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The CIA at War: Inside the Secret Campaign Against Terror Paperback – September 1, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
The war on terror is a sideshow to the larger struggle for the CIA's soul in this illuminating but partisan book. Investigative journalist Kessler gives a warts-and-all account of the CIA's checkered past up to the despondent 1990s, when the demise of Communism, official disparagement of human intelligence-gathering in favor of high-tech spying, and humiliations like the Aldrich Ames spy case, left the agency rudderless and demoralized. Kessler ties these lapses to a dysfunctional institutional culture that oscillated, he says, between paranoia and slackness, bureaucratic sclerosis and "cowboy" adventurism, and arrogant unaccountability and prissy human rights regulations. Kessler gives an absorbing and critical, if somewhat rambling, history of the agency and its problems, based on extensive interviews with past and present CIA officials and leavened with intriguing secret-agent lore. But when current CIA director George Tenet-a "gracious" and "politically savvy" leader whose "integrity and outspokenness" started a "healing process" that made the agency "focused, aggressive and effective"-arrives on the scene, Kessler's objectivity departs. He dismisses criticisms of the CIA's pre-Sept. 11 performance and the controversy over intelligence claims about Iraq (Tenet, he huffs, "would never tolerate any attempts to influence the CIA's conclusions"). Instead, Kessler extols the agency's successes in "rolling up" terrorists and laying the clandestine groundwork for the invasion of Iraq, while downplaying awkward loose threads like the failure to find the weapons of mass destruction the CIA insisted were in Iraq. Kessler's uncritical endorsement of Tenet-and of President Bush, another "focused" leader who "gets" intelligence, unlike the inattentive Clinton-lacks the insight displayed in the rest of the book. Photos.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Kessler takes us from the formation of the CIA as an outgrowth of World War II OSS intelligence activities, when most agents were East Coast Ivy League elites focused on cold war scrimmages, through the current war on terror, where the enemy is often unknown and the agency elite are somewhat more diverse. Through numerous interviews with both agents and operatives, Kessler brings to life a world generally described only in fiction. While providing special insight into CIA successes associated with the post-9/11 war on terror, Kessler also portrays a demoralized agency that lost popular and political support because of its inability to detect traitors within its own ranks. This historically secretive and powerful agency has adjusted to modern warfare by integrating intelligence gathering with field operations. Kessler had unprecedented access to the agency, which is reflected in his up-to-date commentary on the war and administration policy. Vernon Ford
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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