Risen, James | State of War

Discussion in 'The Book Club' started by REMFQuestions, May 17, 2010.

  1. Yes

  2. No

    0 vote(s)
  3. Not read it yet

    0 vote(s)

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  1. State of Fear
    The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration
    James Risen
    Recommended : Yes
    Mushrooms : 3

    Review by: REMFQuestions


    This is the beginning of the non-fiction expose written by James Risen, a journalist from the New York Times. Despite being almost 5 years old State of War is still attracting a storm of controversy in the United States.

    The author is currently under investigation from the Department of Justice and has been subpoenaed by the Grand Jury for compromising National Security. One, might be led to think that such an incident would be beneficial to the author and lead to increased sales. However, James Risen is facing some very weighty charges and it all stems from his opening gambit - the use of anonymous sources detailing State secrets.

    Through his contacts at the New York Times, and previously the Los Angeles Times, Risen has convinced several current and former CIA operatives to come forward and give him information on the condition of anonymity. This lends the book a very credible air, specifically when Risen highlights key details and Operation names and the identities of those involved.

    The legal charge against him rests on the fact that he discusses a particular incident involving a covert agent in Iran who accidentally disseminated a file which allowed the Iranians to identify CIA assets inside the country. Each of those assets was then arrested and/or "rolled up". Further Iranian topics include the breaking of Iranian cryptography allowing the NSA to eavesdrop on communications inside the Embassy in Vienna.

    I can believe that Risen will face stern questions about several of his chapters - the book traces a path from the beginnings of the Bush Administration via Iraq, Afghanistan, 9/11 and Counter-Terrorist Activities around the globe. Topics include illegal eavesdropping of US citizens, special rendition including the use of torture and the lack of a formal counter-narcotics strategy in Afghanistan.

    Further Details here = http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0CovN4SuZI

    Risen is broadly sympathetic to the CIA, and his tactful use of inside sources shifts much of the blame away from field agents and toward the brass in Washington, where CIA Director George Tenet's eagerness to please his political masters and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's bureaucratic skills create the conditions for a perfect storm of intelligence failures.

    He highlights perfectly that the CIA has been sidelined by White House, often at the behest of the Pentagon (via Rumsfeld). The book closes with a chilling indictment of the Neo Conservative policies, which seek to move away from the independent CIA whilst 'militarising' the Intelligence Apparatus of the United States. The anti-thesis of what the CIA had been established for.

    As a writer, Risen excels, and his book cracks along at a fair old pace, with just enough detail to keep the reader enthralled without becoming disbelieving. Occasionally he allows his inner "Le Carre" to race away with the narrative (particularly the Chapter regarding Operation MERLIN) but overall State of War is comparable to All the King's Men. What it lacks in Academic credentials it more than makes up for with insights into the world of Strategic Intelligence, particularly the Washington Power Politics.


  2. Is it really any good - I ask because most writing by US journos about intelligence matters is turgid in the extreme, and if

    is true, I really do hope Mr Risen has many years to consider the tensions between the theory of his First Amendment rights and the practicality of being Big Bubba's Bitch in a federal pokey.

  3. Well, he is the third journalist in as many years who has been forced to disclose a sources identity or face jail time. It will be interesting to see how this pans out.

    It is actually a very good book, but you can see quite a lot of CIA protestations.

    But it is also clear that Risen has some very sensitive sources in both the Intelligence Community and the political arenas. He discloses the Op Names for the secret rendition bases and various other eyebrow raising material. He also draws heavily on political/CIA memoirs and Congressional Testimony.

    A massive line can be drawn through the CIA station chiefs, how critical they were of Iraq and how quickly they were replaced :D

    Although brief, there is an excellent summary of the Afghan Narco-state as well. It's a good primer before researching some of these stories in detail.
  4. Well, I'm in the US from Thursday so I might lash out a few bucks on this.

  5. A slim but in important volume.
    The Obama administration is still pursuing an investigation started under Bush as to who gave him information.
    It is perhaps best read in conjunction with Jane Mayer's 'The Dark Side' and Barton Gehlman's 'Angler' on the Cheney Vice Presidency.
    Both of which would make riveting, but hardly believable films, if they weren't horrifyingly true.