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See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War Against Terrorism [Kindle Edition]

Robert Baer , Seymour M. Hersh
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (286 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In See No Evil, one of the CIA’s top field officers of the past quarter century recounts his career running agents in the back alleys of the Middle East. In the process, Robert Baer paints a chilling picture of how terrorism works on the inside and provides compelling evidence about how Washington politics sabotaged the CIA’s efforts to root out the world’s deadliest terrorists.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, the world witnessed the terrible result of that intelligence failure with the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In the wake of those attacks, Americans were left wondering how such an obviously long-term, globally coordinated plot could have escaped detection by the CIA and taken the nation by surprise. Robert Baer was not surprised. A twenty-one-year veteran of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations who had left the agency in 1997, Baer observed firsthand how an increasingly bureaucratic CIA lost its way in the post–cold war world and refused to adequately acknowledge and neutralize the growing threat of Islamic fundamentalist terror in the Middle East and elsewhere.

A throwback to the days when CIA operatives got results by getting their hands dirty and running covert operations, Baer spent his career chasing down leads on suspected terrorists in the world’s most volatile hot spots. As he and his agents risked their lives gathering intelligence, he watched as the CIA reduced drastically its operations overseas, failed to put in place people who knew local languages and customs, and rewarded workers who knew how to play the political games of the agency’s suburban Washington headquarters but not how to recruit agents on the ground.

See No Evil is not only a candid memoir of the education and disillusionment of an intelligence operative but also an unprecedented look at the roots of modern terrorism. Baer reveals some of the disturbing details he uncovered in his work, including:

* In 1996, Osama bin Laden established a strategic alliance with Iran to coordinate terrorist attacks against the United States.
* In 1995, the National Security Council intentionally aborted a military coup d’etat against Saddam Hussein, forgoing the last opportunity to get rid of him.
* In 1991, the CIA intentionally shut down its operations in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, and ignored fundamentalists operating there.

When Baer left the agency in 1997 he received the Career Intelligence Medal, with a citation that says, “He repeatedly put himself in personal danger, working the hardest targets, in service to his country.” See No Evil is Baer’s frank assessment of an agency that forgot that “service to country” must transcend politics and is a forceful plea for the CIA to return to its original mission—the preservation of our national sovereignty and the American way of life.

Editorial Reviews


“Robert Baer was considered perhaps the best on-the-ground field officer in the Middle East.” --Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker

“Robert Baer [was] one of the most talented Middle East case officers of the past twenty years.” —Reuel Marc Gerecht, The Atlantic Monthly

From the Inside Flap

In his explosive New York Times bestseller, top CIA operative Robert Baer paints a chilling picture of how terrorism works on the inside and provides startling evidence of how Washington politics sabotaged the CIA's efforts to root out the world's deadliest terrorists, allowing for the rise of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda and the continued entrenchment of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

A veteran case officer in the CIA's Directorate of Operations in the Middle East, Baer witnessed the rise of terrorism first hand and the CIA's inadequate response to it, leading to the attacks of September 11, 2001. This riveting book is both an indictment of an agency that lost its way and an unprecedented look at the roots of modern terrorism, and includes a new afterword in which Baer speaks out about the American war on terrorism and its profound implications throughout the Middle East.

"Robert Baer was considered perhaps the best on-the-ground field
officer in the Middle East."
–Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker

From The Preface
This book is a memoir of one foot soldier's career in the other cold war, the one against terrorist networks. It's a story about places most Americans will never travel to, about people many Americans would prefer to think we don't need to do business with.

This memoir, I hope, will show the reader how spying is supposed to work, where the CIA lost its way, and how we can bring it back again. But I hope this book will accomplish one more purpose as well: I hope it will show why I am angry about what happened to the CIA. And I want to show why every American and everyone who cares about the preservation of this country should be angry and alarmed, too.

The CIA was systematically destroyed by political correctness, by petty Beltway wars, by careerism, and much more. At a time when terrorist threats were compounding globally, the agency that should have been monitoring them was being scrubbed clean instead. Americans were making too much money to bother. Life was good. The White House and the National Security Council became cathedrals of commerce where the interests of big business outweighed the interests of protecting American citizens at home and abroad. Defanged and dispirited, the CIA went along for the ride. And then on September 11, 2001, the reckoning for such vast carelessness was presented for all the world to see.

