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103 of 112 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A sort of sequel to Legacy of Ashes
If any of you read & loved Pulitzer Prize winner Tim Weiner's National Book award winning book, "Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA", then you are in for a another fascinating and in depth treatise, this time on the FBI.

Weiner calls the FBI "America's Secret Police" . We often think that the FBI's main job is crime fighting but it's actually more...
Published on February 15, 2012 by Wulfstan

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44 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A thorough history of the FBI
Acquaintances ask me whether this is a conservative or a liberal book? It seems like a strange question; I mean I wrote a book about Vietnam that I wrote for everyone; I had no political agenda when I was writing my book. I feel the same with this book. I tell people that Weiner worked as a journalist for the New York Times, but it appears that he is striving to write...
Published on February 21, 2012 by A. T. Lawrence


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103 of 112 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A sort of sequel to Legacy of Ashes, February 15, 2012
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Wulfstan "wulfstan" (San Jose, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Enemies: A History of the FBI (Hardcover)
If any of you read & loved Pulitzer Prize winner Tim Weiner's National Book award winning book, "Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA", then you are in for a another fascinating and in depth treatise, this time on the FBI.

Weiner calls the FBI "America's Secret Police" . We often think that the FBI's main job is crime fighting but it's actually more anti-terrorism and counter-intelligence. Weiner has been able, again, to base a definitive book upon recently declassified documents, thus there is a lot here which may be news even to FBI buffs.

One of the things I didn't know about (and is revealed here) is that the FBI actually engaged in overseas intelligence work, such as when J. Edgar installed a FBI informant as the President of the Dominican Republic!

It's been commonplace to demonize J. Edgar, but here Weiner is careful to note that the Director wasn't "a monster" but instead compares him to "an American Machiavelli" (still hardly a compliment).

It really reads much like a sequel to his earlier book on the CIA, but this time concentrating on how the FBI works in that same arena.

Solid, readable, meticulously researched... and more than a little controversial.
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60 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Triumph!, February 16, 2012
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This review is from: Enemies: A History of the FBI (Hardcover)
Tim Weiner's excellent treatment of the FBI's 100-year-old history of domestic spying is destined to be the seminal work on the subject.

Not too long ago, Weiner got a call that his 27-year-old Freedom of Information Act request for declassification of J. Edgar Hoover's secret intelligence files had been granted. Three banker's boxes of documents appeared. Together with other recently-declassified files, numerous interviews and other reliable sources, primary and secondary, Weiner crafts (with 60 pages of illuminating endnotes) a riveting and revealing history of the FBI's domestic surveillance.

Weiner recounts the admonitions of Founding Fathers, such as Hamilton and Madison, that a free nation must be ever-vigilant; but, in conducting such vigilance, must not compromise civil liberties. President-by-President, we see a constant tension between the two tenets. The consistent thread, for the first 60 years, is J. Edgar Hoover.

This is not the Hoover of the Clint Eastwood movie. The Hoover Weiner describes as an "American Machiavelli" seems relatively uncomplicated. He always hated Communism. He resisted aiding the civil rights movement (until late, cajoled by LBJ) because he believed the movement was fostered by the Soviet Union and U.S. Communist Party. He had "evidence"--e.g., a close confidant of MLK was a Communist. For Hoover, and many of the Presidents, the end justified the means, unconstitutional as they were. But Weiner points out that even Hoover had his limits. Hoover's refusal to carry out Nixon's directive to spy on Democrats led Nixon to organize "the Plumbers" of Watergate and other disasters.

At the other end of the FBI Director spectrum is Robert Mueller. Weiner recounts how Mueller told G. W. Bush he and other top FBI officials would resign unless the administration ceased unconstitutional spying after September 11. Mueller prevails, and, as Weiner states, has set a crisp, above-reproach tone for the FBI this century (as the longest-serving Director after Hoover). Whereas Hoover's mantra was, "Don't do anything that embarrasses the Bureau" (which allowed for a lot of unsavory things), Mueller plainly has instilled a "Do the right thing" ethos.

I found the writing anything but dry. Weiner states he believes in largely letting the records speak for themselves. And the records here are often near-incredible. (Personally, I would have liked a photo section). Weiner does a remarkable job of not injecting himself while weaving a century's worth of activities into a highly readable account.

