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Killer Elite: The Inside Story of America's Most Secret Special Operations Team Later printing Edition

3.7 out of 5 stars 68 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0312362720
ISBN-10: 0312362722
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Former British intelligence officer Smith (The Emperor's Codes) shines a light on one of the U.S. Army's blackest agencies and best-kept secrets, the Intelligence Support Activity—aka the Activity—in this extensively researched and crisply written exposé. The Activity was established, after the failed attempt to rescue the American hostages in Iran in 1980, as "a dedicated special operations intelligence unit" to provide signals, imagery and human intelligence to other black units: e.g., the army's Delta Force. Although opposed by army traditionalists, the Activity proved itself in operations from El Salvador to Iraq, playing important roles in tracking down Colombian drug czar Pablo Escobar, Somali warlord Mohamed Farah Aideed and several prominent Bosnian war criminals. Since 9/11 and Operation Iraqi Freedom have exposed the shortcomings of U.S. intelligence, the size and scope of the Activity has, according to the author, "dramatically increased." Drawing on recently declassified documents and confidential interviews with key participants, Smith has produced an important primer for anyone hoping to understand the (usually quiet) successes and the (well-documented) failures of U.S. intelligence in the last 25 years. 16 pages color photo insert. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

A British journalist specializing in defense topics offers a readable, useful addition to the literature on American special operations forces. During the expansion of special operations forces in the 1980s, a secret group given the code name Intelligence Support Activity was charged with the primary function of gathering intelligence. It has played a valuable though unpublicized role in both Iraq wars, in antiterrorist operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and in the war on drugs. Its operatives can also fight--very well--as and when necessary. This book is finally a portrait of the unit's founder, Jerry Ryan, who had the usual spec-ops specialist's trouble with the brass. But his unit, now expanded to regimental strength, seems likely to remain on U.S. Army rolls, and military buffs and authorities may some day rank Ryan with Charles Beckwith, the founder of Delta Force. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; Later printing edition (March 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312362722
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312362720
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.2 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #849,529 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John Farrar on June 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The book, Killer Elite, by Michael Smith is not only a highly interesting expose of an elite American covert military unit, but also provides a thought provoking illustration of how US Foreign Policy objectives are increasingly being met by small teams of operators in the back alleys of the world. The unit is commonly known as the "Activity" and occasional snippets concerning its various missions and techniques have periodically emerged in the mainstream media for the past few decades. Its mission is to support the better-known and more overt Special Operations Forces such as DELTA and the SEALS in conducting their missions. They do this by providing actionable intelligence that they gather via various means such as the handling of agents or through eavesdropping of communication networks. The book further describes how the unit is now evolving into more expanded missions that are similar to the traditional clandestine agent handling performed by the CIA.

The books' beginning reads similar to Steven Emerson's classic, Secret Warriors: Inside the Covert Military Operations of the Reagan Era, but springs forward into more current and less known operations. I was surprised at the level of research and the author's contacts with both the US and British Special Operations and Intelligence Communities. It sheds a great deal of light and is an excellent read for anyone interested in Special Operations or Human Intelligence gathering. For those interested in this field, Fishers of Men by Rob Lewis is also an excellent book.
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Format: Hardcover
As a writer on intelligence matters, I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the worldwide activities of the U.S. military's Special Operations Forces, as seen through the spectrum of the U.S. Army's secretive clandestine intelligence unit formerly known as the "Intelligence Support Activity." Not only is Mr. Smith's book very readible, but it is also very informative and thought provoking about the vitally important role played by the U.S. military in trying to combat the growing number of terrorist and insurgent threats around the world.

Regardless of where you come down on the political spectrum about U.S. foreign and military policy, this serious book is important because it reminds us that U.S. Special Operations Forces have played an important, albeit secretive role in virtually all significant counterterrorist and counterinsurgency operations since the end of World War II, and that their role in the war on terrorism is becoming increasingly important.

Mr. Smith has a well-deserved reputation for being a top-flight military affairs reporter in England, and this book further confirms his standing as one of the best in the field.
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Format: Paperback
Smith's account of the special forces community from Desert One to Enduring Freedom offers an interesting glimpse into the byzantine workings of special operations. If you were expecting a white knuckle Clancy-esque account of operations reeking of cordite and sweat; FORGET IT.

Smith reveals that much of the work is in gathering and proper inmplementation of intelligence, through exploitation and signals gathering. There are myriad of operations recounted in this book: the killing of Pablo Escobar, SAS and Delta snatches of Serb war criminals and the current ops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Smith also covers the battles within the Penatagon, the scramble for funding and the decision makers.

The authors approach is academic and even handed, so if you expected "go-team-go" and techno-thriller action you're going to be VERY disappointed. Killer Elite is a great page turner for those of us who understand that "James Bond" movies are just that and the REAL shooters are quiet professionals.
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Format: Hardcover
Mr. Smith has tackled a difficult, at best, topic to research and write about. I am recommending the book to everyone in Chapter 85, Special Forces Association at our next meeting. As a former Special Forces soldier and graduate of the Army's COTA Course I can relate to many of the operational unit developments Smith covers in, ' Killer Elite ". Having had the pleasure to serve with and /or meet some of the 'characters' mentioned I can attest to the accuracy of the information provided. Mr. Smith, you can be sure I'll be reading your other works.
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Format: Hardcover
I bought this book along with several other non-fiction special forces titles and based on the description and reviews I found here I was expecting an exciting read. I couldn't have been more disappointed. My criticisms of this book are myriad, so I'll just start with Smith's style. The writing is extremely heavy on quoted passages that do not flow well from one to the next, making for a very "broken" reading experience. My other MAJOR beef with this book is that as far as content goes it reads more like a social-political primer than a military story. Smith covers all sorts of topics that are covered much better in books by Bowden, Beckwith, and Haney. I got the feeling at every turn that Smith was severely hamstringed by security clearances in his attempt to tell this story, which is too bad because it could have been interesting. Instead it was page upon page of very common knowledge recent history, usually culminating in two or three paragraphs of actual operational detail. Boring. I'd highly recommend you skip this book and instead read some works by the other authors I have mentioned above. This one just lacks anything worthwhile.
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