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Crush the Cell: How to Defeat Terrorism Without Terrorizing Ourselves First Edition Edition

3.2 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0307382177
ISBN-10: 0307382176
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Editorial Reviews


“Michael Sheehan has written the most sensible and coherent approach to combating terrorism to date, and at just the right time. He is a man of unique credentials and perspective, someone who has been dealing with the problem in one way or another his entire life, and his assessment of the threat and prescriptions for dealing with it are clear-eyed, grounded in hard experience, and convincing. I hope whoever next occupies the Oval Office first reads this book.”
—Mark Bowden, New York Times bestselling author of Black Hawk Down, Killing Pablo and Guests of the Ayatollah

"Filled with startling insights, Crush the Cell is a dispatch from the front lines of our confrontation with Al Qaeda.  Like its author, the book is smart, tough, brave and relentlessly honest.  If you’re looking for truth, not hype, Mike Sheehan is your man."
—Madeleine K. Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State

“Michael Sheehan has worked every aspect of the counterterrorism story from senior positions at the State Department and New York’s Police Department to the frontline of Special Forces operations. He brings that unique blend of experiences and perspectives to Crush theCell, which is a clearly written and lively overview of the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates that is not only a great read, but will also inform policy makers for years to come.”
—Peter Bergen, New York Times bestselling author of Holy War, Inc. and The Osama Bin Laden I Know

“Michael Sheehan has long been one of the most creative, original thinkers on the subject of terrorism. His personal experience, combined with a determined and original mind, make him unique and always insightful. I can't think of anyone else who brings such a fresh perspective to this vital field."
—Lawrence Wright, author of the New York Times bestselling and Pulitzer-Prize winning The Looming Tower

“During the 9/11 Commission investigations, we interviewed more than 1200 current and former federal officials. One of the most impressive —and as the records clearly demonstrated — most effective officials in the counterterrorist effort was Michael Sheehan. He ‘got it.’  If more Clinton or Bush officials had paid attention to him, the tragedy of 9/11 might have been averted. He went on to build the most effective counterterrorist intelligence unit in the U.S. within the New York Police Department. His new book will be read by Presidential candidates and all who wish to understand the threat we face.”
—John Lehman, former Secretary of the Navy and Member of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States

"Michael Sheehan has worked on terrorism as a policy maker in the State Department, as a police official on the streets of New York, and as a Green Beret in the US Army. He is the real deal. In Crush theCell he tells us the difference between the continuing real threat from al Qaeda and the over-hyped, politically motivated scare tactics that have spawned a bloated counter-terrorism bureaucracy and industry."
—Richard A. Clarke, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Against All Enemies

“Mike Sheehan is the person I would most want at my side when trying to stop terrorists. . . . [In this book] he shows how much of America’s antiterror efforts are misdirected and how to fix them . . . A primer for the next president.”
—Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

About the Author

MICHAEL A. SHEEHAN has held the following positions: New York City Deputy Commissioner for Counterterrorism; Assistant Secretary General in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations at the United Nations; Ambassador at Large for Counterterrorism at the State Department; National Security Council staff officer at the White House; and commander of a counterterrorism hostage rescue unit in the U.S. Army Special Forces. A graduate of West Point as well as U.S. Army Airborne, Ranger, and Special Forces schools, Sheehan was deployed in such hot spots as El Salvador, Panama, Korea, and Somalia before retiring from the military as a lieutenant colonel.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (May 6, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307382176
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307382177
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,526,045 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Don R. Hamilton on May 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Full Disclosure: I have known Mike Sheehan for over 20 years and think highly of him.

Did you ever wonder just what those Homeland Security color codes mean? If you read Sheehan's book, you will know you can stop caring about them.

This is the book that helps you understand how a small group of dedicated men have so damaged and befuddled us and how we can defeat them without destroying the fabric of our lives. Sheehan discards the pedantic in favor of the practical. He is prescriptive without pretense. He explains why he thinks Hezbollah has not struck outside the Middle East in years, but admits he does not know if or when they might reach across the seas again.

