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The Secrets of the FBI Hardcover – August 2, 2011

4.1 out of 5 stars 106 customer reviews

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Q&A with Author Ronald Kessler

Why did you write this book?
I love to uncover secrets about subjects like the FBI, CIA, or Secret Service. I’ve always been aware that even though the FBI becomes involved in everything from the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound and congressional scandals to the confirmation of Supreme Court justices, very little ever gets out about what agents uncover in the course of their investigations. The Secrets of the FBI is a vehicle for revealing that privileged information.

What was the most surprising thing you found?
I could not believe that the FBI gave me the inside story on how it breaks into homes, offices, and embassies to plant bugging devices without getting caught. Along with names of terrorism and Mafia informants, this is the most sensitive, closely guarded information the FBI has. Many high-ranking FBI agents were shocked as well. It’s the most riveting story I’ve uncovered in my journalism career.

What other secrets will readers find in this book?
What triggered Vince Foster’s suicide. Who secretly visited Marilyn Monroe just before she took her own life. What J. Edgar Hoover’s sexual orientation was. Who actually uncovered Robert Hanssen as a spy, contrary to the story line of the movie “Breach.” Why the FBI could not match Osama bin Laden’s fingerprints after he was killed. When planting bugs in the homes and offices of Mafia figures, spies, and terrorists, how FBI agents tranquilize dogs, stage fake traffic accidents, and instruct police to stop occupants who try to return.

How did you get FBI agents to talk?
Usually I would waterboard them! Actually, I’ve developed a track record that engenders trust. In addition, agents figure I already know a lot. While it doesn’t seem to require much skill, people also say I am a good listener.

Photos from Inside The Secrets of the FBI

Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy borrowed the personal car of William Simon, special agent in charge of the Los Angeles field office, to secretly see Marilyn Monroe just before her suicide.—AP Photo

For twelve years, FBI Executive Assistant Director Louis E. Grever was what he calls a "government-sanctioned burglar," planting bugs in homes and offices of Mafia figures, terrorists, corrupt members of Congress, spies, and foreign intelligence officers. If caught, he could have been shot as an intruder.—FBI Photo

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, at right, had a spousal relationship with his deputy, Clyde Tolson. He vacationed with him and left his estate to him.—AP Photo

Karl Koecher, a mole in the CIA, and his wife Hana attended sex orgies to obtain information for the KGB until the FBI arrested them for espionage and sent them back to Prague.—Ronald Kessler Photo

About the Author

Ronald Kessler is the New York Times bestselling author of In the President's Secret Service, The Terrorist Watch, and The CIA at War. A former Washington Post and Wall Street Journal investigative reporter, Kessler has won seventeen journalism awards. He is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. Kessler lives in Potomac, MD with his wife Pamela.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Forum; First Edition edition (August 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307719693
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307719690
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,728 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.

Amazon Author Rankbeta 

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#89 in Books > History

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Two drunks get on a city bus. It starts up, drives away, and a short time later, the passengers begin disrobing. They have revolvers strapped to their hips, radio gear, maybe Uzis. Seeing this, the drunks get nervous, get up and start pulling the overhead chain. They're desperate and want off the bus. The bus driver is knocking over garbage cans making his turns on the city streets. He yells back at the drunks "Hey, quit playing with the bell!" One of the passengers approaches the drunks. He's carrying a shotgun. "Do we know you?" the passenger says to the drunk. Now the drunks begin to pull the bell so hard they nearly rip it off its moorings. The passenger with the shotgun yells "Hey Phil, stop the bus. We got a couple of riders here." According to Ronald Kessler in his new book The Secrets Of The FBI, the passengers were FBI agents on a stakeout. The bus picked up the two drunks by mistake. Is this any way to run a government agency? Got that right. Welcome to the post 9/11 world of keeping America safe.

As Mr. Kessler indicates, this is not your grandfather's FBI. They think out of the box these days, and do imaginative things like staging fake car accidents to find terror suspects. They can and will impersonate almost anybody, although not a journalist or members of clergy. And female agents are not permitted to use sex to entrap a subject. So, if in doubt about who your date really is, kiss her. If she's FBI, she can't respond.

