The quality of security provided by the CIA is certainly under investigation as never before. In the new volume in Greenwood's "Understanding Our Government" series, editor Theoharis (The FBI & American Democracy) provides a good introduction to the history, structure, and operations of the CIA, information required to understand fully what all the heated arguments are about. The chapters cover the agency's origins, foreign and domestic liaison arrangements, covert activities, the work of intelligence and counterintelligence units, and CIA controversies from 1947 to 2004. The chapters are further subdivided and labeled by subtopic, and the indexing and table of contents are helpful in directing one's study. The book's reference value is increased by its 29-page chronology of key events, 20-page annotated bibliography, list of acronyms, and short biographies of 50 important CIA-related individuals. Readers can also examine the CIA's Factbook on Intelligence for the official facts and links to more information from the intelligence community. In 2001, Drumheller was the CIA's European Operations Division chief and very involved in the efforts to verify whether Saddam Hussein was trying to acquire materials for a nuclear weapons program. He claims that the Bush administration used an unreliable Iraqi source to back up its claims but that the White House was so intent on invading Iraq that it ignored any differing viewpoints, forced out anyone who did not toe the official line, offended allies, and outright lied to the American public. None of this is news, but Drumheller supplies an interesting viewpoint as a senior official who was on the inside at a critical time. His sense of betrayal of the CIA and its dedicated personnel, its British counterparts, and the nation is very evident. Monaghan (Times, London) polishes up the veteran's words and contributes a chapter that reviews Drumheller's time at the agency before 9/11. This work would have benefited from a chronology, a list of important individuals and their positions, some organizational charts, and a bibliography. British journalist Grey has pieced together the controversial story of how the CIA has been quietly flying terrorist prisoners around the world, holding them in secret prisons, and dropping them off in countries that don't hesitate to allow torture in the quest for information. There are descriptions of operational objectives and techniques, official smokescreens, the international news media's investigations of this complicated story, and more. The question remains: Did the CIA really gain enough valuable intelligence to counter the damage done to the country's standing by its actions? The appendixes include a chronology of these so-called renditions, both before and after 9/11, and the flight logs of two alleged CIA planes. Complementing Grey's broader scope is Trevor Paglen and A.C. Thompson's Torture Taxi, which pays more attention to the infrastructure of the air transfer operation. With extensive endnotes. (Index and acknowledgments not seen.) Theoharis's high-quality publication is suitable for academic and larger public libraries. Drumheller's work belongs on shelves alongside James Bamford's A Pretext for War, James Risen's State of War, and Michael Isikoff and David Corn's Hubris. Grey's book is recommended for all libraries.-Daniel K. Blewett, Coll. of DuPage Lib., Glen Ellyn, IL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
The origins and evolution of the CIA-based program for handling terrorism suspects, known generally as "rendition." It's not often an author gets an unsolicited pre-publication stamp of legitimacy from the U.S. president, much less one who reports on human-rights issues. But when George W. Bush acknowledged recently the existence of a secret U.S. program to sequester terrorism suspects in overseas prisons, he effectively ended a longstanding denial. The president, of course, did not admit to torture, but journalist Grey asserts: "Those in charge knew the prisoner[s] would be tortured," and "contrary to what was claimed later, the White House was fully informed." His assertions are backed by extensive reporting that includes interviews not only with some of the subjects who experienced being "disappeared" under the CIA program and subsequently interrogated overseas under coercion, but also with agents who ran the program and even pilots who flew the executive-jet "ghost plane" that whisked suspects away. The author goes beyond the pat-answer criticism that, besides being immoral, torture is ineffective since people will say anything under extreme pain; actual situations, he points out, show that while it is possible to get someone to confess to almost anything, the result can, but does not necessarily, provide useful information and in fact may simply pollute painstakingly validated intelligence. Case in point: Sheikh al-Libi, rendered to Egypt for coercive interrogation, produced a confession that included a link between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, later proven false-as Bush has since acknowledged-even though it lead Colin Powell to ultimately discredit himself in testimony at the U.N.and became a central prop for the invasion of Iraq. Other rendition destinations discussed in Grey's cases include Morocco, Uzbekistan, Jordan and even Syria. Disturbing in the depth and detail of its evidence that outsourcing interrogation evaded legal issues and led to systematic brutality.