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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Peek Into the World of Espionage
Fair Play offers the reader a peek into the murky world of espionage. CIA veteran Jim Olson has a unique perspective that few other authors can offer to anyone interested in intelligence. Fair Play is not your standard historical narrative. It is an interactive experience, which invites the reader to participate in fifty realistic and morally challenging scenarios that...
Published on March 12, 2007 by Chris Fitzpatrick

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3.0 out of 5 stars Not something you want to read before bed!
A more accurate description might be: "The ethical issues of getting what you want". It's not a quick read. There are a lot of thought provoking issues that may be better presented in a seminar as this seems to be how the book is written. We get the issue and then get a number of opinions on that issue summed up by the author. But in the reading; one is likely...
Published 9 months ago by Larry J. Battaglia


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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Peek Into the World of Espionage, March 12, 2007
Fair Play offers the reader a peek into the murky world of espionage. CIA veteran Jim Olson has a unique perspective that few other authors can offer to anyone interested in intelligence. Fair Play is not your standard historical narrative. It is an interactive experience, which invites the reader to participate in fifty realistic and morally challenging scenarios that our spies must contend with. Olson adds further credibility to Fair Play by sharing with the reader a cross section of responses to his very realistic scenarios. These elicited responses are from accomplished professionals, whose vocations vary from the former Deputy Director of the CIA to practicing physicians.

Fair Play includes chapters on Olson's under cover career in the CIA, changing U.S. attitudes toward espionage from the Revolutionary War to the present, and historical, biblical, and philosophical justifications for committing espionage. Armed with this requisite knowledge, the reader is thrust into true-to-life situations that U.S. spies actually face in the shadows today. This approach redirects the reader from the role of arm chair quarterback to active participant by asking what he/she would do in that same situation. Among the many topics covered are assassinations, kidnappings, interrogation, torture, drugs, seduction, sexual entrapment, and blackmail.

Morality and espionage are not mutually exclusive. As Olson says, it is about time someone started thinking about how morality and spying fit together in today's world. The community he continues to serve faces monumental challenges. Its operators need to have a clearly defined moral code with which to take the fight to our enemies. This book represents a great first step towards providing such a moral code to our clandestine warriors.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth more than the price., February 20, 2007
I wanted so badly to give this book 4 stars but couldn't bring myself to do it.

The concept of the book is interesting and Mr. Olson tackled it very well. The early part of the book details Mr. Olson's experiences growing up in Iowa, attending the University of Iowa Law School (Go Hawks!), how he came to join the CIA, and gave a brief summary of his career, although I say it was TOO brief and if Mr. Olson ever wrote a biography about his experiences in the Agency it would make a tremendously interesting read. He also mentioned that when he was recruited into the CIA, all he knew about it was what he had learned in Allen Dulles' book The Craft of Intelligence, which is ironic because I ordered that book on the same day as Fair Play. Both turned out to be greatly enjoyable.

The largest portion of Fair Play focuses on different (hypothetical) moral dilemmas potentially faced by Intelligence Officers, with each dilemma being asked in question form, "Would it be moral if..." Following each posed dilemma several people give their opinions and answer the posed question, answering either `yea' or `nay,' and telling why they answered in that way. At the conclusion of each `dilemma,' Mr. Olson himself chimes in and gives some basic background on the issue raised (these are the most informative parts of each section).

In the back of the book is an index explaining certain words and concepts, used throughout the text, that those outside the intelligence community may not fully grasp, which was nice to have as a reference. He also lists some of his most highly recommended books regarding the Intelligence community. Again, nice bonus.

All in all, it's a great book. So, why did I want to give it only 4 stars? ...Because the book wasn't entirely informative, as I prefer. That is to say, the questions were posed and people were allowed to give their opinions. Granted, the purpose of the book is to highlight the various dilemmas and take into consideration various perspectives, but that can grow tired after a bit. At times it made me feel like I was sitting in a moral dilemma debate conference.

