic. It could have been a magazine article.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Here we go again in this book distorting a lot of facts and NOT telling the entire truth. The book fails to blame the 9/11 attacks on the Clinton Administrations for there failure to expand our intelligence agencies during his eight years in office. During the Clinton years our military and intellegence budgets were cut and so the information inwhich the Bush Administration inherits is either not sufficient or was wrong and ofcourse the book fails to mention it. In drawing up his conpiracy therory that Bush wanted Saddam from the start is inaccurate. The fact is the CIA and other forgein informers( inside Iraq) told Bush that Sadaam has WMDs and would use them. Again this book fails to look at the ENTIRE picture of the pre 9/11 attack and the post 9/11 war with Iraq. If you are a conservative I recommend you read it and then write a scathing editorial distroying this book for lack of fairness.
Grandeplease on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Despite the weighty subject, this book reads like a novel. Some reviewers pan it as a work of fiction. You owe it to yourself to read this book and decide for yourself.James Bamford asserts that the current Bush administration commenced its service with an agenda to topple Saddam Hussein, end involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and rearrange the dominoes in the Middle East. Bamford's premise is that the Bush administration, with the able assistance of its neo-conservatives previously employed by the Israeli government, manipulated the inadequate intelligence it received to increase public support for its war on Iraq. Along the way, tax dollars were used illegally to propagandize American citizens while the inept US media mutely watched. Additionally, the NSA spied on the UN Security Council and Hans Blix, the chief of the Iraq weapons inspectors.Despite the complexity of the story author James Bamford writes, A Pretext For War is very readable and in fact is very interesting. Initially, Bamford follows the 9/11 terrorists and then the President and other US officials. The second section of the book traces the intelligence gathering. The third and final section of watches the Bush administration as it weaves the events, gathered intelligence and speculation into a tapestry of its own designI recommend the well written reviews posted by Robert D. Steele and "autonomeus".In the "how I would improve this book" category, I would like to have read more on the FBI / CIA turf battle over the terrorist investigations. In particular, more details about John P. O'Neill who headed the bureau's Counterterrorism Division. Finally, the noted fact that George Tennet, as Director of the CIA only controlled 15% of America's intelligence empire while Donald Rumsfield as Secretary of Defense controlled 85% of the intelligence was mentioned twice in the book (p 214 & p 353). Once would have been enough.
SLuce on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A review of the role of the CIA and other people as to the rationale for the war on Iraq. Good read and overview of how WMD's were pushed as the cause of the start of the war.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a very detailed book about how the Untied States decided to go to war in Iraq. James Bovard details many, numerous aspects that led up to the war in Iraq, i.e., the justifications to Congress, and the American populace. And as the title alludes to, the incompetence of all government agencies.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book for someone that wants a peek of what happened behind the scenes. It's incredible how focused the CIA and administration were on Iraq, and not Osama. Also, it depicts how the intelligence agencies were so unprepared. Great read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an outstanding piece of work. Bamford explains how the President was led to the Iraq debacle by certain government officials who simply cooked the facts to suit themselves. The book does not absolve Bush of blame, far from it. But a President tends to assume that his top aides are telling him the truth and not pursuing personal agendas. In this case, the President and country were essentially tricked into this war by officials who did not have America's interests in mind. Their agendas were personal and ideological. Basically this is a story of an American tragedy produced by a credulous President and aides who abused his trust.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This brilliant book shows how the Bush government and its allies lied and forged their way to their illegal assault on Iraq. Ever since the 9/11 atrocity, the US government has ignored the organisation behind it, Al Qa¿ida. Instead, Bush first attacked Afghanistan, overthrowing the Taliban government to impose his man Karzai, and missing bin Laden. He then attacked Iraq, the one Middle Eastern country with no Al Qa¿ida. This is as if President Roosevelt had ignored Pearl Harbour and attacked India instead of Japan. CIA staff were told, ¿if Bush wants to go to war [against Iraq], it¿s your job to give him a reason to do so.¿ Similarly, Blair bullied the British intelligence services into giving him the lies he wanted. The same in Israel, in March 2004, an Israeli government inquiry found what the rest of us knew already, that warnings about Iraq¿s WMD were speculation not fact. The leaders of the US, British and Israeli governments lied to their peoples, to the UN, to the world. For example, Vice-President Dick Cheney told the American people that there was `no doubt¿ that Saddam Hussein `has weapons of mass destruction¿. He said, ¿We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. ¿ Among other sources, we¿ve gotten this from firsthand testimony from defectors, including Saddam¿s own son-in-law.¿ This was Hussein Kamel, who actually told US officials that Iraq had ended all uranium-enrichment programs in 1991 and never restarted them, and that ¿all weapons ¿ biological, chemical, missile, nuclear ¿ were destroyed¿ - the opposite of Cheney¿s claim. In 1996, US warmonger Richard Perle produced a plan for Israel to attack Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. The US government, with the British and Israeli states¿ support, has now carried out part one of this mad scheme of aggression. They see Iraq as a `launch point¿ for regime change across the Middle East. These same war criminals are preparing new illegal attacks, on Lebanon, Syria and Iran.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is narrow minded peopel like you who are scary to know of. Bush, and the dangerous peopel around him know the WMD and other weapons were moved to Syria and Lebanon BEFOR the was was started. But Bush cannot tells us this, because the question would then be 'why did we not go to Syria instead of Iraq?' Bush also does not publically acknowledge the goals of the Jihad...it is nto to destroy the US, the Jihad is to compell the US to change its policies in the Middle East and Central Asia, especially as it pertains to the blank check support of Isreal, which gains nothing for the US. As we say in the Army Carl, get your head out of yout butt.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book tells the whole truth. It tells you evrything that happenned in 9/11. This book is very detailed. I agree with Bamford. Gearge Bush is totally guilty. If anyone was to tell me he is not I would yell at them and go histerical.