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The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth Hardcover – April 9, 2013

4.3 out of 5 stars 286 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


The New York Times:
“Superb…the best account yet.”

Foreign Policy:
“[An] indispensable CIA history.”

The Hindu (India):
"[A] masterpiece."

Dexter Filkins, author of The Forever War:
"The story of how the CIA got back into the killing business is as chilling and dramatic as a spy novel--except it’s true. Mark Mazzetti has laid out an extraordinary tale, tracking the spies as they track the terrorists. The Way of the Knife is as close as you'll ever get to the real thing."

Jane Mayer, staff writer, The New Yorker; author of The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals:
"The Way of the Knife provides a stunning, inside account of the CIA's transformation after 9/11 from an intelligence agency into a global clandestine killing machine. Mazzetti, who is one of America's best national security reporters, has written a frightening, must-read book."

Thomas E. Ricks, author of Fiasco and The Generals:
"The United States fought three wars after 9/11: Iraq, Afghanistan and the one in the shadows. This is an authoritative account of that that third war, conducted by the CIA and military Special Operators in Yemen, East Africa and, most of all, Pakistan. If you want to understand the world we live in, you need to read it."

The Week:
“The definitive history of how the intelligence agency became something much more like a paramilitary wing—de-evolving, in a sense, back to the days when the agency's adventurism influenced foreign policy around the world. It's a fascinating expose of what information the U.S. was not collecting—and how an attempt to fill the gap fell through oversight mechanisms and complicated geopolitics in Pakistan.”

San Francisco Chronicle:
“A highly engaging account that should please the curious and experts alike. Mazzetti manages to give a fresh reading to such oft-told stories as the bureaucratic jousting among White House, CIA and Pentagon officials over killer drones, secret prisons, ‘harsh interrogations’ and going global with military assassins.”

The Economist:
“The new American way of war is here, but the debate about it has only just begun. In The Way of the Knife, Mr Mazzetti has made a valuable contribution to it.”

The New Republic:
“Essential background reading… there are many signs that the novel ‘military-intelligence complex’ that Mazzetti describes is becoming unacceptably controversial at home and abroad.”

Dawn (Pakistan):
"Mazzetti's is an assiduously compiled account that strings together some of the missing parts in the puzzle… The Way of the Knife is a tale full of intrigues."

The New York Times Book Review:
“A fascinating, trenchant, sometimes tragicomic account.”

The Age (Australia):
"An astounding tale that melds the immediacy of fiction with the authority of fact."

The Washington Post:
“[A] deeply reported and crisply written account… While The Way of the Knife recounts the important shifts in the architecture of the U.S. military and intelligence communities, it also reveals the many eccentric characters who emerged during this.”

Los Angeles Times:
“Mazzetti finds new details and tracks the ominous blurring of traditional roles between soldiers and spies, the lush growth of a military-intelligence complex, and what the shift portends for the future....a valuable addition to a canon that is exposing America's use of lethal operations far from declared war zones."

Foreign Affairs:
“[A] fine account… Mazzetti describes in compelling detail the agency’s turf battles with the Pentagon, its awkward relations with its Pakistani counterpart, and its reliance on a motley collection of freelancers and private contractors.”

“Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mark Mazzetti’s The Way of the Knife makes for an incisive guide to what he terms the 'shadow war' being waged in multiple countries around the world, away from prying eyes....[W]ith crisp, precision reporting, Mazzetti lays out a chronology of how one thing led to another after al-Qaeda’s asymmetric attacks in 2001 and the ruinously bloody and inconclusive invasions that followed exposed glaring weaknesses in both the American military and its intelligence services.”

Kirkus Reviews:
“A well-reported, smoothly written book for anyone who wants to understand contemporary American military might and the widespread hatred for the U.S. that has been the result.”

About the Author

MARK MAZZETTI is a national security correspondent for The New York Times. In 2009, he shared a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the intensifying violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan and Washington’s response, and he has won numerous other major journalism awards, including the George Polk Award (with colleague Dexter Filkins) and the Livingston Award, for breaking the story of the CIA's destruction of interrogation videotapes. Mazzetti has also written for the Los Angeles Times, U.S. News & World Report, and The Economist. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press; First Edition edition (April 9, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594204802
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594204807
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.1 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (286 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #107,221 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The major focus of this book is centered upon the changing roles of the CIA and the US military, in the wake of 9/11, and it is a fascinating story.

