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The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI Mass Market Paperback – July 13, 2003

40 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0312989774 ISBN-10: 0312989776 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

An assiduous journalist, Kessler has written numerous books about behind-the-scenes stories at the national security agencies. His reportage on the abuse of office perks by ex-FBI director William Sessions, for example, precipitated Sessions' exit in 1993. His latest book is a history of the FBI since its origin in 1908 and is structured around directors' tenures. A majority of this overview is devoted to J. Edgar Hoover's 48 years in the saddle, and Kessler does dig up some new tidbits. Yet much of the Hoover-era material will be old hat to readers of Kessler's The FBI (1993). What's new here? A cascade of criticism of Louis Freeh, the director from 1993 to 2001. Despite Freeh's positive public persona, Kessler says insiders rankled under his leadership. They felt that Freeh neglected management issues such as a systemic computer problem, preferring to unwisely intervene in individual investigations such as the botched Wen Ho Lee case. Kessler's access to reliable sources results in a richly detailed overview. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


An insightful history of the agency from its inception...reveals unexpected details surrounding a number of well known cases. (Providence Journal-Bulletin)

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks; 1 edition (July 13, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312989776
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312989774
  • Product Dimensions: 4 x 1.3 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #914,530 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ronald Kessler is the New York Times bestselling author of 20 non-fiction books about the Secret Service, FBI, and CIA.

Kessler began his career as a journalist in 1964 on the Worcester Telegram, followed by three years as an investigative reporter and editorial writer with the Boston Herald. In 1968, he joined the Wall Street Journal as a reporter in the New York bureau. He became an investigative reporter with the Washington Post in 1970 and continued in that position until 1985.

Kessler's latest book is "The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents."

Kessler has won eighteen journalism awards, including two George Polk awards--for national reporting and for community service. Kessler has also won the American Political Science Association's Public Affairs Reporting Award, the Associated Press' Sevellon Brown Memorial Award, and Washingtonian magazine's Washingtonian of the Year award. Franklin Pierce University awarded him the Marlin Fitzwater Medallion for excellence as a prolific author, journalist, and communicator. He is listed in Who's Who in America.

Ron Kessler lives with his wife Pamela Kessler in the Washington, D.C. area. Also an author and former Washington Post reporter, Pam Kessler wrote "Undercover Washington: Where Famous Spies Lived, Worked and Loved." His daughter Rachel Kessler, a public relations executive, and son Greg Kessler, an artist, live in New York.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Richard C. Rhodes on June 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Ronald Kessler's book, "The Bureau:The Secret History of the FBI" is the most detailed and
well-sourced book about the FBI that I have ever read. As a kid, I wanted to be an FBI agent and
went to law school solely for that purpose. But, an FBI agent in the Minneapolis office dissuaded
me from my goal and suggested that I become a Treasury agent, which I did. I worked some with
- and was around - the FBI for several years, as well as several other Federal law-enforcement
agencies. Then, I joined the CIA and served mostly overseas. In private security practice in
Dallas, I came to know several former FBI agents.
This book is probably a fair assessment of the FBI, an agency of mostly intelligent and dedicated
employees with a history of disastrous management. We all knew how maniacal J. Edgar Hoover
was about the Bureau's image and his own image. Kessler documents this very well with story
after story. And he documents the many violations of the law Hoover committed, from illegal
entries to wiretaps.
If there was any doubt that Hoover had personal files on celebrities and politicians, which he
used to keep everybody "in line," Ron Kessler provides ample proof. From personal contacts in
the FBI, I had heard about the files many years ago. Hoover was untouchable because of those
files. His private files kept him in office for nearly 48 years! Plain and simple.
Kessler brings us through the inept leadership of Director Sessions, to the tenure of Louis Freeh,
whom he describes as having "... left the FBI in a shambles." Before reading this book, I had no
doubt that the policies of Louis Freeh had handcuffed the FBI in the area of intelligence and
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Michael Freeman on November 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be quite interesting. As an investigative reporter, Kessler has dug up facts about the Bureau that most of us never realized.
From the birth of the FBI in 1908, to its current leadership under Mueller, for most of its history the FBI has been plagued with poor leadership (Mueller seeming to be a notable exception). From the illegal and unconstitutional activities of J. Edgar Hoover, to the bungling "leadership" of William Sessions and Louis Freeh, it's a wonder that the FBI accomplishes as much as it does. That is a credit to the hard-working agents who make up the Bureau, I suppose.
In this book Kessler focuses mostly on the directors and their successes and failures, and how they molded the FBI into what it is today. He also gives some details on past FBI operations involving spying and counterintelligence. There is quite a bit of information on recent cases such as that of Robert Hannsen, Wen Ho Lee, and others.
I'd recommend this book to anyone who is interested at all in the FBI, or in federal law enforcement. The book is well written, and did a great job of keeping my attention.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Rodney J. Szasz on August 27, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Kessler is a journalist and his writing reflects this.... "just like one long newspaper article" as someone described it. It is not an official history of the FBI though it is up to you to decide whether Kessler tries to be a historian or not in this book. Kessler had a lot of first hand contact with FBI personalities. Hard to rival his research, and he is most interesting when he weaves these people into the narrative.
He has his pantheon of heros and ghouls. Freeh and Sessions are subject to quite a thrashing for impugning the integrity of the organisation. Mueller is his man of the hour -- though how long that will last is anyone's guess.
The reading is fast and furious covering the almost 100 yrs of the organisation. There are Nazi spies in the US, the Rosenbergs, Hoover's crossdressing (he dismisses it), Watergate and the Valachi Papers of the Mafia. If you do not know much about these subjects you will be little better informed after reading Kessler -- he blitzes through these subjects with about a page on the Rosenbergs. He is better on later events, but once again, you will find little new on Al-Quaeda here and Sept 11th. His main strength is when he describes the problems of the internal organisation past and present. Hoover for example is assailed for abusing the organisation to perpetuate his rule, but is also praises him for building a strong professional organisation.
The text is badly organised and themes need to be worked more. The book tries to be all things to all people about the FBI. It was obviously hurriedly written --- typos are rife and he repeats himself more than he should.
That said, I still enjoyed it as my light read for the month. It flows well and does not demand too much attention, you can breeze through it easily. Do not expect too much.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michael Green on September 14, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Kessler's book is an interesting read. For me it has helped changed perceptions of acts and agencies of our federal government. The books gives a chronological portrayal of the Bureau's early days to the present, and finishes with a few chapters of important cases (espionage, 9/11 and others) that were too significant to put in mere historical context. For the most part Kessler's arguments and research are highly credible. His description of the Bureau over the last 15 years matches my personal recollection of certain events and my own perceptions regarding the Bureau, and how certain attitudes, dogmas or rules "handed down" by the Director were responsible for Bureau mistakes or public perceptions of the agency.

At times one might view Kessler's work as an attack on the Bureau, but the book seems admirably weighed between censure for the Bureau's wrongdoing and praise for the Bureau's successes. This balance makes the book more credible, and the reader's own understanding of human nature make most of the descriptions herein very plausible. In all, a very strong presentation of the Bureau, both good and bad.
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