Others will give their opinions on this book based on their political leanings or previously held opinions about 9/11. I would urge you to buy and read this book with an open mind. And I would tell you that it is absolutely impossible to put down. This is not a dry recitation of facts and dates, this is a well told, engrossing story that will raise your eyebrows and yes, anger you at points. It may also bring you close to tears as you read about what was known and not acted on up through and even after 9-11. Highly recommended.
on February 5, 2008
In this well-crafted, important new study, the perfect companion to Griffin's magisterial The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions, we get to see from a very human perspective why the 9/11 Commission did not finally produce the truth. Most fascinating to me (and the book is tough to put down), the 9/11 Commission stands as a paradigm case for analysis of the inherent problem plaguing our democracy - that the critical decisions are made by extremely small groups of decision-makers, selected with specific implications of partisan conflict, more than the more generalized public good, in mind. These groups are thus necessarily politicized, representing the interests - not of the whole of society - but of only the most powerful oligarchs. Such a group made the decision the drop the bomb on Hiroshima, and again such a group essentially closed the door to further publicly sanctioned investigation of the signal event of our young century.
The prospective reader must note that, evidently due to his extensive investigation, Shenon writes from a definite standpoint on the events 9/11. He believes that the Bush Administration is guilty of criminal negligence (not conspiracy) - allowing, either by incompetence or some other motive, a security breakdown - and that its representatives, when they found they could no longer avert a public investigation (they managed to delay it for over 400 days - it took only 4 to start investigating Pearl Harbor), made every move possible to promote and maintain damage control, from the selection of key members of the Commission and its staff (he draws out a fantastic array of bit players, a number of whom I was wholly unfamiliar with, who distinctly influenced the course of the investigation), to what was discussed in the actual hearings, to what lines of questioning were pursued, and what paths of inquiry were not. "Rove began rewriting the strategy for Bush's 2004 reelection campaign literally the day after 9/11. He knew that Bush's reelection effort centered on his performance on terrorism; almost nothing else would matter to the voters. If the commission did anything to undermine Bush's anti-terrorism credentials - worst of all, if it is claimed that Bush had somehow bungled intelligence in 2001 that might of prevented the attacks - his reelection might well be sunk."
Shenon deftly traces the political lineages as the intertwine with the crucial testimony given and not given. By discussing the character, motives, and felt obligations of the main figures involved, we get a much deeper perspective on where the Commission went astray and why. Much of the discussion centers of the role of Phillip Zelikow, whose extensive ties to central members of the Bush Administration, might give rise to a further investigative Commission.
All in all, a notably balanced rendering of a topic that will surely be discussed for decades to come. For those with an interest in the future of democracy, without question, the read of the season.
on March 19, 2008
"The Commission" by Philip Shenon has performed a great public service, letting the world know that there are good reasons to be suspicious of "The 9/11 Commission Report." The main problem is the fact that the Commission was almost entirely under the control of Philip Zelikow, who was closely connected to the Bush White House. Although my book "Christian Faith and the Truth behind 9/11" revealed some of the facts about Zelikow that showed him to be one of the worst possible choices for the Commission's executive director, Shenon has revealed even more facts.
It was already known that Zelikow had been on the National Security Council (NSC) with Condoleezza Rice during the administration of the first President Bush; that he wrote a book with her while the Republicans were out of power; that he helped her make the transition from the Clinton to the Bush NSC; and that he wrote at her request the 2002 version of "National Security Strategy of the United States of America" (NSS 2002), which enunciated a new doctrine of preemptive war that was used, in Shenon's words, to "justify a preemptive strike on Iraq."
But now Shenon reveals more: that in applying to Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, the co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission, for the position of executive director, Zelikow failed to reveal some of his conflicts of interest, especially his authorship of NSS 2002 and his role on the transition team; that he continued, contrary to his promise, to be in touch with Karl Rove (who was very concerned about the Commission's work), as well as Rice; that Zelikow largely prevented direct contact between the staff and the Commissioners ("If information gathered by the staff was to be passed to the commissioners, it would have to go through Zelikow"); and that Zelikow largely "controlled what the final report would say."