In this respect, the book is quite different from, but no less triumphant than, "A Legacy of Ashes." There, Weiner wisely chose to be judgmental; recollections, impressions, theories, documents and prior accounts were scattered to a thousand winds. Weiner's judgment was the necessary compass (not for nothing did it win a Pulitzer and the National Book Award!).

In contrast, the author has no need to constantly judge and forge a path in "Enemies." Plenty of principals in the FBI's history have judged. In the main, as Weiner relates, breaches of civil liberties, e.g., secret military tribunals; warrantless tapping) sadly were repeated. Other lessons have been learned. The FBI's mission necessarily is a work-in-progress. As the Founding Fathers foresaw, the tension between security and civil liberties will always be with us. It is a blessing that we have someone of Weiner's immense gifts to remind us of this.

P.S. Earlier this week Terri Gross on NPR's "Fresh Air" had a terrific interview of Weiner on his new book, at the end of which they played the tape of LBJ congratulating Hoover on the FBI's breaking the case of the three white civil rights workers' murders. You hear Hoover deliberately telling LBJ key things only when and as Hoover wants them revealed. Listen to the podcast before, during or after reading the book!
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44 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A thorough history of the FBI, February 21, 2012
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This review is from: Enemies: A History of the FBI (Hardcover)
Acquaintances ask me whether this is a conservative or a liberal book? It seems like a strange question; I mean I wrote a book about Vietnam that I wrote for everyone; I had no political agenda when I was writing my book. I feel the same with this book. I tell people that Weiner worked as a journalist for the New York Times, but it appears that he is striving to write an honest book, without any hidden agenda. That being said, this is a very readable book; the author writes in a captivating and gripping style -- it's hard to put down. Most of us simply associate the FBI with the life of J. Edgar Hoover, but this is not just another biography of that powerful person, rather this is an insightful history, which begins with the establishment of the Bureau in 1908 under the Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt and continues up to present times.

It addresses my interest as to the interaction of the FBI with the CIA. I am aware of the fact that the CIA has no legal domestic police authority, and therefore, in regards its narcotics findings, it sends this intel on to the FBI and other law enforcement organizations for action, yet both the FBI and the CIA are involved with counter-terrorism operations. In fact, according to Weiner, the FBI was more successful in countering the KGB than the CIA, and it was the FBI, rather than the CIA, that succeeded in placing "a spy inside the highest councils of the Soviet Union." Hoover considered "intelligence operations as more crucial than any law enforcement work." By the middle of the Eisenhower years the "Intelligence Division was .. the most powerful force within the Bureau, commanding the most money, the most manpower, and the most attention from the director." Weiner draws attention to Hoover's extraordinary longevity on the job -- presidents would come and go, so would CIA directors and the heads of military intelligence, but Hoover would remain, and as a consequence, he was provided the singular opportunity to develop a remarkable degree of patience, and he did. It was LBJ who got Hoover to go after the Klan after three civil rights workers went missing in Mississippi during the summer of 1964; LBJ was a force. Following the Watergate break-in under the Nixon presidency, it was a high-ranking FBI individual, known as "Deep Throat" who leaked info to Bob Woodward in order to counter obstruction of justice by the White House. Hoover died in 1972. In 1975, after Nixon had resigned, Congress began its investigation into past practices of the FBI

More recently, with the enactment of the Patriot Act during October 2001, the FBI has gained even greater powers in the realm of counter-terrorism, enabling it to search for terrorist connections by gathering information on thousands of Americans. Are we Americans prepared to give up more of our civil rights for greater safety? This is an issue that all Americans need to be concerned about. Tim Weiner has provided an even-handed assessment of these critical questions and has written a thorough and excellent history of the FBI.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Tale of Enemies Without, and Within, March 26, 2012
Tim Weiner, author of Enemies: A History of the FBI, is no ordinary historian, and Enemies is no ordinary book. Weiner, a New York Times reporter that has won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, graduate of Columbia University's journalism program, is one of America's most gifted authors. In Enemies, he has produced a masterpiece that is thoroughly reflective of his talents.

