From Publishers Weekly
Former British intelligence officer Smith (The Emperor's Codes
) shines a light on one of the U.S. Army's blackest agencies and best-kept secrets, the Intelligence Support Activity—aka the Activity—in this extensively researched and crisply written exposé. The Activity was established, after the failed attempt to rescue the American hostages in Iran in 1980, as "a dedicated special operations intelligence unit" to provide signals, imagery and human intelligence to other black units: e.g., the army's Delta Force. Although opposed by army traditionalists, the Activity proved itself in operations from El Salvador to Iraq, playing important roles in tracking down Colombian drug czar Pablo Escobar, Somali warlord Mohamed Farah Aideed and several prominent Bosnian war criminals. Since 9/11 and Operation Iraqi Freedom have exposed the shortcomings of U.S. intelligence, the size and scope of the Activity has, according to the author, "dramatically increased." Drawing on recently declassified documents and confidential interviews with key participants, Smith has produced an important primer for anyone hoping to understand the (usually quiet) successes and the (well-documented) failures of U.S. intelligence in the last 25 years. 16 pages color photo insert. (Mar.)
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A British journalist specializing in defense topics offers a readable, useful addition to the literature on American special operations forces. During the expansion of special operations forces in the 1980s, a secret group given the code name Intelligence Support Activity was charged with the primary function of gathering intelligence. It has played a valuable though unpublicized role in both Iraq wars, in antiterrorist operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and in the war on drugs. Its operatives can also fight--very well--as and when necessary. This book is finally a portrait of the unit's founder, Jerry Ryan, who had the usual spec-ops specialist's trouble with the brass. But his unit, now expanded to regimental strength, seems likely to remain on U.S. Army rolls, and military buffs and authorities may some day rank Ryan with Charles Beckwith, the founder of Delta Force. Roland GreenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved