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The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth Hardcover – April 9, 2013
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The New York Times:
“Superb…the best account yet.”
“[An] indispensable CIA history.”
The Hindu (India):
Dexter Filkins, author of The Forever War:
"The story of how the CIA got back into the killing business is as chilling and dramatic as a spy novel--except it’s true. Mark Mazzetti has laid out an extraordinary tale, tracking the spies as they track the terrorists. The Way of the Knife is as close as you'll ever get to the real thing."
Jane Mayer, staff writer, The New Yorker; author of The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals:
"The Way of the Knife provides a stunning, inside account of the CIA's transformation after 9/11 from an intelligence agency into a global clandestine killing machine. Mazzetti, who is one of America's best national security reporters, has written a frightening, must-read book."
Thomas E. Ricks, author of Fiasco and The Generals:
"The United States fought three wars after 9/11: Iraq, Afghanistan and the one in the shadows. This is an authoritative account of that that third war, conducted by the CIA and military Special Operators in Yemen, East Africa and, most of all, Pakistan. If you want to understand the world we live in, you need to read it."
“The definitive history of how the intelligence agency became something much more like a paramilitary wing—de-evolving, in a sense, back to the days when the agency's adventurism influenced foreign policy around the world. It's a fascinating expose of what information the U.S. was not collecting—and how an attempt to fill the gap fell through oversight mechanisms and complicated geopolitics in Pakistan.”
San Francisco Chronicle:
“A highly engaging account that should please the curious and experts alike. Mazzetti manages to give a fresh reading to such oft-told stories as the bureaucratic jousting among White House, CIA and Pentagon officials over killer drones, secret prisons, ‘harsh interrogations’ and going global with military assassins.”
“The new American way of war is here, but the debate about it has only just begun. In The Way of the Knife, Mr Mazzetti has made a valuable contribution to it.”
The New Republic:
“Essential background reading… there are many signs that the novel ‘military-intelligence complex’ that Mazzetti describes is becoming unacceptably controversial at home and abroad.”
"Mazzetti's is an assiduously compiled account that strings together some of the missing parts in the puzzle… The Way of the Knife is a tale full of intrigues."
The New York Times Book Review:
“A fascinating, trenchant, sometimes tragicomic account.”
The Age (Australia):
"An astounding tale that melds the immediacy of fiction with the authority of fact."
The Washington Post:
“[A] deeply reported and crisply written account… While The Way of the Knife recounts the important shifts in the architecture of the U.S. military and intelligence communities, it also reveals the many eccentric characters who emerged during this.”
Los Angeles Times:
“Mazzetti finds new details and tracks the ominous blurring of traditional roles between soldiers and spies, the lush growth of a military-intelligence complex, and what the shift portends for the future....a valuable addition to a canon that is exposing America's use of lethal operations far from declared war zones."
“[A] fine account… Mazzetti describes in compelling detail the agency’s turf battles with the Pentagon, its awkward relations with its Pakistani counterpart, and its reliance on a motley collection of freelancers and private contractors.”
“Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mark Mazzetti’s The Way of the Knife makes for an incisive guide to what he terms the 'shadow war' being waged in multiple countries around the world, away from prying eyes....[W]ith crisp, precision reporting, Mazzetti lays out a chronology of how one thing led to another after al-Qaeda’s asymmetric attacks in 2001 and the ruinously bloody and inconclusive invasions that followed exposed glaring weaknesses in both the American military and its intelligence services.”
“A well-reported, smoothly written book for anyone who wants to understand contemporary American military might and the widespread hatred for the U.S. that has been the result.”
About the Author
MARK MAZZETTI is a national security correspondent for The New York Times. In 2009, he shared a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the intensifying violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan and Washington’s response, and he has won numerous other major journalism awards, including the George Polk Award (with colleague Dexter Filkins) and the Livingston Award, for breaking the story of the CIA's destruction of interrogation videotapes. Mazzetti has also written for the Los Angeles Times, U.S. News & World Report, and The Economist. He lives in Washington, D.C.
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So reads the blurb on the back of this book, and it's true, to a degree. In the wake of 9/11, America proved totally unable to pursue Al Qaeda, with a CIA averse to covert operations, and a special forces culture that trained for high-stakes rescue missions. The new war required human intelligence gathering in some of the most hostile corners of the world, and soon developed a system of secret prisons, 'enhanced interrogations', and long-distance drone assassinations. Neither the military nor the CIA was set up to do this, but they soon adapted and evolved.
This book isn't so much about America's shadow wars: the renditions, drone strikes, and secret armies, as it is about who would get to wield the knife. Mazzetti goes into the byzantine conflicts between the Pentagon, the CIA, State, the White House, private military contractors, and the whole weird menagerie of Beltway counter-terrorism experts. The dsyfunctional relationship with Pakistan is a second focus of the book, and the failure of the American relationship with the ISI, culminating in Admiral Mike Mullen's public declaration that the ISI supported terrorist attacks against American troops.
Mazzetti is too much of the professional reporter to make judgement, but he clearly feels that the duplication of effort between the CIA and JSOC has harmed American interests, and that the entire secret war exists on shaky legal and ethical grounds. The pragmatic question: what form should American engagement with this part of the world take? goes unanswered. I've heard it said that journalism is history's first draft, and this topic definitely deserves further study. But in the the here and now, this is the best book about what actually happened after 9/11.
Mazzetti has had a long career as an investigative reporter. This gives him account dimensions that I have not seen elsewhere. The other side of investigative journalism is that the journalist does not always delve into the literature. Mazzetti seems to have missed some of the history of Enrique Prado. Prado worked with Jose Rodriguez at the CIA and was involved in some of the targeted kill operations. Prado's checkered background is discussed in the book How to Get Away with Murder in America by Evan Wright.
This book reads delightfully like a novel co-written by Ian Fleming of the James Bond 007 master spy and Tom Clancy of the Jack Ryan, who was tasked with saving the world from evil-doers, until one learns of what the United States' CIA, NSA and the Obama Administration have been reported in the media to have done. The events that unfolded after this book was published confirmed the abundance of facts that permeate Dr. (I mean Mr.) Mazzetti's "The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth." It's hard to imagine the great Tom Clancy could have imagined and written as good a novel as Mark Mazzetti's book -- it's amazing how he was able to uncover so much facts and then weave them into a very delightful non-fiction.
Our future military leaders, troops and support staff can learn a lot from a seasoned news reporter like Mark Mazzetti, who should be invited to teach them what he has observed and experienced in the battle fields, which really is in every nation, whether friend or foe. The "Enemy" has taken the battles to places where innocent people shop, learn, meet up with friends and family, pray, worship and live. Our future leaders need to appreciate and grapple with the insightful and practical lessons that are captured in this book.