Shenon also reveals that Zelikow, before the Commission's work had begun, had written a detailed outline for the Commission's report, complete with "chapter headings, subheadings, and sub-subheadings," and that he and the Commission's co-chairs agreed to keep this outline a secret from the Commission's investigative staff. When the staff learned about this outline a year later, some of them circulated a parody called "The Warren Commission Report---Preemptive Outline," one chapter of which was entitled "Single Bullet: We Haven't Seen the Evidence Yet. But Really. We're Sure."
However, although all of this should have made Shenon suspicious that Zelikow might have used his power to cover up the truth about 9/11, it did not. Shenon believes that the falsehoods in the Commission's report were limited to covering up White House incompetence (especially by Rice) and foreign funding of al-Qaeda (by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia).
Because Shenon simply presupposed the truth of the official story as fully as did the Commission, his book is terrible as well as great. It is terrible because Shenon, in mentioning the contention that 9/11 was an inside job, assures his readers that this contention has been debunked, while showing no sign of having studied any of the books that provide evidence for this contention. In his bibliography, for example, he mentions two defenses of the official account: "Debunking 9/11 Myths," put out by Popular Mechanics, and "Without Precedent," coauthored by Kean and Hamilton. But he does not mention my "Debunking 9/11 Debunking: An Answer to Popular Mechanics and Other Defenders of the Official Conspiracy Theory," in which I responded at length to both of these books. Also, although one would expect his bibliography to include all major critiques of the 9/11 Commission, it does not include my book, "The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions," which has generally been considered the major critique of the Commission's report.
Shenon's ignorance of facts contained in this alternative literature is apparent in his assurances that all is well with the official account. For example, claiming that the evidence that al-Qaeda was responsible for 9/11 is "incontrovertible," Shenon points to a videotape in which a bin Laden boasts about the attacks. Shenon is evidently unaware that bin Laden expert Bruce Lawrence called this videotape "bogus" and that FBI spokesman Rex Tomb admitted that "the FBI has no hard evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11." Also, claiming that there is clear evidence that "nineteen young Arab men . . . were aboard the four planes," Shenon is evidently unaware that, as I showed in "Debunking 9/11 Debunking" (updated edition), all this supposed evidence falls apart under scrutiny. For example, although we were told that the presence of hijackers on American Flight 77 was proved by Barbara Olson's phone calls to her husband, Ted Olson, the evidence given to the Moussaoui trial in 2006 by the FBI said that no such calls occurred. This same report contradicted the widely held belief that cell phone calls from passengers on United 93 had reported the existence of hijackers.
Shenon could have remained neutral on the question of the truth of the official story. But because he chose to enter the fray, it was incumbent upon him as a journalist to study, and report, the arguments on both sides of the issue. He did not.
Shenon's book is terrible not only because he endorses the official account without engaging any of the serious critiques of that account, but also because his complacent acceptance of that account leads him to ignore dozens of signs in the Commission's report that Zelikow used his position as executive director to cover up far more than incompetence. In "The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions," I showed that it contains over 100 omissions and distortions of the type that would be expected if Zelikow had indeed used his position to cover up official complicity. Here are a few examples that Shenon fails to mention.
Believing that the claim "that the Twin Towers were brought down by preplaced explosives" had been debunked before the Commission began its work, Shenon does not mention the Commission's silence about the fact that over a hundred members of the Fire Department of New York, in giving oral histories of that day---which were made publicly available by Shenon's own New York Times----spoke of apparent explosions in the towers. Shenon also fails to mention the Commission's silence about evidence that steel in the buildings had melted and even evaporated---evidence that a New York Times article called the "deepest mystery uncovered in the investigation," because the fires could not have come close to the temperature needed to produce such effects. Was Shenon unaware of these revelations provided by his own paper?
Shenon ignores the Commission's failure even to mention the fact that WTC 7, which was not hit by a plane and had fires on only a few floors, also collapsed. Shenon perhaps considers this omission unimportant because there was no mystery. "[I]t was determined," he says, "that a fire that . . . destroyed WTC 7 on September 11 was probably caused by the rupture of the building's special diesel fuel tanks." That is indeed the official theory. But the FEMA report---which is still the only official report on this building---suggested what it considered the most likely version of this theory but then admitted that it had "only a low probability of occurrence."
Although Shenon mentions that Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta testified before the Commission, he does not mention Mineta's report that Vice President Cheney was in the bunker under the White House by 9:20 AM, which contradicted the Zelikow-led Commission's later claim that Cheney did not arrive there until almost 10:00.