Michael Sheehan has hit the balance point. He makes it clear that the terrorists dangerous and can do terrible damage. But he does so with no effort to terrify. His personal experience, from having his own boots on the ground to cabinet-level policy issues and back down to rubbing elbows with street detectives, gives Sheehan the ability to craft practical solutions that fit policy considerations at the highest level.

He reminds us that al Qaeda has been creative and persistent, but also bumbling (overloaded the boat; forgot to bring the gun).

His overall message: We can beat these guys if we keep calm, think about our actions, take our hits and stay with it.
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Format: Paperback
Overall not bad, but rambles a little. If you are a national security or CT professional I strongly recommend this book. For everyone else, all of the main points and recommendations are summed up in the last chapter.

As someone who targeted terrorists in Iraq for over a year I was hoping to learn some new TTPs (tactics, techniques, and procedures) that could be applied to crushing terrorist cells. Oddly, the book focused more on Mr Sheehan's recent experiences at the National Security and NYPD level that seemed to have little to do with actually pursuing terrorists.

The book also made some recommendations that were somewhat vague. For example, the author says we must prevent terrorists from entering the country (obviously). Advocates for a border fence (I think), but then states that they are ineffective unless defended on both sides such as the Korean DMZ. I was left a little confused. Exactly what type of border security do you advocate?

The author also has the background and experience to understand constitutional restrictions placed on government and law enforcement, but then states "we must shut down web sites (no matter who runs them) that make available information on bomb making and other forms of violence." A rather broad, ambiguous, and unconstitutional statement I must say.

Overall I agree with the premise of crushing terrorist cells as the best form of defense, but the book never quite lived up to the title.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Crush the Cell has practical suggestions by an experienced insider with an impressive resume which, surprisingly, Mr. Sheehan shares at the back of his book. His analysis of terrorism incidents focuses on the past fifteen years and is enriched with candid assessments of what worked, what our weaknesses are, what the terrorists' weaknesses are, and offers his shrewd assessments of possible dangers. The key to fighting terrorism is intelligence, critical for infiltrating cells and crushing them; Sheehan thinks huge cash outlays for defensive projects are mostly wasted along with overly protective limousine convoys for Washington officials who are not really at risk (a "perk of office" he argues.) Knowing the bad guys next move is paramount. He criticizes inter-agency conflicts, such as between NYPD and FBI and generally sides with the NYPD, and thinks the Department of Homeland Security is bloated and lacks focus. Agency acronyms abound (WMD, CBRN, JTTF) but there's a helpful glossary in an appendix, next to his resume.

Sheehan has shrewd insight into the "politics" of terrorism. He relates how terrorism threats can give candidates a "security bounce" in an election. He criticizes fear mongering noting that it's "good business for terrorism consultants." He thinks the threat from Al Qaeda was under-estimated before 9/11, over-estimated afterwards, and offers a credible explanation of why there have been no significant attacks in America since 9/11 -- terrorists aren't that tough, he argues. America's frequent over-reaction to incidents as well as threats often plays into the terrorists' hands; rather, the US should learn from Israel and Britain how to return to business as normal soon after an attack.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book that puts in perspective much of what is talked about with the "War on Terror" and which provides an analysis of the effectiveness of the various government agencies involved in countering terrorists.

Importantly, Mr. Sheehan makes a careful distinction between insurgents and terrorists and suggests that insurgents such as Hamas are not now as big a threat to the United States as they are made out to be. His main point is that we should focus on gathering intelligence which will enable us to crush terrorist cells whose main objective is to take action which will harm persons and property in the United States.

I was surprised to learn about the extensive counter-terrorism activities of the New York Police Department where Mr. Sheehan played a major role.
His credentials are impressive beginning with graduation from West Point, becoming a Green Beret and working with the National Security Agency, the State Department, the UN and the NYPD.

He takes a critical look at steps taken since 911 which have been misguided such as throwing together disparate agencies into the Department of Homeland Security and creating a National Intelligence Agency.

I have been critical of the Government's efforts to monitor electronic transmissions but am more sympathetic to these efforts as a result of reading this book.

Without explicitly criticizing President Bush, Sheehan makes it clear that it is not helpful for politicians to use the threat of terrorism to make us more fearful than is necessary.
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