Weiner, as was also his pattern in his terrific history of the CIA (Legacy of Ashes), builds context by starting way back. How far back? As far back as the first decade of the 20th century, when Teddy Roosevelt was wrestling with the need for effective sources of domestic and foreign intelligence. Weiner's thorough, but not plodding, reporting uncovers parts of American history that many of us have forgotten, or never knew, such as the many hundreds of episodes of domestic terrorism that occurred during the 20th century, first by the anarchists, later by a variety of groups during the Vietnam War, up to and including the Unabomber and Timothy McVeigh's Oklahoma City bombing. His meticulous approach spotlights the triple threats that presidents from Woodrow Wilson through Barack Obama have asked the assistance of the FBI to deal with: terror from within, national security in time of war (including the Cold War), and foreign-based attempts at terror on U.S. soil, U.S. military bases, and U.S. embassies.

Necessarily, Enemies is also the story of J. Edgar Hoover, who by his mid-20's was the assistant director of the intelligence service that was to become the FBI, and who before he was 30, was appointed to the directorship. He remained director of the FB I until his death at age 77 (allowed to stay on well past the mandatory federal employee retirement age of 70 by presidential waiver). Weiner completely sidesteps the issue of J. Edgar Hoover's sexual orientation for an excellent reason: Hoover's leadership raises far more important questions about American leaders and American citizens than what sorts of sexual currents coursed through Hoover's brain.

It is Weiner's propensity for asking questions of the reader that sets this masterpiece apart. If you're a Civil War buff, you've been exposed to Civil War battleground maps that consist of blue arrows moving one way, gray arrows moving another, mechanically depicting the shifting movements of troops in battle. Many Civil War histories are little more than written versions of shifting arrows. Enemies far transcends this approach, by leaving the reader with a series of paradoxes that emerge from Weiner's compulsive research. Weiner gives us multiple conundrums to consider. Totalitarian states, e.g. the USSR, routinely made a laughingstock of British and U.S. intelligence efforts, utilizing the freedoms guaranteed to British and American citizens to place moles at the very highest of levels, while at the same time using the rigidly controlled Soviet society of the USSR to form an extremely effective bulwark against the U.S and Britain being able to gain effective counter-intelligence. A comparable challenge exists today with Iran. And yet, Weiner points out, when the FBI's placement of warrantless wiretaps and bugs was at its most rampant, the widespread abuse of the privacy of tens of thousands of American citizens produced a very low yield of useful material. During the Bush administration, extensive use of the Patriot Act provisions netted the U.S. exactly ZERO Al Queda agents in the U.S.

Weiner presents data that either explicitly or implicitly asks the reader to consider painful choices. When a nation is under attack, is it reasonable to scale back on civil liberties? Who determines whether the nation is under attack? Do governmental policies, such as the laws against employing homosexuals in government jobs (which finally ended in 2011, with the end of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy) increase national security, or actually decrease it? Is it right, in pursuit of the national interests of the United States, to abrogate the rights of citizens in other countries (e.g. the manipulation of elections in the Dominican Republic and El Salvador)? The questions don't have easy answers, but Enemies clearly documents the almost century long battle between those that feel security is the supreme concern, versus those that feel that civil liberties reign supreme even if security must consequently be deemphasized. It is an enthralling tale.

Liberals will be given pause by this book. Conservatives will at times recoil at the massive invasions of the privacy of American citizens that took place both under Hoover leadership, and later under the Bush administration. Obama, to the displeasure of the far left liberals, has fully utilized the remaining provisions of the Patriot Act. Both liberals and conservatives likely reexamine some of their most cherished convictions after reading this book. Which is what makes Enemies remarkable: it represents far more than Red Arrows (Communists) maneuvering against Blue Arrows (American interests) on an international digitized battleground map. It is a real time exercise in difficult choices. If Weiner's research is correct, all civil liberties, all the time, creates intolerable vulnerabilities to national and domestic security. If Weiner's research is correct, oppressive and systematic abuse of civil liberties actually CREATES the very conditions of violence and subversion that our society desires protection from. Enemies doesn't give us solutions (though in the last few pages one gets a fairly clear sense of what Weiner would like to see happen), it gives us questions that will define our national character as we answer them.
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22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dry, but essential reading, March 8, 2012
This review is from: Enemies: A History of the FBI (Hardcover)
Dryly factual. Five stars for the overwhelmingly interesting facts, one star for the dry writing style which rarely goes into sufficient detail in its rush to recount large events often taking up large swaths of time. Of course, the detail I'm looking for would at least triple the length of the book, so you may disagree. The writing style would certainly make me hesitant to read three times the pages.

