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State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration Hardcover – January 5, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0743270663 ISBN-10: 0743270665 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (January 5, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743270665
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743270663
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (115 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #120,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The winter holidays are usually a quiet time for news, but the December 2005 revelations of the Bush administration's extensive, off-the-books domestic spying program by New York Times reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau made headline after headline, raising criticism from both sides of the aisle and an immediate, unapologetic response from President Bush himself. On the heels of those scoops comes Risen's State of War, which goes beyond his Times stories to provide a wide-ranging, if anecdotal, "secret history" of U.S. intelligence following 9/11.

Risen's description of what he says was called "the Program"--the ongoing eavesdropping operation, done with almost no judicial or congressional oversight, on the phone calls and emails of hundreds of Americans (and potentially millions more)--is only a chapter in his larger tale of the recent missteps and oversteps of U.S. intelligence. His evidence ranges from insider White House accounts of Donald Rumsfeld, "the ultimate turf warrior," outmaneuvering his rivals to make the Defense Department the dominant voice in foreign policy, to on-the-ground reports of the administration's willful ignorance of crucial intelligence on the dormancy of Saddam's weapons programs, Saudi support for al Qaeda, and the startlingly rapid transformation of Afghanistan into a "narco-state" under American authority. Some of the episodes he recounts--Saudi security officials with Osama bin Laden screensavers, an Iraqi scientist who had told the CIA his country had no nuclear program watching Colin Powell testify to the UN that they did--would be comical were the stakes less high.

Risen's loyalties are not with the opposition party--he's sharply critical of Clinton's disinterest in the CIA--but with the career field agents who are his best sources. Those agents and their expertise, he argues, have been cast aside, along with the long centrist tradition of U.S. foreign policy and the basic checks and balances of the American system of government, by the Bush administration's radical politicization and militarization of intelligence. He covers a lot of ground in a book of just over 200 pages, some of it familiar from other accounts, and at times his tradecraft anecdotes can be hard to assess without context. But his specific revelations and his well-sourced, angry overview of the way the battles against terror have been fought make for startling, newsmaking reading. --Tom Nissley

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Lucid, balanced and brimming with surprises, this is a-to borrow a notorious phrase-slam dunk exposé of the CIA's recent snafus. New York Times reporter Risen is broadly sympathetic to the CIA, and his tactful use of inside sources shifts much of the blame away from field agents and toward the brass in Washington, where CIA Director George Tenet's eagerness to please his political masters and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's bureaucratic skills create the conditions for a perfect storm of intelligence failures. The book's disclosures about secret prisons, "renditions"-the transfer of suspects to countries which may torture them-and domestic wiretaps are likely to be talking points for some time, but its lasting value will be as a record of how the CIA came so tantalizingly close to the truth about Iraq's nonexistent nuclear arsenal. The retelling of one undercover operation shows the agency had direct evidence that there was no nuclear program in Iraq, but chose to doubt its source. Other scenes from the secret war on terror make novelist John Le Carre look like a timid plotter: a single misdirected message in 2004 brings down the agency's entire spy network in Iran, four years after a harebrained scheme had given Tehran flawed blueprints for a nuclear weapon-hoping to sow confusion, but possibly helping Iran to arm itself faster. Risen has written a thrilling, depressing and worrying book.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

Risen gives a very detailed look into the Bush White House and the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.
Patty
This is a must read book, one that will help the reader make sense of so much and make the reader quite angry at what has happened to our country.
Agnostic
As a professional researcher and author I can attest that the book is well documented and supported by factual data.
J. M. Stout, Ph.D.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

382 of 425 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on January 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
EDITED to add note at bottom addressing anonymous sceptic. EDITED 6 Jun 06 to add note of Pentagon failing to capture Bin Laden.

There are three major scoops in this book that earn it five stars where the rest of the book might only merit four:

1) The obvious scoop now before Congress and the press, with respect to the National Security Agency (NSA) eavesdropping on citizens without a warrant.

