Surprise, Kill, Vanish: The Secret History of CIA Paramilitary Armies, Operators, and Assassins

Surprise, Kill, Vanish: The Secret History of CIA Paramilitary Armies, Operators, and Assassins

by Annie Jacobsen
Surprise, Kill, Vanish: The Secret History of CIA Paramilitary Armies, Operators, and Assassins

Surprise, Kill, Vanish: The Secret History of CIA Paramilitary Armies, Operators, and Assassins

by Annie Jacobsen


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From Pulitzer Prize finalist Annie Jacobsen, the untold USA Today bestselling story of the CIA's secret paramilitary units.

Surprise . . . your target. Kill . . . your enemy. Vanish . . . without a trace.

When diplomacy fails, and war is unwise, the president calls on the CIA's Special Activities Division, a highly-classified branch of the CIA and the most effective, black operations force in the world.

Originally known as the president's guerrilla warfare corps, SAD conducts risky and ruthless operations that have evolved over time to defend America from its enemies. Almost every American president since World War II has asked the CIA to conduct sabotage, subversion and, yes, assassination.

With unprecedented access to forty-two men and women who proudly and secretly worked on CIA covert operations from the dawn of the Cold War to the present day, along with declassified documents and deep historical research, Pulitzer Prize finalist Annie Jacobsen unveils — like never before — a complex world of individuals working in treacherous environments populated with killers, connivers, and saboteurs.

Despite Hollywood notions of off-book operations and external secret hires, covert action is actually one piece in a colossal foreign policy machine.

Written with the pacing of a thriller, Surprise, Kill, Vanish brings to vivid life the sheer pandemonium and chaos, as well as the unforgettable human will to survive and the intellectual challenge of not giving up hope that define paramilitary and intelligence work. Jacobsen's exclusive interviews — with members of the CIA's Senior Intelligence Service (equivalent to the Pentagon's generals), its counterterrorism chiefs, targeting officers, and Special Activities Division's Ground Branch operators who conduct today's close-quarters killing operations around the world — reveal, for the first time, the enormity of this shocking, controversial, and morally complex terrain. Is the CIA's paramilitary army America's weaponized strength, or a liability to its principled standing in the world? Every operation reported in this book, however unsettling, is legal.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316441421
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 07/07/2020
Pages: 560
Sales rank: 22,819
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

About The Author
Annie Jacobsen was a contributing editor at the Los Angeles Times Magazine and is the author of the New York Times bestseller Area 51. A graduate of Princeton University, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two sons.

Table of Contents

Author's Note on Sources xi

Prologue 3

Part I 1941

Chapter 1 An Office for Ungentlemanly Warfare 11

Chapter 2 Tertia Optio 30

Chapter 3 Surprise Attack in Korea 38

Chapter 4 Special Forces 57

Chapter 5 Ruin and Rule in Guatemala 65

Chapter 6 Kings, Shahs, Monarchs, and Madmen 79

Chapter 7 The KGB's Office of Liquid Affairs 93

Chapter 8 Green Light 102

Chapter 9 The Special Group 115

Part II 1961

Chapter 10 An Assassination Capability 131

Chapter 11 JFK, KIA 142

Chapter 12 The Studies and Observations Group 161

Chapter 13 Kill or Capture 173

Chapter 14 Green Berets 191

Chapter 15 Revenge 211

Chapter 16 Colonel Qaddafi's Libya 230

Part III 1981

Chapter 17 Reagan's Preemptive Neutralization 251

Chapter 18 Parachute Assassins, Saddam Hussein, and Osama bin Laden 274

Chapter 19 Operation Love Storm 292

Chapter 20 Carlos the Jackal 303

Chapter 21 The Engineer 317

Part IV 2001

Chapter 22 War in Afghanistan 341

Chapter 23 Poke the Bear 358

Chapter 24 War in Iraq 371

Chapter 25 Imad Mugniyah 389

Chapter 26 The Moral Twilight Zone 398

Chapter 27 Just War 417

Chapter 28 The Hidden Hand 433

Epilogue 451

Acknowledgments 455

Bibliography 459

Notes 477

Index 527

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