This book should be read by all Americans despite the intelligence-report style of writing. This is an honest and seemingly unbiased account of the many failures and few triumphs of the FBI in the areas of counterintelligence and terrorism. The complete disregard and contempt for the strict rule of law that the FBI has often demonstrated in the past is well documented. It also shows how even well-meaning ideology, morals, and political views can hamper and destroy what should be a completely independent and apolitical branch of the government. There is much partisan blame to share between both major parties.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good fair-minded history, with one quibble, October 28, 2012
This review is from: Enemies: A History of the FBI (Hardcover)
A fair minded history of the FBI, sure to disappoint ideologues of both the right and left. J. Edgar Hoover emerges as a very shrewd operator, with a certain degree of competence and integrity, but also the most wanton disregard for constitutional law, especially the Fourth Amendment limits on searches and seizures. He built what has in reality been a secret police force operating well beyond the law, in pursuit of real and imagined subversives. While he succeeded in gutting the US Communist Party, which, let us recall, answered to Stalin, he also ended up seeing communist conspiracies where they most definitely were not: the antiwar movement and the civil rights movement. On the other hand, he said no to Nixon, which is why Nixon formed his own secret police - the Plumbers, who were caught and exposed at the Watergate Complex in DC. The biggest weakness I found in this book is the author's adulation of current director Robert Mueller. Weiner briefly mentions that it took many years for the FBI to identify the real source of the 2001 anthrax terrorist attacks, while the bureau publicly accused an innocent man. But he fails to state the reason for this travesty: Robert Mueller personally supervised the investigation, and repeatedly directed subordinates to continue trying to nail the innocent suspect even as a postal inspector and a brave FBI agent accumulated far more compelling evidence pointing to the real perpetrator.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From a childhood admiration, May 9, 2012
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This review is from: Enemies: A History of the FBI (Hardcover)
I was about 10 years old when I had an opportunity to visit my brother-in-law's parents. They owned a cabin in Lewiston, Michigan. The screened-in back porch over-looked a beautiful lake. Watching the lake was like watching television. One day, I found a book on the life and work of J. Edger Hoover. I read this book on the porch overlooking the lake. From that point on, Hoover became my hero! The book deeply impressed me. My admiration for Hoover continued even after the time I was investigated as a result of a college demonstration.

My experience with reading this book from over 50 years ago became the catalyst for my desire to read the Kindle version of Tim Weiner's book entitled ENEMIES: THE HISTORY OF THE FBI. While reading Weiner's work, my admiration for Hoover went up and down like a super ball. He was a crafty guy who commonly placed his perception of our county's needs before his own. His strategies would have past unseen if his hypotheses regarding Communism were correct. The central problem can be simply stated: If too many innocent people are arrested, they will get angry, fight back, win and the courts will come down hard - making it difficult to catch the bad guys. This perspective is NOT ethical, but quite pragmatic. The sad part is, our government, particularly the Bush Jr. administration didn't learn anything from history. In 20 years, we will see people lashing back in an extreme manner. Our leaders don't seem to learn anything from history.

The most embarrassing aspect of intelligence gathering and analysis is the human frailties of the leadership within the intelligence community. A high level of competition exists among the various intelligence agencies; we have and will continue to have problems preventing terrorist acts. It gets worse, EVEN within a single agency (like the CIA), the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. Obama has been cleaning house, but the problems continue. Everyone wants to be the one to take credit. Everyone wants to be the winner. Our agencies and staff will not work in cooperation. This becomes the problem.

