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The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA's War on Terror Hardcover – March 16, 2010

3.9 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Retired CIA agent Kiriakou tells an engrossing story and delivers some strong opinions. Kiriakou earned a degree in Middle Eastern studies, but jobs in this field were scarce in 1988, so he listened when a favorite professor suggested applying to the CIA. As an analyst at the Iraqi-Kuwaiti desk, he oversaw intelligence during Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. By the late '90s, yearning for action, Kiriakou transferred from analysis to operations. There followed a stormy tour in terrorist-ridden Greece and the peak of his career after 9/11 as chief of counterterrorism in Pakistan, where he led a raid that captured an al-Qaeda chief. Except for a hair-raising account of the Bush administration's enthusiasm for torture, the account winds down in its final third when the author returns to the U.S., resigning in 2004. While readers may skim details of his unhappy first marriage, they will enjoy a mostly admiring portrait of the CIA but with telling critiques of its bureaucracy and of Congress's meddling in CIA affairs. 8 pages of b&w photos. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"The true life story of a US spy on the frontlines of the war on terror, and what that meant for both his personal and professional life. The Reluctant Spy is a gripping page turner that reads better than fiction. A great read about the murky world of American espionage."—Peter Bergen author of Holy War, Inc. and Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden

"Kiriakou cracks open the CIA’s vault, revealing an unusually human inside account of what goes on inside. A vivid picture of the tradeoffs facing America in the post 9/11 world."—Jane Mayer, staff writer, The New Yorker Magazine and author of The Dark Side: How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; 1 edition (March 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553807374
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553807370
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.9 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #969,733 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I fancy myself of connoisseur of espionage books, and I've read them all going back 30 years. "The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA's War on Terror" stands out as one of the great ones. This is for a couple of reasons. First, most books in this genre simply bash the CIA and offer no solutions. This doesn't do that. It's a pro-CIA book, but it doesn't shy away from the fact that the organization has some serious problems and it offers solutions. Second, it gives an unvarnished account of one operations officer's struggles as he balances his work and family lives. It's not easy, and the reader gets a true understanding of what a CIA officer goes through.

Substantively, the book is full of newsworthy revelations. First, it tells the complete story of the Abu Zubaydah takedown, a story that's never been told before. Second, it gives unprecedented background on the invasion of Iraq, the CIA's role in that invasion, and the fact that the decision to invade was made a full year before the first bomb fell. Finally, there is an explosive chapter that details a raid on the Taliban Embassy in Peshawar, Pakistan, where documents were found that showed a link between that embassy and telephone numbers across the United States. There were 168 calls from the Embassy to these numbers in the weeks before the September 11 attacks; they ended September 10 and started again on September 16. But the FBI never traced the numbers and the documents were simply put into storage. Chilling.

In the end, the author tells a compelling story, both personal and professional. I highly recommend this book for anybody interested in intelligence or thinking of a job in the intelligence community.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have just finished John Kiriakou's Reluctant Spy book. Having had the pleasure of working and sharing some down time with John, the best part of reading the book was the sense that John was right there talking to me. A regular guy, sharing openly, with humility and honesty, about life, self-reflection, this world we live in, and difficulty to know what is best for liberty and mankind. For those who would like to just grab a beer with a guy from the CIA and just casually chat a bit --not a scotch with an old Cold War crusty CoS or martini with 007--- , here is your chance to open a page of history and receive some personal perspective from someone who did it. Beer optional.

Having read some of the book reviews prior, I was taken-aback by some who really do not know this world of John's from the indside and can throw around words like "hack" or "hero wanna-be" in their book opinions. I question whether they know the difference between Spy and Intelligence Officer. It's one thing if you just didn't like the book, writing style, or expected Rogue Warrior to let loose. Most working in the CIA that I know or have known actually are more like John than that of those looking to impress with regales of door breeches, flashbangs, and double-taps. Despite the fact that those like John can indeed do this too. Both Operations and Intel directorates are a thinking man's (and woman's) place. A place where one's personal opinion and perspective has less place than understanding an adversary as the adversary would think by keeping an open mind. John depicts this open mindedness and flexibility vividly in the book unlike other books that I have read on similar topics where decisions are a matter of being black or white.
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Format: Hardcover
I purchased this book with some skepticism, wondering if it would be a novel about a larger-than-life James Bond character. Indeed, it is not. The Reluctant Spy is a page-turner and the author comes across as just a normal guy who sacrificed everything for his country. The book also features unique insights into the closed bureaucracy of the intelligence community. I highly recommend this book. You'll learn something and come to appreciate how many "normal" Americans have their lives on the line for our country.
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Format: Hardcover
This is definitely a book I will be talking about for quite some time. THE RELUCTANT SPY tells not only a man's journey of over a dozen years in the CIA, but the effects such a choice had on his overall life.

The book does discuss the overall war on terror, but it also shows that such a war is not just fought in one location. In many ways we are at war in this country by the decisions we make, what we put first in our lives and the consequences such decisions evokes. John made a choice to put his work ahead of almost everything---even at times his family. Such a decision didn't come without cost, but at the end of the day, I don't think he would have changed anything.

Many people will focus on the issue of enhanced interrogations in the book, but that is only a small part of the bigger picture that we are given by the author. Our lives changed after September 11,2001--- for the good and the bad. Decisions were made by people who were entrusted by us to lead, and I think that one of the big lessons I took away from the book was it's hard to second-guess the motives of those we have given such a charge. John didn't agree with everything that was done, but he knew where his loyalty was. It was more than just a job. It was an opportunity to make a difference.

I had the privilege of interviewing the author, and one thing that struck me was that he loved what he did. He loved being in a position to help regardless of what it might cost him. He loved his job. We should all be so fortunate.
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