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Cold Zero: Inside the FBI Hostage Rescue Team Hardcover – September 13, 2001


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Cold Zero: Inside the FBI Hostage Rescue Team + The FBI Career Guide: Inside Information on Getting Chosen for and Succeeding in One of the Toughest, Most Prestigious Jobs in the World
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown; First Edition edition (September 13, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316601039
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316601030
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #129,077 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This close-up look at the FBI's most elite unit by a 15-year veteran including firsthand accounts of actions at Waco and Ruby Ridge is alternately funny, exciting and disturbing. With his liberal arts background and experience as a D.C. speechwriter, Whitcomb was an unusual candidate for special agent. Currently director of information management for the Bureau's Critical Incident Response Group, he recounts his 1980s epiphany, following a State of the Union address, that he wanted to help preserve American democracy; he chose the FBI as his medium. He details the tricky, competitive process of becoming an agent, and humorously recalls how, as a cocky, ambitious FNG ("fucking new guy"), he clashed with his conservative superiors, yet soon valued their expertise as he chased an assortment of fugitives, bank robbers and kidnappers from a rural Missouri field office. He details these cases and his own growing expertise, then depicts with gallows humor the "physical and emotional hell" of applying to join the Hostage Rescue Team's (HRT). He succeeded and became a sniper, and offers excellent insight into the science and mindset of this rarefied killing art. In skillful prose, Whitcomb upholds the FBI's party line. Alongside sharp observations of the rituals and absurdities of federal law enforcement, he fiercely espouses an unreconstructed "thin blue line" philosophy whereby he perceives figures such as David Koresh and Randy Weaver simply as evil men and incompletely addresses civic disillusionment with the Bureau following Waco, Ruby Ridge and the FBI crime lab scandals. Still, Whitcomb ably portrays conflicts between the agency's factions Washington bureaucrats, profilers and negotiators, and the gung-ho HRT during these major crises. This valuable book makes a compelling read for armchair G-men everywhere. (Sept. 13)Forecast: There's always a market for insider FBI stories, and Whitcomb's involvement in the controversial Ruby Ridge and Waco incidents gives this one extra currency. A six-city author tour and print advertising in major newspapers should lead to brisk sales.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Special Agent Whitcomb here recounts his early years in the FBI, which included stops at Ruby Ridge and Waco as a sniper in the elite Hostage Rescue Team. Whitcomb is not only a true adventurer with interests in mountain climbing and sharpshooting but master of the "cold zero" shot the first, perfect shot. He is also a talented writer. Although he tends to go a little overboard with his patriotism and pride, this fast-paced memoir never lags. His realistic portrayal of the grinding training and work regimen coupled with the strains on family life make the "you-are-there" accounts of FBI operations in Waco, Bosnia, and, most recently, Vieques more gripping. A bit more background on these events would have helped with historical context. Still, it's hard to believe that Whitcomb has been an agent for only 15 years. Let's hope he stays with the FBI and continues writing. Karen Sandlin Silverman, Ctr. for Applied Research Philadelphia
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

One can laugh, cry, and almost feel the action happening to you.
Frank E. Casey
This book is very well written and takes the reader through the eyes of Special Agent Whitcomb as he progresses through his career at the FBI.
R. Oneill
In this book, Special Agent Whitcomb provides a very informative and engaging look at his life in the FBI.
Del C Brown