2) The really really huge scoop, that Charlie Allen, then Deputy Director of Central Intelligence for Collection, was able to guide the recruitment of no fewer than 30 Iraqis able to travel back to see their relatives and conclusively document that there was no nuclear program and no weapons of mass destruction--this information was evidently not provided to Congress, the President, or (naturally), the public.

3) Slightly less sensational, the book reveals for the first time that a CIA "bait" operation actually delivered to Iran completely useful plans for creating a nuclear bomb...the CIA "flaws" intended to render the plans unworkable were detected in one glance by a Russian courier scientist, and easily correctable by the Iranians.

Over-all the book renders an important public service by pulling together in one place the many tid-bits that are publicly known, but is distressingly weak on crediting those many other sources (e.g. Jim Bamford, the last word on NSA).

The cover of the book is quite revealing in that it has photos of Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, and Tenet--those who follow the politics of the Executive know that Cheney is the man pulling the puppet strings, generally without being detected, and it is Cheney that allowed Rumsfeld to blatantly ignore the President, steam-roll Condi Rice, disrespect Tenet, and sideline Colin Powell.
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61 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Edwin C. Pauzer VINE VOICE on May 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author, James Risen attempts to write a fair and accurate account of the secret history of the C.I.A. and the Bush Administration. He succeeds admirably.

He acknowledges that President Clinton had little interest in the intelligence services, which had already begun to stagnate after the end of the cold war. Not realizing that danger doesn't go away, it only changes shape, the CIA had no assets embedded in the middle east to get the valuable intelligence it required. Most of the regimes maintained control that was so tight it would have taken years for someone to successfully infiltrate any regime.

Then there was bad management and bad decisions. Clinton appointed a director who made it clear he had no interest in the job. Senior CIA personnel left the agency and their experience at the door of retirement. Although a new director named Tenant restored morale, he was not able to provide the leadership the agency needed. He also allowed ingratiating junior analysts to bypass their immediate supervisors to deliver the information that he wanted to hear e.g. that aluminum tubes were used for WMD production.

Tenent also steered clear of information that he knew would not please his bosses. This included the Iraqi-American woman the CIA coaxed into returning home to elicit information from her brother who was working on nuclear development. He told his sister that Americans inadvertantly blasted the facility in the first Gulf War, and that the project was dead in the water. When the Iraqi-American doctor returned with her brother's information, the information was given short shrift.

C.I.A. officers who told the painful truth about the deteriorating conditions in Iraq found themselves defending their careers or being harangued into retirement.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By C. Middleton on March 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a clear exposition of the CIA's incompetence, and back-door politics within the Bush administration. James Risen exposes several violations of the US Constitution, in terms of blatant infringements of privacy laws committed against the American people. He also outlines the back-channel decision-making between Vice President Cheney and Donald Rumsfield, known old hands at Machiavellian politics, clearly going behind the president's back on key issues regarding world terrorism and the war in Iraq. The key theme in Risen's argument is the incompetence, lack of courage and downright obsequiousness of once Director of the CIA, George Tenet, who appears more of a PR man, one of the "good old boys", the tragic "yes man", letting play ground bullies like Donald Rumsfield call all the shots, attempting to pull the entire US intelligence community under his power - and he has almost succeeded. In this convoluted mess of lies, betrayal and incompetence, Risen has managed to write a clear piece on many touchy issues, revealing a government that has knee-jerked us into a war that has become a quagmire, that some believe is far worse than Vietnam.

The WMD question has currently become old news. When the National Intelligence Estimate (Independent WMD committee) concluded that the CIA's reports regarding Iraq's so-called nuclear program and biological laboratories, "were all wrong" (P. 22)

Risen unpacks the lies, withheld reports and bully tactics that the Bush administration used towards anyone who contradicted their views, is a chilling story of out and out bureaucratic warfare, revealing once again the ineptness of the dwindling CIA. The administration did not want to hear the truth, that is to say, Iraq having folded their nuclear aspirations at the end of the first Gulf War.
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