Although Shenon mentions Cheney's appearance on "Meet the Press" five days after 9/11, he does not mention Cheney's statement that he learned about the attack on the Pentagon after (not before) he entered the bunker---which the Zelikow-led Commission later contradicted.
Although Shenon points out that Zelikow and Clarke hated each other, he does not point out that Clarke's book, Against All Enemies, is not mentioned by the Zelikow-led Commission's report and that it contradicted that report on several points, saying that Cheney was down in the bunker before 9:15, that Clarke received shootdown authorization from Cheney before 9:55 (not at 10:25), and that General Richard Myers was in the Pentagon between 9:00 and 9:45 AM (not on Capitol Hill).
Although Shenon points out that the Commission failed to ask Rudy Giuliani any tough questions, he does not mention the Commission's failure to ask the toughest question that should have been asked: How did Giuliani know in advance that the Twin Towers were going to come down?
In sum: Whereas Shenon's book has performed a great service by revealing things about the Zelikow-led Commission that should lead people to suspect that its account of 9/11 covered up the truth, it is also a terrible failure: Because of Shenon's lack of journalistic skepticism with regard to the official account of 9/11, he failed to raise the most important question about the Commission's report: Did it cover up complicity by forces within our own government? Although the Commission's report contains dozens of signs that it did just this, Shenon's book mentions not a single one.
on February 23, 2008
This book should have received five stars, but I give it only three. To learn why, read on.
Today in America we are witness to a great unraveling, the likes of which we have never seen before. There are no historical precedents. For many months now the official narrative about the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on America has been disintegrating. Philip Shenon's fine book is certain to fuel this process. Before I discuss the book, however, let us review the unraveling.
It began within weeks of the release of the 9/11 Commission Report (in July 2004) with the shocking revelation that members of the 9/11 commission were convinced that government officials, including NORAD generals, had deceived them during the investigation---in essence, had lied to their faces during the hearings. According to the Washington Post (August 2, 2006), the members of the commission vented their frustrations at a special meeting in the summer of 2004. The panel even considered referring the matter to the Justice Department for a criminal investigation.
The unraveling continued in 2006 with the release of a follow-up volume, Without Precedent, authored by the two men who had co-chaired the commission, Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton. The men had come under increasing fire ever since the release of their final report for presiding over what many now believe was a failed investigation. Stung by so much criticism, Kean and Hamilton felt the need to explain (and defend) themselves. The gist of their 2006 book is easily summarized. They write: "We were set up to fail."
The bleeding continued in May 2007 with the stunning announcement that former BYU physicist Steven Jones had found residues of thermate, a high temperature explosive, in the dust of the collapsed World Trade Center. The discovery has the gravest implications for our nation, and probably for this reason the announcement went reported in the US media.
Yet another startling revelation occurred in December 2007 when we learned that the CIA destroyed evidence, in the form of audio-tapes, deemed vital to the investigation. (New York Times, December 7, 2007) The news prompted 9/11 Commission co-chairs Kean and Hamilton to fire off an angry salvo in the New York Times (January 2, 2008) in which they charged that the CIA had obstructed their investigation. Their blunt accusation was explosive and should have caused every American to sit up and take notice. Unfortunately, the average American probably failed to connect the dots because, as usual, the US media offered nothing in the way of helpful context or analysis. We were fed the standard diet of tidbits and sound bytes: a wealth of minutiae. The big picture remained elusive.
Here is a synopsis of the story: Starting in 2002, the CIA conducted interrogations of captured Al Qaeda operatives, including Abu Zubaydah and Ramzi Binalshibh, at undisclosed CIA prisons outside the US. During these interrogations the CIA resorted to "enhanced interrogation techniques" (the CIA's euphemism for torture) to extract information. The methods included "waterboarding," which induces a sensation of drowning in the unlucky individual. Evidently, the CIA decided for its own internal reasons to video-tape these early interrogation sessions. However, years later (in 2005), Jose A, Rodriquez, the CIA's Director of Operations, ordered the tapes destroyed. For what reason? Well, according to current CIA chief Michael V. Hayden, because the tapes posed "a serious security risk." (New York Times, December 7, 2007)
Hayden went on to clarify his rather cryptic remark, and explained to the press that if the tapes had become public they would have exposed CIA officials "and their families to retaliation from Al Qaeda and its sympathizers." The excuse was flimflam, but the US media hung on Hayden's every word as if he were speaking gospel.