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By John G. Hilliard on April 23, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Whenever I read a book about specialized police or military force staff like this HRT person, undercover agents, Special Forces etc. I am always prepared for a large helping of ego and bravado mixed into the story. I just expect that if these guys are brave enough to perform these very dangerous tasks then they must have to have a very healthy self-image. With that said, I did not find the same ego in this authors writing. He presented himself as a very professional, business like person that just happened to shoot people for a living. Because of the lack of the over the top "We Are The Best" tone through out the book, it made the book seam to be a very honest and accurate reflection of this persons job and the department he worked in, it added credibility to the text.
The book could be broken down to three main sections, the entry into the FBI, general FBI training, HRT training and training for the sniper part of the job. The second main section covers his part in the Ruby Ridge standoff and shooting. The third section handles his time at Waco. There are some other shorter story's mixed in, but these are the main ones. I think the general reader is really going to find the three sections very interesting. I learned a lot on the Ruby Ridge section; it presents the side of the story of the people that were actually doing the shooting - very detailed.
Overall this is an interesting and detailed view into a part of the FBI that has not been written about before. The book has a good amount of newer info and the author holds your attention through the whole book. If you are interested in American law enforcement, the main incidents in the book or just a good old action non-fiction book then you will enjoy this one.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover
1. first book of its kind, provided an interesting view into culture of FBI HRT
2. author's prose is a little irritating; he obviously has a very high opinion of himself and tends to use overly dramatic wording for events that are dramatic enough already
3. book does not gloss over Ruby Ridge or Waco but does not spend enough time on either of those incidents; it's been eight years now and there still isn't an objective book about Waco (just a bunch of anti-government propaganda and a few quicky books).
4. author states that all of the names have been changed and descriptions of techniques have been altered to protect privacy and FBI tradecraft; this raises questions about how much is fiction versus fact
5. author carries out principal discussed in item 4 to ludicrous degrees by not naming the FBI agent who shot Randy Weaver's wife to death. C'mon! it's a matter of public record that the agent in question is Lon Horiuchi (by the way, I believe that Weaver and the FBI share equal blame for what happened up there and that Horiuchi does not deserve to be punished if his superiors aren't).
6. book suffers from lack of pictures and diagrams (would have helped to explain Ruby Ridge and Waco better).
7. I'd recommend buying this book as used or checking it out from the library.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Andrew F. Buteux on September 18, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Christopher Whitcomb writes a nuanced real life thriller about his experiences at 'ground zero'in the FBI Hostage Rescue Team. His HRT is not a collection of automated uber-policemen, but men who are well trained, who are asked to do extraordinary things for this country, and who struggle with the impact of their actions on themselves and their families. Yes, we all remember the newspaper and CNN accounts of Ruby Ridge and Waco, Texas; Whitcomb, though, conveys a reality that is certainly not as obvious as either side would like us to believe. This may be the central point of Cold Zero: with the resources and skills of the FBI and the HRT, we must be very careful in deploying this capability where both the root causes and eventual fallout are unclear. Throughout the book it becomes clear that the scope of the HRT's responsibilities have changed greatly. Mr Whitcomb describes his role in LA during the riots, the HRT's drug interdiction missions, and most heartbreakingly, its work in Bosnia investigating war crimes while essentially re-burying its dead. His confusion and horror is viscerally obvious.
Cold Zero is such a relief from other similar books written by "warriors". He portrays himself as neither an FBI synchophant nor as a rogue agent. Here is a man with self doubt, tremendous physical confidence, and a love for his family and upbringing. If this is an example of the typical FBI man, we have great reason to feel confident of our future post 9/11/01.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By None on November 25, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
For anyone familiar with Danny Coulson's No Heroes, this book should be the requisite companion. Where Coulson's book suffers, Whitcomb's account excels. Coulson's book claimed to be an insider's account into the HRT, but really failed in that respect. Coulson's role was never really of the HRT operator but, rather, a skilled supervisor. Whitcomb's Cold Zero is all that and more.
More than anything I've seen, Cold Zero is a nearly exact account of an HRT operator/sniper's daily life. The rigors of selection and training and the hell of having to laying motionless for hours on end, always ready to take a shot that WILL kill someone, often only inches from an innocent hostage.
Whitcomb is, in a word, skilled. As the reader should quickly realize, HRT members excel at everything. They approach everything they do with the same intense concentration and focus on perfection that is required of the FBI's elite counter-terrorism force. Whitcomb's prose in unencubered and to the point. His descriptions of the seiges at Ruby Ridge, Waco and others are total sensory experiences. (Actually, ever visual picture in the book is partnered with this same sensory drama. One of my favorite, although brief, parts of the books is Whitcomb's description of his guille suit. It's easy to assume what it looks like, but the reader learns how it smells, feels, sounds, etc.)
The one flaw, which I think is unavoidable, is Whitcomb's distaste for Bureau resistance to his mission. One will recall from Coulson's book the apprehension of Bureau higher-ups about the role of HRT. Whitcomb's account calls upon the same pattern.
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