Who knew that the now-famous Navy SEAL Team 6 which took out Osama Bin Laden was temporarily inducted into the CIA just before the mission ("sheep-dipped" is the insider term), because Pakistan is, on paper, an ally, and the US military cannot - by law - engage in such missions. Or that all of the spectacular drone strikes taking out other Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders - seemingly military actions - were made by the CIA (and that the CIA now conducts tactical military operations all over the world). Conversely, much of the intelligence-gathering done on Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other threats is now done by US military Special Operations forces, not the CIA. To further complicate the lines of responsibility, there has been an exponential increase in private intelligence-gathering firms used by the US government.

It is a sometimes confusing, often breathtaking story (especially the inside stories on many kill operations), as to how our country now wages war and the politics behind it. Though this quantum shift away from the highly-visible and costly invade-and-occupy military tactics of recent years, towards this stealthy "way of the knife" method has been effective, it also has caused many problems. I highly recommend the book.
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Format: Hardcover
This book offers an insightful and well-researched look into the merging of military and intelligence activities in the decade since 9/11. Many of the events were already reported by Mazzetti in his work for The New York Times, however, the book is rich in new detail, including a new account of the CIA's deal to kill one of the Pakistani government's most wanted terrorists in exchange for permission for CIA drone to operate over the tribal areas.

The book also analyzes the relationship between the discrediting of the CIA's detention program and the rise in targeted killing. It then traces the Pentagon's deliberate attempts to develop a global counterterrorism force with the authorities and capabilities to rival the CIA's covert actions, and the fascinating blend of competition and cooperation that has emerged in recent years.

The Way of the Knife is a must read for anyone interested in the history of drones, the evolution of U.S. special forces and military-intelligence convergence.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is about the fundamental changes that have occurred in the CIA and the US govt as to how to wage war against non-state enemies in the post 9/11 world. In presenting a composite picture of these changes, the author shows how the roles of the CIA and the Pentagon have overlapped and even switched. He raises moral and ethical questions associated with conducting 'war' on a country without ever declaring 'war', killing 'enemies' in foreign lands by remotely piloted drones and outsourcing espionage and killing to private firms and mercenaries. These are thought-provoking questions to ponder about.

Mark Mazetti traces the philosophy of the CIA over the past fifty years as follows: In the 1960s, the CIA was allowed to carry out assassinations overseas as part of its job. In the 70s, President Ford reversed all that, forbidding the CIA from being a killing machine and instead making it focus on intelligence gathering and spying as its primary job. However, 9/11 changed all that yet again, with the CIA getting into the business of tracking down Islamic extremists, incarcerating and torturing them overseas. The adverse reaction to this practice and the Congressional indictments that followed, made them choose the silver bullet of killing terrorists abroad again through remote-controlled drones without opting for on-the-ground assassination squads. In doing so, the American government has outsourced the basic functions of spycraft to private contractors, making the American way of war morph from clashes between tank columns - into the shadows, outside the declared war zones. In the process, the constraints on who can be killed, where they can be killed and when they can be killed have been conveniently blurred.
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Format: Hardcover
The book opens with the story of clandestine CIA operative Raymond Davis, credited with helping turn Pakistan against the U.S., along with numerous drone strikes in the country and the Seal attack on Bin Laden's location. Davis was arrested in Lahore after shooting two Pakistanis on the street (one in the back, as he was running away) that he claimed approached him with guns drawn. After calling the American consulate for help, a Toyota sped down a nearby one-way street going in the wrong direction, and killed a Pakistani motorcyclist - before leaving Davis still standing in the road. The wife of one of Davis's victims, believing her husband's killer would never be brought to justice, killed herself. Davis was eventually released after the U.S. paid money to the relatives of those he'd shot.

Turns out Davis had been hired by CIA for a manhunt in Pakistan. The CIA was no longer a traditional espionage service - it now was also a killing machine. Author Mazzetti also claims that since 9/11 the Pentagon has also added spying to its repertoire, especially using small numbers of clandestine Special Ops forces on the ground. (Most of Seal Team 6's time in Osama's house was spent vacuuming up every electronic device and written document available.) Unfortunately, this new kind of war has also created enemies, while obliterating them. It has also lowered the bar for carrying out killing operations around the world, and led to hiding terrorists in secret jails and subjecting them to brutal interrogations.

During Panetta's CIA tenure, he authorized 216 CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, killing at least 1,196. Yet, per Mazzetti, few were al-Qaeda leaders - most were lower-level members of the Taliban in Pakistan. Meanwhile, the CIA missed Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya.
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