As to the question everyone has been wondering about, on page 17 we get: "Every other week, agent Louis Grever meets with his counterparts at the CIA". So yes, there is sharing of intelligence information, which was generally not the case prior to 9/11.
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Format: Hardcover
After hearing the author tell stories on After Dark Radio of how FBI agents break into homes to plant bugs, my interest was piqued. But when I bought the book and started reading my interest turned to annoyance. The main problems are that the book is unsourced (i.e. no footnotes), and frequently offers little more than gossip passed off as fact. Secondly, it is also heavily filled with fallacious reasoning. I hope that a couple of examples will suffice.

Chapter 3, "Red Dress," is about J. Edgar Hoover's alleged homosexuality. The "proof" that Kessler offers is found in two main pieces of "evidence." One is a story of Susan Rosenstiel (which I will not dignify by repeating here); however, Rosenstiel is not a creditable witness (she pled guilty to perjury in the 1970s), as Kessler himself admits later in the chapter. The other evidence offered is Hoover's relationship with Clyde Tolson--his deputy and successor at the FBI--which Kessler believes was romantic. This rumor dates back to the '40s and is based on hearsay with no solid evidence behind it. Kessler himself notes that the FBI spied on Hoover and Tolson but found no evidence of anything unusual. This chapter ends with Kessler grasping at straws: "Still, the fact that Hoover spent his leisure time with a man and that they took adoring photos of each other points to Hoover's being homosexual" (p.36). The fact that two men spent leisure time together "points to" a homosexual relationship? This is nonsense. Kessler continues, "[Hoover] conceivably could have had sexual relations with Tolson when the two were alone together" (p.36). They also conceivably could have spent time reading Icelandic poetry, breeding horseflies, or listening to baseball on the radio - but these are not very interesting theories to pass off as fact.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is the first book by this author that I have read. The writing style is only OK, but I will give him credit for presenting some pretty interesting facts. I also commend him for what I perceived to be an even-handed perspective on the FBI. This book cuts neither Left nor Right. It is critical of the FBI when the author deems it to be appropriate, and gives credit where credit appears to be due. I thought that the author's analysis of the Ruby Ridge and Branch Davidian fiascoes was pretty even-handed and rang true. Mostly he exonerates the FBI, but not without some criticism and frank second guessing. By contrast, the author pretty much concludes that J. Edgar Hoover was a gay man in a common law marriage with his Deputy Director. As most FBI buffs know, these rumors have circulated for decades. Obviously this took place before today's more enlightened and tolerant view of such relationships.

The overall thesis of this piece is that the FBI has learned to think outside of the box particularly since 9/11. This is plainly a good thing. I came away after reading this book with a more favorable opinion of the FBI. This book is an engaging read and I recommend it. RJB.
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Format: Hardcover
The most interesting part of Kessler's book covered how former director Hoover (48 years) built secret files in his office with sensitive information about celebrities and political leaders. Hoover made certain that those he had information on knew what the files contained on them. The book contains a number of examples of who was targeted (eg. Robert Kennedy and his relationship with Marilyn Monroe, Martin Luther King), what was contained, and how the information was fed back to the targeted individual. Ironically, columnist Jack Anderson in turn publicly scandalized Hoover in columns after rifling through the director's garbage; more seriously, it turns out that Hoover also abused his position - having employees build a front porch, fish pond, and rear deck on his home, as well as prepare his tax returns and ghost-write 'Masters of Deceit' for him.

Other sections cover the recent raid on bin Laden's compound, Vince Foster's suicide (reportedly triggered by a week earlier encounter with Hillary Clinton), how the FBI caught Russian spy Robert Hansen within its ranks (paid a Russian agent big money for information - had about 300 personnel working on the case), its investigation of 9/11, Chinese cyber attacks, digging a tunnel under the new Soveiet Embassy in D.C. (supposedly cost $1 billion - including new spying techniques), as well as how the FBI breaks into offices and embassies to plant bugging devices without getting caught - eg. drugs dogs or scares them off with CO2 extinguishers). The really bad news - the lead FBI expert on terrorism believes we'll be attacked with WMD for certain, sooner or later.
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