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The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA's War on Terror Hardcover – March 16, 2010

3.9 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Retired CIA agent Kiriakou tells an engrossing story and delivers some strong opinions. Kiriakou earned a degree in Middle Eastern studies, but jobs in this field were scarce in 1988, so he listened when a favorite professor suggested applying to the CIA. As an analyst at the Iraqi-Kuwaiti desk, he oversaw intelligence during Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. By the late '90s, yearning for action, Kiriakou transferred from analysis to operations. There followed a stormy tour in terrorist-ridden Greece and the peak of his career after 9/11 as chief of counterterrorism in Pakistan, where he led a raid that captured an al-Qaeda chief. Except for a hair-raising account of the Bush administration's enthusiasm for torture, the account winds down in its final third when the author returns to the U.S., resigning in 2004. While readers may skim details of his unhappy first marriage, they will enjoy a mostly admiring portrait of the CIA but with telling critiques of its bureaucracy and of Congress's meddling in CIA affairs. 8 pages of b&w photos. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"The true life story of a US spy on the frontlines of the war on terror, and what that meant for both his personal and professional life. The Reluctant Spy is a gripping page turner that reads better than fiction. A great read about the murky world of American espionage."—Peter Bergen author of Holy War, Inc. and Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden

"Kiriakou cracks open the CIA’s vault, revealing an unusually human inside account of what goes on inside. A vivid picture of the tradeoffs facing America in the post 9/11 world."—Jane Mayer, staff writer, The New Yorker Magazine and author of The Dark Side: How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; 1 edition (March 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553807374
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553807370
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.9 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,187,992 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I fancy myself of connoisseur of espionage books, and I've read them all going back 30 years. "The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA's War on Terror" stands out as one of the great ones. This is for a couple of reasons. First, most books in this genre simply bash the CIA and offer no solutions. This doesn't do that. It's a pro-CIA book, but it doesn't shy away from the fact that the organization has some serious problems and it offers solutions. Second, it gives an unvarnished account of one operations officer's struggles as he balances his work and family lives. It's not easy, and the reader gets a true understanding of what a CIA officer goes through.

Substantively, the book is full of newsworthy revelations. First, it tells the complete story of the Abu Zubaydah takedown, a story that's never been told before. Second, it gives unprecedented background on the invasion of Iraq, the CIA's role in that invasion, and the fact that the decision to invade was made a full year before the first bomb fell. Finally, there is an explosive chapter that details a raid on the Taliban Embassy in Peshawar, Pakistan, where documents were found that showed a link between that embassy and telephone numbers across the United States. There were 168 calls from the Embassy to these numbers in the weeks before the September 11 attacks; they ended September 10 and started again on September 16. But the FBI never traced the numbers and the documents were simply put into storage. Chilling.

In the end, the author tells a compelling story, both personal and professional. I highly recommend this book for anybody interested in intelligence or thinking of a job in the intelligence community.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have just finished John Kiriakou's Reluctant Spy book. Having had the pleasure of working and sharing some down time with John, the best part of reading the book was the sense that John was right there talking to me. A regular guy, sharing openly, with humility and honesty, about life, self-reflection, this world we live in, and difficulty to know what is best for liberty and mankind. For those who would like to just grab a beer with a guy from the CIA and just casually chat a bit --not a scotch with an old Cold War crusty CoS or martini with 007--- , here is your chance to open a page of history and receive some personal perspective from someone who did it. Beer optional.

Having read some of the book reviews prior, I was taken-aback by some who really do not know this world of John's from the indside and can throw around words like "hack" or "hero wanna-be" in their book opinions. I question whether they know the difference between Spy and Intelligence Officer. It's one thing if you just didn't like the book, writing style, or expected Rogue Warrior to let loose. Most working in the CIA that I know or have known actually are more like John than that of those looking to impress with regales of door breeches, flashbangs, and double-taps. Despite the fact that those like John can indeed do this too. Both Operations and Intel directorates are a thinking man's (and woman's) place. A place where one's personal opinion and perspective has less place than understanding an adversary as the adversary would think by keeping an open mind. John depicts this open mindedness and flexibility vividly in the book unlike other books that I have read on similar topics where decisions are a matter of being black or white.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Update on finishing the book: Buy the book to help the guy. He committed crimes, certainly. But he blew the whistle on CIA program for torture. Agency goons of CIA FBI and NSA destroyed his life and his family, which is unconstitutional. The book itself is a whitewash of CIA. Kiriakou's favorite several page boot-licker approach will nauseat most readers. All leaders of CIA were brilliant misunderstood by public, all agents were brilliant, brave, and deserve medals. All work was accurate and time sensitive. Good grief, if one believes Kiriakou, then how in the world were there massive intelligence failures with tenat and powell being monstrous liars.

If one does not buy the book to contribute to Kiriakou, then send him a few dollars if he remains in jail or send a few bills to his home. He needs it.

Update following 10 chapters: My god, if this guy is the level of talent in CIA, no wonder CIA is a criminal agency violating our Constitution. President Truman, who authorized CIA, within a year complained of its Nazi Gestapo-like action. Kiriaku is an average guy who never should have been in CIA. Still though the CIA as Mafia thugs violated his civil rights under our Constitution. Yet, he remains CIA, its most mundane banality of evil person I've read. I had V. Plame at the bottom of the list of smart people writing their memoirs. Now Kiriakau displaces Plame.

The first five chapters follow the CIA agent writing a book style. Arrogant - one would think smart people would know that these same incidents of life are almost identical regardless of the career selected. But no, these arrogant idiots think they are special.
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