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Breakdown: The Failure of American Intelligence to Defeat Global Terror Paperback – May 27, 2003

3.7 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

From the bestselling author of a scathing indictment of Clintonian foreign policy, Betrayal, comes an unbalanced but revealing expose on the mistakes, misdirections and blunders behind "the most damaging intelligence failure since Pearl Harbor." Gertz supports his argument that the intelligence community has "lost sight of its purpose and function" with interviews, news clips and almost 100 pages of government documents, some partially classified (a National Security Agency report reproduced within contains little but the date and the designation "TOP SECRET UMBRA"-the rest is "withheld at the request of U.S. intelligence officials"). He points a very stern finger at the FBI, the NSA and the CIA, "where preservation of the agency's budget takes precedence over its performance." In one confounding case, Gertz writes, veteran CIA field agent Robert Baer was investigated and nearly prosecuted by the FBI for planning an assassination of Saddam Hussein; when the CIA discovered their jig was up, they left Baer out to dry. But while the insights into a government overrun by bureaucracy can be fascinating (and infuriating), Gertz seldom assigns any blame toward either George H.W. or George W. Bush's policies in the Middle East. He saves his condemnation, instead, for the Clinton administration (again). This one-sided portrayal may leave the critical reader feeling as if only half the story is being told, as Gertz's strong conservative bent distorts what could have been an important and well-informed look at the terrorist disaster.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


A compelling analysis of our nation's intelligence problems... -- Edwin Meese III, former attorney general of the United States

Chilling...[Gertz] stokes the public's demand for a more rigorous intelligence apparatus. -- The New York Times

Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Rev Upd edition (May 27, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452284279
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452284272
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,265,275 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Bill Gertz shows again why even his adversaries rate him as America's premier intelligence reporter today. Gertz's expose of the intelligence failures that led up to 9-11 is going to shock the nation and cause some much needed soul searching in our intelligence community.
The book is written in terse, fact-based prose that often reads like a suspense thriller. Yet it's based on Gertz's solid news reporting experience on the spy and defense beat with the Washington Times, earning him a reputation as the man with the best top-secret leaker's rolodex in Washington.
Gertz is also a patriot. He takes names, kicks ..., and points the finger squarely at our intelligence agencies' politically correct, risk-averse bureaucatic culture for failing to provide the "human intelligence" necessary to prevent terror attacks. This is a book that delivers. If Gertz's advice is taken, some heads are going to roll, notably that of Clinton holdover George Tenet at CIA. America and the world will probably be a safer place as a result, and our spy networks will get a long overdue new set of teeth.
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By A Customer on August 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Does anyone really doubt that there wasn't a huge intelligence failure that led up to 9/11? All of these terrorist killers just materialized out of thin air? Political correctness, bureaucratic infighting and just miscellaneous stupidity couldn't have come into play as well? Our government was preoccupied with Clinton and Monica, the false War on Drugs, anything, anything, anything except those that bombed our embassies in Africa, blew up the USS Cole, killed our soldiers in the Saudi Arabian Khobar towers, etc. Lots of great wishful thinking (maybe the Taliban will hand Bin Laden over) too... It's a crying shame and let me tell you this dear readers, author/journalist Bill Gertz is a major patriotic American to tell the truth to us like this. You know, the people that failed us are still running the system! And as Coleen Rowley so bravely said, and I paraphrase, should we put the counterterrorism unit chief and his supervisor (the fools Maltbie and Frasca that messed up the Moussaoui matter) in charge now? Tenet stills runs the CIA. This is American accountability? What have we really learned since 9/11? Thank God for this book, I hope it causes a real storm and makes people upset, upset enough to demand change!
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Format: Hardcover
A quick informative read.
Gertz makes a strong case against the Clinton administration for its "politicization" of the US intelligence apparatus (CIA, NSA, etc). He also describes the ridiculously naive and stupid PC-based regulations which we have implemented which hamstring our field intelligence-gathering abilities. We should have been able to at least have a fighting chance at preventing 9-11, but not with the dysfunctional intel community described here.
Gertz also provides a brief plan to correct these major problems. This book is worth the two-three hours you will invest in it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author has done a wonderful job, without reference to any of the fifteen books on intelligence reform published between 1999 and 2000, in quickly reviewing the key elements of intelligence failure and in recommending some specific reforms that thus far have been denied by successive Administrations.
If this book forces policymakers to think, and makes it possible for the public to get very angry about the various failures of intelligence that contributed to 9-11, then it will be in the running for most patriotic and useful book of the year.
The author leaves one aspect of the 9-11 failure untouched--although he makes references to Democratic and to Republican policymakers, what he does not tell the American people is that intelligence failures do not occur without very substantive policy failures of two kinds: first, policy failures where the intelligence professionals are gutted, abused, intimidated, and generally prevented from being effective. The Director of Central Intelligence usually serves as the policy representative to intelligence in carrying out these abuses, rather than as the intelligence representative to policy. The second failure is one of "inconvenient warning," where solid professional intelligence estimates are set aside and ignored because the politicians don't want to be bothered, don't think it will cost them with their domestic constituencies, and are not truly committed to long-term national security. This is a bi-partisan problem--until the American people appreciate the connection between voting, policymaker character, and intelligence success, we will continue to get the government--and the intelligence community--that our citizens deserve.
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Format: Hardcover
If you need a Washington journalist with access to CIA and intelligence officials and documents, you need Bill Gertz. He has the access and the knowledge, and the trust of the intelligence community.
The book reads a lot like a Tom Clancy novel, transporting the reader instantly to the rocky hills of Afghanistan, and to the dusty cities of the Middle East, and then back to the paper covered desks of CIA intelligence analysts, and so forth. It names names, and tells stories of all intelligence agencies and intelligence gathering communities. Not just the CIA and the FBI, but the top secret NSA and other bureaus. It talks about the long term degradation of the CIA in particular, intensified by the political machinations of the Clinton administration.
You find out that thanks to Clinton, the last and best of CIA intelligence agents (that's spies) in Iraq, Robert Baer, was yanked back to the US and his cover shattered because it was brought to Clinton's attention that the NSA intercepted a memo within Iran saying they suspected that America was trying to assassinate Saddam Hussein, and they would rather stop Baer in his tracks than trust the CIA. Of course, Baer was simply staying alive and abreast of events in Iraq, doing a job no one else can do right now, nor will anyone be able to do it.
That is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg.
Perhaps we would be able to avoid war in Iraq if our espionage forces were supported these past 12 years. But we have zero "HUMINT" in Iraq and many other places we need it.
When you are done with this book, you'll be sad to know that George W.
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