However, in taking the following into consideration I feel obligated to give it 5 stars and absolutely recommend it: the informative reference section, the real-world input of the author, and the recommended reading list add a lot of value to the books content. Heck, even the small font causes the pages to be jam-packed with content. And lastly, Mr. Olson does indeed what he set out to do. It's worth the price!
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars exhilarating read, December 1, 2006
I can't put this book down. It is a wealth of information on CIA operations in general, but also deals with some very tough questions of morality. All U.S. citizens should inform themselves on this topic, especially as so many people have lots to say about it---but are relatively uninformed. Highly recommend it.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jim Olson Tells It Like It Is, January 6, 2007
Only a very small portion of the American people have even a simplistic understanding of what intelligence really is. To the average American(and apparently to the media and to many members of the government) the global threat to the United States is difficult to comprehend so it is not surprising that there is widespread misunderstanding of intelligence. It remains arcane to most, with their knowledge stemming from what they see on TV, read in the printed media and get from the James 007 Bond movies which over glamourize the business of spying. Jim Olson handled an exfiltration from the Soviet Union that would make an excellent movie about clandestine operations. Fair Play is a highly recommended, thought provoking, extremely interesting and easy to read exposition based on the moral/ethical questions that are "hypothetically" posed in each of 50 scenarios. The author selected 63 commentators to express their opinions on the legality, morality and ethics of each proposed operating solution and then added his own comments. The commentators are from a wide range of professions and experience. About 42% are former CIA, FBI,NSA,USIA, Department of State and active duty or retired military while approximately 32% are from academia. Also in the mix were attorneys,authors, religious figures and journalists plus a city manager, doctor and a PETA biologist. From this diverse group the scenarios' evaluation, analysis and follow up comments ranged across a wide spectrum of reaction to the moral dilemmas presented in each scenario. As a nation with Judeo-Christian footings, Americans have been raised in a society of right-wrong consciousness. Americans are basically moral peoploe who believe that it is wrong to kick a man when he is down, lie , cheat, steal,torture and kill. We believe in the Marquis de Queensberry rules and so called "fair play". Along came Al Qaeda and the radical Islamic jihadists and the rules of the game changed drastically. The United States needs intelligence to insure our national security and if our people are governed by, and always limited to, "moral and ethical" behavior, then we are severely disadvantaged in dealing with an enemy whose word is meaningless and who operates on a "moral standard" that permits bribery, blackmail, lying, cheating, torture, beheading and every dirty trick there is. While our people may be morally constrained by their religious beliefs, our intelligence agencies have to function in a real world against an enemy with a completely different approach to moral behavior....an enemy that is committed to its cause and will fight to the death for what it believes is in defense of its religion.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Even the general-interest lending library will find it a unique, compelling read., February 3, 2007
FAIR PLAY could've been featured in our Military Shelf section - after all, it's by the former chief of CIA counterintelligence - but deserves a much broader reading audience than those who frequent military libraries. FAIR PLAY presents both a survey of the real world of spying and espionage and a concurrent survey of moral and ethical issues involved in spying, and dilemmas which come from field experience every day. The blend of intelligence history, political insights, and social issues makes for a survey which advocates a clearer moral sense in U.S. intelligence officers - and that holds many lessons for civilians as well. Even the general-interest lending library will find it a unique, compelling read.