Product Details

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
601 of 617 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As a former clandestine case officer, leaving the Agency in 1988 after unsuccessfully chasing terrorists for a few years, I knew we were in bad shape but I did not realize just how bad until I read this book. The author, working mostly in the Near East (NE) Division of the Directorate of Operations, and then in the Counter-Terrorism Center when it was just starting out, has an extremely important story to tell and every American needs to pay attention. Why? Because his account of how we have no assets useful against terrorism is in contradiction to what the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) told the President and his top advisors at Camp David on Saturday 15 September. According to the Washington Post of 31 January 2002, page A13, on the 15th the DCI laid out an ambitious "Worldwide Attack Matrix" and told the President that the United States had a "large asset base" from its years of working the terrorism target. One of these two men one is closer to the truth than the other. In my judgement, I believe Baer has three-quarters of the weight on his side. This discrepancy warrants investigation, for no President can be successful if he does not have accurate information about our actual capabilities.
There are four other stories within this excellent book, all dealing with infirm bureaucracies. At one level, the author's accounting of how the Directorate of Operations has declined under the last three leaders (as the author describes them: a recalled retiree, an analyst, and a "political" (pal)) is both clearly based on ground truth, and extremely troubling.
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60 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HOW THE CIA WAS ONCE SUCCESSFUL AND A WARNING January 21, 2002
By A Customer
Robert Baer provides a very interesting read and and warning for the future. He shows us how the old CIA operators in the Operations Division were trained to gather intelligence from human sources, who most of the time remained on the American payroll for years. This is the way we won the Cold War. But now, Baer tells us, the CIA has been eviscerated and is a shell of its former self, more preoccupied with political correctness and telling senior leaders what they want to hear. The human agent has been replaced by total reliance on satellites, electronic eavesdropping and other technology we have had for many years, but which are no substitute for a human being. He calls the failure of our intelligence networks regarding 9/11 a disaster and makes a compelling case that if we do not go back to the human element of intelligence gathering, such tragedies will become more and more frequent. Anyone interested in our national security should read this book.
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53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where Did We Go Wrong? Baer Tells Us March 17, 2002
'See No Evil' documents Robert Baer's career as a CIA field officer, but it also does much more. It shows us how intelligence in this country has drastically changed since the Cold War and the tragic consequences we as a nation are paying for those changes.
At the beginning of his career, Baer describes himself as an extremely unlikely candidate for the CIA. He relates experiences of his training and facts from many events that we just _think_ we know about. Baer's story makes for very interesting and exciting reading as he describes the thrills and dangers of his first several years as a field officer. It was an incredibly tough and dangerous job, but a necessary one, as the author adequately demonstrates.
Excitement quickly turns to anger for both the author and the reader. As the Cold War ends, the reader will learn how the CIA took a dramatic turn, seeking to gain intelligence from satellite surveilance rather than from agents in the field. Why not? The technology is available and fewer lives will be lost. Sounded like a good idea at the time, but not to Baer. You'll read about how terrorists in the Middle East and in other parts of the world were quickly ignored after the Cold War in favor or special interests in Washington. You'll also see how close we really were to putting an end to Saddam Hussein forever. You'll read about many other events that will surprise you, shock you, and make you mad as hell. 'See No Evil' made me experience all those feelings and more. How could the CIA have fallen to such a level as Baer describes in this book? What a terrible price we as a nation have paid and continue to pay for our lack of top-notch intelligence.
I'll admit that twenty years ago I pretty much ignored all the fighting and disputes going on in the Middle East.
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72 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most significant book about our failure to protect January 19, 2002
As odd as it may seem coming from a operative overseas, this book reveals why we were left open for attack more so than any other write on the market. Washington certainly would not let us in on what was happening with the terrorist networks, since they really did not have information they SHOULD of had. That is the one convincing message of this astounding book. Our government deliberately let our guard down. After leaving Iraq militarily inept, our government thought that was the victory and could live with a few foreseen terrorist attacks. The USS Cole type of attack, and embassies bombed considered acceptable losses. According to this book, they wouldn't care to believe 911 was a possibility so they gave up on any routine type of terrorist intelligence prevention matters. This book is worth buying, I'm sorry I cannot mention all the info here, but the book is written in a way that draws you in and interests you even if you had zero interest in the matter. I read it since my brother left it at my home, I picked it up, and was taken. The book is of high material quality as well. Another excellent book and must read concerning 911, Afghanistan, speaks of this religious deviance by saying they in fact would bring the buildings down by insane actions and deny it was terrorism but divine direction and future occurrences is SB 1 or God by Karl Mark Maddox
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Excellent book! Very informative about things we would never otherwise learn.
Published 2 days ago by Larry G Maninger
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
It's a OK book
Published 17 days ago by Gerard G
3.0 out of 5 stars it seems much like Churchill's five-volume history of WW II
Interesting stories told fairly well, sometimes at breakneck pace. But to me, it seems this volume is as much intent on burnishing the author's own legend as anything else - in... Read more
Published 17 days ago by J. F. Thompson
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
very frankly written
Published 25 days ago by ariela
5.0 out of 5 stars Phenomenal book!
Bob Baer knows what he is talking about regarding the Middle East and other topics. I couldn't put the book down for a couple of seconds. Great book for under 5 dollars to read!
Published 1 month ago by Ruben Abraham
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
interesting, but slow at times.
Published 1 month ago by Seth R. Davis
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
Great book if you're looking for a unique foreign policy perspective.
Published 2 months ago by Jeffrey Murray
4.0 out of 5 stars This is a well-written and entertaining read. There is ...
This is a well-written and entertaining read. There is a ton of information to digest, but it's presented in a way that keeps the story flowing and it is engaging from start to... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Christopher Harris
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended
Reading this book in the midst of the ISIS crisis is both insightful and disappointing. The result of a lack of focused 'on the ground' action during the past decades can be see in... Read more
Published 2 months ago by KC
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading on terrorism
What a captivating book. I suspected that the Islamic onslaught against the Western powers was not a conspiracy theory, but Mr Bauer lifts the lid on the murky world of terrorism... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Henri
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More About the Author

ROBERT BAER is the author of two New York Times bestsellers: Sleeping with the Devil, about the Saudi royal family and its relationship with the United States; and See No Evil, which recounts Baer's years as a top CIA operative. See No Evil was the basis for the acclaimed film Syriana, which earned George Clooney an Oscar for his portrayal of Baer. Baer writes regularly for and has contributed to Vanity Fair, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. He is considered one of the world's foremost authorities on the Middle East.


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