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Intelligence Wars: American Secret History from Hitler to Al-Qaeda (New York Review Collections) Paperback – June 30, 2004


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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Collections
  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: New York Review Books; Rev Exp edition (June 30, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590170989
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590170984
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 5.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #692,197 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Essential wartime reading….you get a sense not of what to expect—that’s not the job of history—but of the smart questions we need to ask to be confident that we are winning our current secret war."
— Timothy Naftali, The New York Times Book Review

"A remarkable, twisted tapestry of intrigue."
— Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

"The most reflective writing about intelligence…Powers deals with the history as well as the bureaucracy of the US intelligence agencies and has a sophisticated grasp of irony, self-delusion, and character."
The Boston Globe

"Mr. Powers is one of our most thoughtful writers on espionage….But it’s not just that Mr. Powers knows the material; he knows what to make of it."
Dallas Morning News

"It is a deeply thought-provoking book—wide-ranging and readable, incisive, expert but without jargon, able to challenge all its own assumptions.”
—Katharine Sale, Financial Times

"These discerning essays span 25 years and provide a revealing history of the victories, defeats and ambiguities of Cold War and post-Cold War intelligence gathering. Powers portrays in vivid human terms repeated FBI failures in counterintelligence, the intelligence agencies’ inability to infiltrate terrorist groups, chronic reluctance to share information and a management structure that leaves no one in charge of and accountable for the entire effort….Powers brilliantly conveys the ethos and culture of intelligence agencies—a complexity he has been studying and writing about for almost 30 years….a formidable contribution to the difficult work ahead in re-aligning the intelligence agencies’ Cold War-vintage structure."
— Lorraine Adams, The Washington Post Book World

From the Author

"Think of the CIA's files as the nation's unconscious. There you may find the evidence, like the gouges on rock where a glacier has passed, of what American leaders really thought, really wanted, and really did--important clues to who we are as a people."
--Thomas Powers --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Dean S. Warren on June 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I'm writing this to counter the troglodytish review posted by the unnamed reader from Alexandria, Virginia. My career was in the national security establishment--defense industry and State Department. I, along with Forrester, also have "no connection or history within the intelligence world." The New York Review of Books serves intellectuals like myself, however, not intelligence professionals. As such, his reviews and this book provides a timely refresher course in the scandals and triumphs of American intelligence over the last some sixty years. It is especially welcome because of the arrival of more scandal in regard to 9/11 and Iraq weapons of mass destruction, and another triumph in the defeat of the Taliban. INTELLIGENCE WARS is stimulating, well written, and engrossing.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By B. Williams on August 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Despite the alluring subtitle boasting coverage from Hitler to Al-Qaeda, the bulk of the book (likely from the first edition - delineation of new material is not clear) is dedicated to cold war spying issues and the Soviet Union. Many of the stories covered of that time are done so in great detail, sometimes overly monotonous. As the book moves on, I was hoping to learn more about American intelligence efforts in other theaters, but the material is limited. Hitler, South American and the Middle East pre-9/11 are all given little attention and scant new information is available, even for a moderate follower of the subject. Further, as the coverage shifts more to the modern day and the post-9/11 world, the book takes on a sanctimonious tone on what, based on earlier writings on the subject, would still be considered limited information from the intelligence world. Material that likely makes up the revised edition appears sounds more of Monday morning quarterbacking thrown together quickly to take advantage of the current public interest.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By David W. Southworth VINE VOICE on April 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
This revised and expanded collection of Thomas Powers' reviews of books on intelligence and national security for the New York Review of Books is an excellent resource on a wide range of topics. Powers has a demonstrated knowledge of many aspects of the history of US intelligence gathering since World War II, and he shows it in this collection.

Beginning with a review of the life of Billy Donovan, the progenitor of WWII American espionage, and ending with a review of books on the current threat from international terrorism, Powers covers a broad spectrum of topics. Though he is much stronger on the Cold War history, the author is able to bring his background in history to comment on current threats. I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in national security and the intelligence world.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Robin J. Smith on April 25, 2009
Format: Paperback
Powers was a well-known writer and commentator on intelligence issues who has had valuable insights into the process of intelligence and the role of the CIA. This book was billed as a serious of essays but that is completely wrong. It is ONLY a collection of book reviews (from the late 1970s through 2002). Powers acknowledged in the introduction that the reviews "appear here with only small changes to correct minor factual errors" and "they address many episodes of American intelligence history, but make no attempt to settle controversies." It is a scam to call these "essays." The book is not worth even the price of shipping.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Brenda Teese on August 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is a remarkably good book. Composed in an odd way -- a collection of long book reviews published over 17 years but not in the original sequence -- Powers lays out for the general reader a history and an understanding of what the Cold War was all about.

It was "cold" only in that the US and Soviet Russia never confronted each other directly on the military battlefield. It was plenty hot during the numerous shooting wars generated by the conflict. Loss of American life during the Korean and Vietnam wars is mirrored by the loss of Russian soldiers in their own hot wars against US proxy armies. The loss of national partisan belligerants plus the civilians who found themselves living on the battlefield probably takes the death toll into the millions -- this is what I take away from the book, Thomas never explicitly spells this out. He tells the story dispassionately, like a true historian journalist, without editorializing. He leaves the moral judgements up to the reader.

Powers treats the CIA sympathetically. This is no political diatribe against "CIA wrongdoing". I think this innate sympathy is what accounts for his success as a CIA expert -- along of course with his truly prodigious reading! Other highlights of the book are the accounts of US traitor spies within the agency, and how President GHW Bush adroitly handled the final demise of the Soviet empire. Bush '41 was "the ideal Presidential consumer of intelligence". Bringing the story up to modern times is some material relating to the 911 terrorist attack. America caught off guard similar to the Pearl Harbor attack but no investigation into the CIA about this, as would be expected.
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