This book reads like fiction. The storyline is tight. The author is a master wordsmither. The problem is: after reading this you might have problems sleeping.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent History of the FBI, April 27, 2012
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Tim Weiner's book "Enemies" is an excellent history of the FBI and events from the 1920's to today. I was amazed by all the events in the 20's and 30's that involved the FBI and the security of America. I recommend this book highly.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Ongoing Irrelevance Of Laws & Liberties, Rules & Regulations, February 28, 2012
By 
John "Johnny" (Saint Paul, MN, United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Enemies: A History of the FBI (Hardcover)
If you're interested, you might enjoy reading the book "Enemies: A History Of The FBI," by Tim Weiner. It was released on February 14, 2012, so it's current as of this reviews writing. The book is not about the FBI's law enforcement and policing role, but rather about their role in safety and security, secrecy and subterfuge, scanning and scouring for spies -- domestically and internationally. If you've ever been someone who believed that The Constitution and The Bill Of Rights are relevant for life in America, then it will blow your mind wide open. Although I'm three-quarters of the way through it so far, I already know that I'll have to reread it when I finish it in order to really grasp all the concepts. The Courts (District Court through Supreme Court) and their processes are seldom relevant. When they do become relevant, the FBI is so powerful that they usually get their way regardless.

While reading it, one begins getting the deep sense that personal rights and liberties are entirely inconsequential. The book is heavily documented, with about 60 pages of footnotes. In essence, one comes to understand that for the FBI rules and regulations, laws and liberties are merely a shadowy sideshow. It's been like this since the FBI's inception -- and it's remaining unchanged. Although there are restrictions on Presidents and Judges, on Congressmen and Senators, on Policemen and on Military Personnel, the FBI is practically omnipotent.

While it's one thing to hear about it and imagine it, it's quite another to read about it in detail. The endless stream of case stories and events is fascinating. The implications are absolutely alarming.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting history of the FBI, March 17, 2012
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Roger J. Buffington (Huntington Beach, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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"Enemies" is a fairly thorough and interesting history of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from inception to the present day. The author's thesis is that the FBI for much of its history operated outside the law, essentially taking for granted that to protect the nation it was necessary to engage in warrentless wiretaping and break-ins. The author contends that far from being a criminal prosecution agency, the FBI has considered itself to be primarily an intelligence agency. This despite the fact that, as the author points out, the FBI to this day does not have a charter from Congress spelling out its mission.

The author covers the Hoover years with insight and in my opinion is relatively even-handed in his treatment of this complicated man. Perhaps the most insightful portion of this piece is the author's analysis of the Watergate scandal. Hoover had provided political intelligence to many presidents (even as he intimidated Presidents with his feared secret files) but became cautious as he got older. When Nixon was faced with relentless and pervasive leaks within his administration, he asked Hoover to engage in extensive wiretapping and other forms of surveillance in order to identify the leakers. Hoover turned him down, leading to Nixon's formation of the now-infamous "Plumbers" unit (called that based upon their mission to stop leaks) formed by G. Gordon Liddy. Hoover was certain that this would blow up in Nixon's face and he was right. What perhaps even Hoover did not foresee was the fact that "Deep Throat" was within the FBI and assisted in bringing about Nixon's demise.

The author's analysis is subject to criticism. He is adamantly opposed to the former practice of the FBI of tapping the phones of known Communists and other foreign enemies. On the other hand, he seems supportive of the arguably unreasonable searches conducted routinely by the TSA; never mind the Constitution's provisions against unlawful and unreasonable searches. I guess it is OK to abuse ordinary Americans, but we must scrupulously guard the rights of foreign spies and terrorists.

There were some areas of the FBI's history that I would have liked to have known more about. Some of this information may simply not be available. Weiner does a better job examining the FBI's war against the Mafia than some other authors who have covered the same subject, but more would still have been better. I suppose this subject should really be addressed in a complete book. Also, I finished this piece with questions about the FBI's effectiveness against the Soviet KGB. The author does an excellent job explaining that, just prior to World War Two, the Soviet intelligence agencies operated in the USA and Canada almost completely unfettered. The US literally had no counterintelligence agency or capability. Fantastically, Weiner explains that the OSS, the American predecessor agency to the CIA formed during the war, actually thought that Soviet intelligence was and would continue to be an ally, and gave the Russians sophisticated US intelligence devices and technology to America's infinite harm. Did the FBI morph into an effective counterintelligence agency against the Russians? This book does not provide answers to the question. Perhaps there is no way of knowing.

Overall, I found this to be a good read even if I rejected some of the author's analysis. RJB.
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Enemies: A History of the FBI
Enemies: A History of the FBI by Tim Weiner (Hardcover - February 14, 2012)
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