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Endless Enemies: Inside FBI Counterterrorism Hardcover – June 1, 2011
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About the Author
Raymond W. Holcomb is a terrorism consultant for the federal government. He retired from the FBI in 2005 after twenty-two years of service. His most recent position was as assistant section chief of the Counterterrorism Operational Response Section, Counterterrorism Division, FBI headquarters. In 2002 he was a prosecution consultant on the trial team of Zacarias Moussaoui, the only planner of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to be convicted to date.
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Cons: The first half of the book is really a series of short vignettes of high points and interesting investigations, not bad, but felt stilted. The book is so heavily censored (not redacted, but 'an agency' and 'unnamed individuals' that sections are much more bland that they could be ... particularly in light of other books that discuss much of what was going on in Afghanistan. Those sections lose their punch because responsibility is placed on 'an agency' so there is no where to direct the reader frustration. I understand the why, but other books have been able to avoid this issue, so I am thinking someone was a bit overzealous.
In all, the author was involved in a lot of news worthy events and I appreciate sharing the experience. The creation of SWAT, the inter-agency politics, and the post 9/11 work are the parts I enjoyed. He does a better job than most of capturing how grueling the pace is and how difficult the jobs is the the agents do; sleeping on the floor, long hours, always being on-call. The FBI, despite a number of flaws, comes out looking good because of the dedication of the agents on the ground.
The narrative is a historical zoom lens. On the one hand, Mr. Holcomb zooms in and describes the milestones of his career in the Bureau in astonishing and often amusing detail that could only come from a field operative on the inside; on the other he pulls back and is able to place these events in context on a strategic international stage. He presents the dynamic of the domestic and international roles played by the FBI; he covers budgetary constraints and internal political and personal agendas; he intelligently discusses the difficulties of recasting a large law enforcement agency into an effective tool against new and evolving foes; he caringly describes the human toll that its agents continually pay to adapt to that changing role. On a personal level, Ray wistfully recalls the emotional pull of the comfort and safety of a career in corporate law against his visceral desire to meet the security needs of the country.
What makes this narrative so compelling is that Mr. Holcomb is a self-aware narrator. He has clearly given great thought to his role in these sadly real events and it is the depth and clarity of his thinking that makes this book special. He does not posture about his role. He simply lived a life of understated patriotism to the best of his ability and to the extent of his character, and that has taken him farther than most are willing to go. Endless Enemies deserves a read. When you're done, you'll come away with a much deeper appreciation for the dedicated people like Ray Holcomb who are doing their best to protect us amid all the political ambitions and drama being played out in the national headlines of the past 30 years.
Captain James G. Taylor, Retired
Holcomb does a great job conveying his anger, frustration, fatigue and peril. Some of the conditions he and his teams had to work under were hard to imagine, and described vividly. The author does a great job of depicting the unglamorous side of doing his job.
Full disclosure: many years ago I played college football with the author. He was unflappable and fearless then, and it sounds like he's the same way today. He epitomizes the kind of person we want defending us.
Endless enemies will be a great history book for future generations, told in vivid detail by someone who was right in the thick of of the most infamous events of a generation. Very highly recommended!