Diane C. Donovan

California Bookwatch
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Amazing and Essential Read for any serious Intelligence Student!, December 28, 2006
As a student of Professor Olson's I would say that of any of the faculty members of The Bush School at Texas A&M University he has had the most profound impact on my life both professionally and personally. I have heard him speak in countless seminars, was a student of one of his graduate level Intelligence Courses at The Bush School, and have had several in-depth conversations with him on the subject of American Foreign Policy and the impact that intelligence, especially "Humint" conducted by the CIA, has made in the development of said policy during and following the Cold War. Mr. Olson, and his wife Meredith, are true American heroes and many of the freedoms that we enjoy today are attributed to the direct impact they made during their tenure in the Directorate of Operations, and beyond. Additionally, Mr. Olson revolutionized the way the CIA conducts its Counterintelligence Operations by serving as one of the greatest Counterintelligence Chiefs "The Company" has ever had. The end of the Cold War, the demise of global communism, and the collapse of the Berlin Wall were all fruits of the many sacrifices the Olson family made during the Cold War. To say that his Book "Fair Play: The Moral Dilemmas of Spying" is a must read is a great understatement. For anybody interested in espionage, the history of the subject or its impact on the current affairs of the world, whether they be a hobbyist who declares them self a "buff" or a serious student of the subject, this is a must read book. To not delve into its pages would be a great disservice to your education on the subject. It is not very often that someone with his experience, and knowledge, writes such an in- depth, engaging book on this fascinating subject. I have personally heard Dr. Robert Gates, Former Director of Central Intelligence and Current Secretary of Defense, refer to Mr. Olson as one of the most important Operatives, if not the most important operative, the CIA has ever had. If you want to know from the world's best first hand source about the moral dilemmas of spying and the obscure, "grey" area our operatives overseas currently work with, you must read this book. My hope is that it will encourage a Great American Debate which will open the doors to give our brave men and women in the CIA's Directorate of Operations the parameters they need to effectively fight the war on terror we are currently engaged in. The United States is facing, perhaps, the most ominous war in its history and it is imperative that our operatives overseas who risk their lives everyday have the tools necessary to make sure we as Americans are victorious. We are by far living in the greatest democracy in the world and Mr. Olson has opened the door for the average American Citizen to see what really happens around the world and hopefully it will open the eyes of such Americans and encourage them to support our intelligence community in its effort to end the world of any tyranny and/or radicalism that endangers the freedoms that Mr. and Mrs. Olson, Mr. and Mrs. Tony Mendez, Robert Gates, Allen W. Dulles, and countless others have gained for us over the last few decades. Unless we wake up and realize that our generation and those that follow us take up the cross they carried to safeguard our freedoms, we will lose sight of the American Dream and the way of life we, as a nation, have enjoyed since a brave group of men signed a Declaration on July 4, 1776. For me, this book has made a profound impact on me and my desire to do all that I can to be a Great American. I hope it will do the same for you.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good perspectives but sometimes off the mark, November 22, 2010
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Dan (Wisconsin United States) - See all my reviews
Overall the book is an excellent read. The beginning is a little dry but relevent nonetheless. Once the scenarios start it picks up with representatives from various circles, including former intelligence officers, FBI Agents, professors, religious leaders, and so on, offering their take on the given situation. Most of the time their contributions are worthwhile, but more than occassionally the focus is diverted away from the target - the MORAL issues - and are sidetracked by their input regarding whether the operation is practical, worthwhile or the result of someone's bad idea. Those opinions are all fine and good but try to keep in mind that the point of the book is to weigh in on the MORAL ISSUES presented in spying.

All said and done I recommend this book if you are interested in espionage, moral debate, or anything else along those lines. If you're not, simply don't read it.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unique work, with some quirky flaws, June 9, 2007
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In the vast genre of intelligence writing, this book is simply unique. In presenting the moral dilemmas faced by intelligence officers, this work is indispensible--both for practical training for the professionals and for educating the public about the realities of the profession.

Where the book falls down, I'm afraid, is in its judgments about other works of intelligence writing. Olson's list of the best books for a professional library include two that have been discredited as historical works. He also repeats the mythical canard that Winston Churchill allowed Coventry to be bombed during World War II so as not to let the Germans know their communications were being read; he needs to read David Stafford, Martin Gilbert, and R.V. Jones on this score. Being taken in by [...] or by myths are disturbing failings for a former chief of counterintelligence.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic and fair discussion with varied points of view!, May 6, 2009
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This review is from: Fair Play: The Moral Dilemmas of Spying (Paperback)
Olson's Fair Play is a fantastic and very relevant work discussing the various moral situations faced in modern intelligence collection. Especially in light of the torture controversy within the United States government, this book is a must read. It isn't a "vanity" book, like many publications from ex-Agency officers, it's a book that provides a variety of points of view from a good cross section of intelligent people. Olson even solicited commentary from those who might be hostile towards the US Intel Community (University of Texas Journalism Professor Robert Jensen, for example.) By providing several diverse points of view about each of the given moral scenarios, Olson allows the reader to make his/her own judgements. The most important aspect of this work is that it makes the reader think critically as opposed to simply preaching the "right" answer. Intelligence work is clothed in ambiguity, Fair Play helps lift some of the shroud of about the thought processes our professionals must use in deciding what's right and wrong within the wilderness of mirrors that is the intelligence and national security world.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding contribution to International Intelligence literature, December 3, 2006
Jim Olson has done an excellent job in providing realistice examples of ethical isues involved with conducting intelligence activities in today's hostile world. I use this book as a source for my graduate course.
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Fair Play: The Moral Dilemmas of Spying
Fair Play: The Moral Dilemmas of Spying by James M. Olson (Paperback - December 30, 2007)
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