Hayden also claimed that the CIA had notified the appropriate committee heads in Congress in 2005 before destroying the evidence. But according to the Times this was immediately denied by the top two members of the House Intelligence Committee. A spokesman for Representative Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), who at the time chaired the oversight committee, said that he was "never briefed or advised" that the tapes even existed, let alone "that they were going to be destroyed."(New York Times, December 7, 2007)
Kean and Hamilton had a similar reaction---outrage. In their January article they state categorically that the CIA never informed them about any taped interrogations, despite their repeated requests for all pertinent information about the captured Al Qaeda operatives, who were then in CIA custody. In fact, as damaging as the news about the CIA's destruction of evidence surely was, the story exposed an even more serious problem. One might naturally assume that the official commission charged to investigate the events of 9/11 would have had unfettered access to all of the evidence pertinent to the case, including government documents and key witnesses. This goes without saying. Yet, it never happened.
In their article Kean and Hamilton summarize their dealings with the CIA.They describe their private meeting with CIA Director George Tenet and how he denied them access to the captured members of Al Qaeda. Which means, of course, that the panel never had a chance to conduct its own interviews. Tenet even denied them permission to conduct second-hand interviews with the CIA interrogators, which Kean and Hamilton felt were needed to "to better judge the credibility of the witnesses and clarify ambiguities in the reporting."Ultimately, the commission was forced to rely on third-hand intelligence reports prepared by the CIA itself. Many of these reports were poorly written and incomplete summaries, which, according to the co-chairs "raised almost as many questions as they answered."
The 9/11 Commission's lack of direct access to the captured members of al Qaeda can only mean that the official 9/11 investigation was fundamentally compromised from the outset. No other conclusion is possible, given the latest disclosures. In their January piece, Kean and Hamilton do not repudiate their own report, but they come close. They insinuate that the CIA's stonewalling now calls into question the veracity of key parts of the official story, especially the plot against America supposedly masterminded by Khalid Shiekh Mohammed and approved by Osama bin Laden. Until now, the nation has assumed that all of this was soundly based on the testimony of the captured al Qaeda operatives, several of whom supposedly confessed. However, when you probe more deeply you discover the devil lurking in the details. Since there has never been any independent confirmation about what the captives actually confessed to, or, indeed, whether they confessed at all, there is absolutely no way for us to know how much of the official story is true and how much was fabricated by the CIA for reasons we can only guess.
If the confessions were extracted under torture, just how reliable are they? For all we know, the entire story is a pack of lies. It comes down to whether the CIA is telling the truth.
Now, in February 2008, along comes a new "tell-all" book by Philip Shenon with much to say about these issues. Shenon covered the 9/11 Commission for the New York Times and over the course of the investigation he personally interviewed many of the commissioners and staff. His book is a well-written expose and affords our best look yet at what went on behind-the-scenes. Instead of burdening us with his personal opinions, Shenon plays the role of reporter and describes what happened through the eyes of the commissioners and staff. The book provides valuable insights into why the investigation failed. Of course, we already knew parts of the story. We knew about National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice's incompetence, for example, and about the serious conflicts of interest on the commission.
Shenon's most important contribution is naming CIA Director George Tenet as one of the government officials who lied during the hearings. Tenet gave testimony on three occasions (in addition to the private meetings with Kean and Hamilton) and in each of these hearings the CIA Director suffered from a faulty memory, frequently responding with "I can't remember." Initially, the commissioners were inclined to be sympathetic and gave the director the benefit of the doubt. But by Tenet's third appearance it was obvious to everyone he was perjuring himself.
Curiously, there no mention of this spectacle in the 9/11 Commission Report. Why not? Kean gave the reason at the panel's first public hearing in New York City, when he said: "Our...purpose will not be to point fingers." The comment was not well received. According to Shenon, it prompted a rumble in the audience, including sneers from the families of the victims who wanted those officials responsible to be held accountable.
Lying, of course, is a time-honored CIA tradition. For the first 25 years of its existence the CIA functioned entirely outside our constitutional framework of government. The state of affairs prevailed until the Watergate era when the Church hearings exposed a laundry list of criminal activities by the CIA, such as domestic spying, the assassination of foreign leaders, the overthrow of governments, plus the nasty habit of deceiving Congress. The Church hearings shocked the nation and led to the creation of House and Senate intelligence committees to provide the democratic oversight that was sorely lacking. Unfortunately, the CIA soon found ways around the oversight process. This is not surprising when you consider that the agency's expertise is clandestine operations. Today, the Intelligence Committees in both houses are widely viewed as a joke, and despite a chorus of denials from the agency and its admirers the perception is undoubtedly correct. To his credit, Shenon touches on the problem. The author mentions that one of the commissioners, former Senator Slade Gorton (R-WA), once served on the Senate Intelligence Committee but quit in frustration because of the lack of any serious business. Said Gorton: "I felt it was a useless exercise---I never felt I was being told anything that I hadn't learned in the Washington Post." Does such an agency deserve our trust and respect?
I give Shenon's book only three stars because the author supports the official 9/11 narrative. He seems unaware that in 2007 the evidence shifted decisively in favor of the "conspiracy theorists." Ignorance is no excvuse, however. Ironically, whatever Shenon's personal views, his book is sure to speed the unraveling process.
How? By focusing attention on the BIG issue -- the CIA's role. Though long delayed, a showdown now appears to be developing and portends a coming shift in the terms of the debate, away from the previous discussion about the incompetence of officials and "security failures" to more grave issues. But how this important drama will be played out remains unclear. Obviously, a new legally empowered 9/11 investigative body is urgently needed, since the 9/11 Commission no longer exists. While we have entered the most dangerous time in US history, the good news is that, once begun, the unraveling process is irreversible. As in the famous nursery rhyme, Humpty-Dumpty, the official reality is falling apart and the pieces will never be put back together again.
on June 23, 2008
This book is a must read for every individual who has read the 9/11 Commission Report and still believes the report was independent and is the most reliable and accurate assessment of the 9/11 attacks. Philip Shenon clearly shows how the most important member of the Commission, Philip Zelikow, the Executive Director and the 9/11 Report's main author, did his best to manipulate and sway the investigation and final report in favor of his friends and like minded ideologues in the Bush Administration.
This book will undoubtedly infuriate most Americans who try to believe in our government and who expected honesty and credibility in the 9/11 investigation. Choosing the heavily conflicted Zelikow as the ED was the type of decision one would have expected from a third world country, it was the kind of decision that democracy suppressor Vladimir Putin of Russia would have been proud to have gotten away with. Shenon basically shows that when you start with rotten fish, you end up with rotten fish.
Overall, I would recommend this book, it provides some good additional insight into the 9/11 investigation and shows how politicized it really was. Following are some of the other positives and negatives of this book:
1. It's an easy and entertaining read, similar to the 9/11 Commission Report, and also written for mass appeal and corporate media approval.
2. Has a good focus on Zelikow's many significant conflicts of interest and how the investigation and final report were heavily influenced by these conflicts.
3. Highlights the incompetence and credibility concerns of Condoleezza Rice and other top Administration officials (particularly Tenet and Ashcroft, and to a lesser extent, the infinitely incurious President Bush).
4. Provides some interesting insights into the commission's investigation and how important issues were addressed and resolved, including with the White House and the intelligence agencies.
5. Provides interesting color and background on most of the commissioners and a handful of the key staffers.
1. Somewhat light on new facts. A lot of Shenon's information can actually be found in the 9/11 Commission Report (although with much less attention and / or buried in the footnotes) and Kean & Hamilton's, "Without Precedent." It does have the benefit of some additional insight from interviews with approximately 40 commissioners and / or staff, as well as Andy Card.
2. It is almost comical that Shenon writes over 400 pages citing significant conflicts of interest by the commission's top member and author, a manipulated investigation and final report, significant and blatant intelligence failures, attempted "known" cover-ups, lying and unaccountable government and intelligence officials, etc, but then unquestionably assures us in about 1 page that only al-Qaeda was responsible??? It seems like a questionable conclusion on Shenon's part given some of the facts in his book appear to at least give rise to the "possibility" of complicity by others. David Ray Griffin's above review on March 19, 2008, actually addresses this issue in greater and more eloquent detail.
