From Publishers Weekly
The highest ranking CIA official yet to write a book about the current war in Iraq, retired officer Drumheller looks back on his 25 years in intelligence to lay bare the Bush administration's push toward invasion and its long-term impact on U.S. intelligence gathering capabilities. Central to Drumheller's argument is the familiar story of the White House's reliance on the testimony of an Iraqi defector (who came to be known as "Curveball") in making its case for war; to that effect, there's much here that simply reiterates the critical chorus that "policy was shaping the intelligence and not the other way around," as do numerous recent Iraq war exposés. More interesting are the glimpses of well-known milestones in the run-up to the war, including a late-night call from CIA Director George Tenet the night before Colin Powell's infamous UN address, at which he presented Curveball's testimony on an Iraqi bioweapons program. With this story and others, Drumheller illustrates how the Bush administration left the CIA scrambling to clean up the ensuing mess when they should have been pursuing new threats: "The biggest difference between the current transition period and those in the past is that we are facing the added challenge of fighting off abuse and being made scapegoats by our political masters." Drumheller's book is a lucid account of the Bush administration's intelligence breakdown, hobbled only by its late arrival to the shelf.
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Drumheller is the first high-ranking CIA "insider" to write extensively on how supposed intelligence failures led to the war in Iraq, which he clearly feels has damaged national interest. He retired from the agency in 2005, spent more than 25 years as an intelligence operative, and served as chief of clandestine operations for Europe from 2001 to 2005. Although his high position in the agency certainly makes his account worthy of close attention, it is not clear how directly Drumheller was in the loop as decisions to take military action were made. Still, his assertions are certainly disturbing. While Bush defenders consistently have blamed intelligence failures for the phantom weapons of mass destruction, Drumheller credibly claims that the administration pressured the agency to make the case that the weapons existed and any reports that contradicted that view were ignored. In particular, the treatment of an Iraqi defector who refuted the claims of advanced weapons programs now seems both outrageous and tragic. In a broader context, Drumheller reveals an erosion of the political independence and professionalism of the agency over several decades as successive administrations tried to manipulate and distort intelligence to serve political and ideological ends. Sure to engender intense debate. Jay FreemanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved