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See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism Paperback – January 7, 2003
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“See No Evil is a compelling account of America’s failed efforts to ‘listen in’ on the rest of the world, especially the parts of it that intend to do us harm.”
–Wall Street Journal
“Robert Baer was considered perhaps the best on-the-ground field
officer in the Middle East.”
–Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker
From the Inside Flap
In his explosive New York Times bestseller, top CIA operative Robert Baer paints a chilling picture of how terrorism works on the inside and provides startling evidence of how Washington politics sabotaged the CIA's efforts to root out the world's deadliest terrorists, allowing for the rise of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda and the continued entrenchment of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
A veteran case officer in the CIA's Directorate of Operations in the Middle East, Baer witnessed the rise of terrorism first hand and the CIA's inadequate response to it, leading to the attacks of September 11, 2001. This riveting book is both an indictment of an agency that lost its way and an unprecedented look at the roots of modern terrorism, and includes a new afterword in which Baer speaks out about the American war on terrorism and its profound implications throughout the Middle East.
"Robert Baer was considered perhaps the best on-the-ground field
officer in the Middle East."
-Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker
From The Preface
This book is a memoir of one foot soldier's career in the other cold war, the one against terrorist networks. It's a story about places most Americans will never travel to, about people many Americans would prefer to think we don't need to do business with.
This memoir, I hope, will show the reader how spying is supposed to work, where the CIA lost its way, and how we can bring it back again. But I hope this book will accomplish one more purpose as well: I hope it will show why I am angry about what happened to the CIA. And I want to show why every American and everyone who cares about the preservation of this country should be angry and alarmed, too.
The CIA was systematically destroyed by political correctness, by petty Beltway wars, by careerism, and much more. At a time when terrorist threats were compounding globally, the agency that should have been monitoring them was being scrubbed clean instead. Americans were making too much money to bother. Life was good. The White House and the National Security Council became cathedrals of commerce where the interests of big business outweighed the interests of protecting American citizens at home and abroad. Defanged and dispirited, the CIA went along for the ride. And then on September 11, 2001, the reckoning for such vast carelessness was presented for all the world to see.
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Top Customer Reviews
The most important aspect of this book is the picture it shows of the Central Intelligence Agency and its role in government. We all know from the newspapers that human intelligence was underutilized and not trusted compared to high-tech signal and satellite intelligence, and the U.S. government now recognizes this and plans to correct the problem. Beyond that, however, are the underlying problems that make human intelligence a chronic problem for government. There will continue to be a lack of human intelligence, which takes many years to build up, and because the political system does not readily allow human intelligence to thrive.
Baer shows how many of the important people at the CIA, the remaining and flourishing "old-boy-network," enhance careers by avoiding risk. Some create paperwork making it appear as if they're busy while cooperatively censoring intelligence politicians would find inconvenient. Others are true professionals and risk their lives doing what they were hired to do. The true professionals, in doing their job, jeopardize their careers by definition. For example, a case officer operating in a foreign and hostile environment would naturally have to associate with foreign nationals. In doing so, the case officer is exposed to investigations related to any number of charges, such as providing secret information to a foreign intelligence agent. The mere act of a case officer doing his or her job is professionally risky. Human intelligence work, when done properly, is not necessarily good for one's career.
Baer reaches out through his books to get public support for the stated mission of the CIA. Politicians of either party probably will never voluntarily allow the Agency to do its job appropriately due to inherent conflicts of interests. Namely, top politicians need intelligence that suits their political purposes, whether to award contracts to donor corporations or conduct a political career-enhancing foreign policy. But facts are supposed to be neutral and intelligence personnel are charged with getting to the truth whatever it is. Therefore the CIA probably benefits by having advocates such as Baer to inform the public about the need for non-politicized intelligence.
After listening to the audio version of See No Evil twice, ably read by the author, I feel a bit pessimistic about quick reform of the intelligence community. I don't know how the intelligence community can avoid being politicized. Career rewards for shaping intelligence to fit policy are too great a temptation for the all the CIA's upper echelon to avoid, I think. However, this may be a common problem for all governments. The matter then becomes one of relativity. How politicized is our intelligence community compared to others? See No Evil does not address that question but hopefully Baer will produce another good book that does.
It is clear from the beginning that rapport between Mr. Baer, as a field intelligence agent, and his superiors in the CIA headquarters was mostly, if not entirely, lacking. Was it possibly because the CIA did not feel that their field agent was suitably qualified? It is true that, measured by previous espionage achievements, Mr. Baer was not exceptional; he did not unravel a great mystery, break a code or discover an impending plot. On the other hand, he strongly believed that the problem lied with the head office. He believed that they were so inept as not to have an inkling of the impending 9/11 disaster; in effect they had failed to protect America. After a long career he discovered that the problems within the head office were due to ineptitude, indecision, cowardice, special interests and lack of attendance and cooperation with their field agents.
Perhaps to aggravate this field vs. headquarters dichotomy there is another factor of increasing importance: modern technology. In this day and age of Wi Fi's and satellites, when peoples' emails can be scanned and disclosed, when board rooms and bedrooms can be tapped, when personal bank accounts can be uncovered, when hacking is becoming more accessible and when we can listen in on private phones anywhere across the globe, what else do we need to gather secret intelligence?? Governments with high technical abilities seem to think this is adequate. The author strongly disagrees! He insists: You have to go out and talk to people!
Apparently, one thing is now certain: The old exciting days of personal espionage are fading away. Famous spies like Kim Philby, Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess are long gone and forgotten. In their place we now have electronic technology - digital, impersonal and dry.
What makes all this even better is how the CIA proofed the book. So they are basically saying, yes we do this.
I admire our men and women in uniform. My oldest son served in the Air Force. My middle son is in the Marines currently. My youngest is wanting to now serve. But we never say we support our undercover men and women as well. Great book!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
piqued my interest to learn more about terrorism and government corruption.