America failed the victims and families of 9/11 when we sat idly by and blindly accepted the white washed 9/11 Commission Report. Unfortunately, we will probably never have a reinvestigation of the 9/11 attacks, but Philip Shenon has at least done his part in showing a vastly different story to the account held in the 9/11 Commission Report. For his part, Shenon has corrected a small piece of history, I can only hope that some of the other commissioners or staffers follow in his footsteps in further setting the record straight.
on September 21, 2012
Even years after the commission report came out, this account (recommended to me by an Italian relative) is gripping and disturbing. I followed the commission's work carefully - reading all accounts in the New York Times, etc. - but always assumed they were covering up Bush's failures and Saudi involvement. This book, in describing how the commission went about its work, justifies my assumptions, and much more.
The weakness of the two heads of the commission is astonishing. They wanted a unanimous report, but they got it at the expense of truth. The fact that they gave the job over to a republican partisan is jaw dropping. Those of you who are young enough may find out the truth in 50 years or so, but we certainly don't know it now. And, as usual, there was no accountability.
I think it is a must read for every American, even now.
Discussions of 9/11 often have an unfortunate tendency to generate more heat than light. On one side are those who condemn any challenge to the Bush administration's "excellence" as traitorous and the other those who imagine that the events of that awful day resulted from some fantastic, Byzantine, and wholly unbelievable conspiracy. As with many such polarizing debates, the vast majority is left in the ignoble middle, unable to gain insight above the din, often looking to the 9/11 Commission report. Yet, that report has taken on a status of near holy writ among near-everyone not on either of the two vocal extremes, leaving most people without perspective on its contents. That vast middle owes reporter Philip Shenon a great debt for providing a great deal much needed light.
With thoroughness and precision, Shenon tracks down source after source, revealing the Commission's inner workings and structure. Even more important, Shenon knows how to tell a good story. Particularly amusing is his anecdote of 9/11 widows meeting with the Bush administration's choice to chair the commission, Henry Kissinger. These women, demonstrating a skill sorely lacking in the media after 9/11, ask Kissinger if he has any clients named "Bin Laden." First Kissinger spills his coffee, than he calls the White House and resigns.
If there is a flaw in this important book, it is Shenon's use of Philip Zelikow as the story's villain. While Mr. Zelikow gives plenty to work with to fit the bill - indeed everything but a black hat and twisted mustache - ranging from his continued contacts with the White House to asking his Secretary to stop logging his calls after he'd spoken regularly with Karl Rove, this focus overshadows many other important elements of the book. Of particular interest is the Bush administration's crass, craven efforts to disrupt the Commission's work, deny them access to important people and documents, and demonize those who told truths which they found politically dangerous.
Where Shenon shines is his consideration of Commission chair's Kean and Hamilton's early decision not to "point fingers." This troubling choice to lay blame on systemic factors rather than holding individuals to account for their often shocking negligence created an environment of non-responsibility which persists to this day. After Pearl Harbor, FDR showed the courage to hold the admirals responsible, creating a culture of accountability which aided the Allies through the war. Perhaps Iraq and Afganistan might have proceeded better had the 9/11 Commission taken a similar tack.
Of one thing I am certain, members of all future "blue ribbon commissions" will begin their efforts with a copy of the 9/11 Report in one hand and Shenon's book in the other, and the country will better of for the insights they thus gain.
on July 23, 2014
One thing you can be certain of: US government misuse of information, misinformation, cover-up, and "news management" (i.e., propaganda). The foul deed was done by islamists, and they are the enemy. Never forget that.
on November 28, 2013
This is a must read for anyone wanting to know the details of how and why a handful of Islamic religious zealots were able to fundamentally change the way we in the United States look at ourselves and our relationship with the rest of the world. It was heartbreaking to learn just how dysfunctional our politicians, law enforcement agencies, defense department, and spy agencies were and probably still are when it come to protecting us from these types of attacks.
on February 27, 2008
I found it interesting that this book has no blurbs on the cover. No forward or prologue. It just gets right down to business. It's fascinating reading. The author creates a compelling narrative. There is alot that is very damaging to certain players, but the author does not turn them into cartoon cutouts. He makes an effort to show things as they may have seen them, but doesn't let himself become ensnared in their own self-serving narratives (I'm looking at you Bob Woodward). I think the book ends up providing a great deal of insight into how Washington really works. This is how investigative political reporting should be done.