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See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism
See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism (Hardcover)
by Robert Baer
(186 customer reviews)    

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Editorial Reviews
From AudioFile
Although the author/narrator lacks a trained voice, his muttered, sometimes hesitant speech makes him more believable as an intelligence-gatherer--trained more to listen than to talk. Robert Baer's abridged work leaps by place and time, illuminating the CIA field officer's career from recruitment to retirement, with lots of detailed recollections culled from twenty years of clandestine Middle Eastern operations. Due to government censorship of the manuscript, the reader must interject, "words blacked out" at the most annoying times. However, the stuff that does slip through gives ample detail of how these guys bribe, steal, intoxicate, and deceive to gain vital information. J.A.H. © AudioFile 2002, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

?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 --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Front Cover | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover

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First tag: intelligence (David B. O'Connor on Feb 25, 2006)
Last tag: conspiracy

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449 of 476 people found the following review helpful:

Straight Talk from Patriot--Should Testify at 9-11 Hearings, January 31, 2002
Reviewer:Robert D. Steele (Oakton, VA United States) - See all my reviews

As a former clandestine case officer, leaving the Agency in 1988 after unsuccessfully chasing terrorists for a few years, I knew we were in bad shape but I did not realize just how bad until I read this book. The author, working mostly in the Near East (NE) Division of the Directorate of Operations, and then in the Counter-Terrorism Center when it was just starting out, has an extremely important story to tell and every American needs to pay attention. Why? Because his account of how we have no assets useful against terrorism is in contradiction to what the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) told the President and his top advisors at Camp David on Saturday 15 September. According to the Washington Post of 31 January 2002, page A13, on the 15th the DCI laid out an ambitious "Worldwide Attack Matrix" and told the President that the United States had a "large asset base" from its years of working the terrorism target. One of these two men one is closer to the truth than the other. In my judgement, I believe Baer has three-quarters of the weight on his side. This discrepancy warrants investigation, for no President can be successful if he does not have accurate information about our actual capabilities.

There are four other stories within this excellent book, all dealing with infirm bureaucracies. At one level, the author's accounting of how the Directorate of Operations has declined under the last three leaders (as the author describes them: a recalled retiree, an analyst, and a "political" (pal)) is both clearly based on ground truth, and extremely troubling. The extraordinary detail on the decline and fall of the clandestine service is one that every voter should be thinking about, because it was the failure of the clandestine service, as well as the counterintelligence service (the Federal Bureau of Investigation) that allowed 9-11 to the same time, we must note that it was a policy failure to not have investigated similar incompetencies when a military barracks in Saudi Arabia, two Embassies, and a naval destroyer were attacked, and it was clearly known in open sources that bin Laden had declared war on America and had within America numerous Islamic clerics calling for the murder of Americans--all as documented in an excellent Public Broadcast Service documentary.

At a technical level, the author provides some really excellent real-world, real-war annecdotes about situations where clandestine reporting from trusted operations officers has not been accepted by their own superiors in the absence of technical confirmation (imagery or signals). As he says, in the middle of a major artillery battle and break-out of insurgent elements, screaming over the secure phone, "its the middle of night here". We've all known since at least the 1970's that the technical intelligence side of things has been crushing human sensibility, both operational and analytical, but this book really brings the problems into the public eye in a compelling and useful manner.

At another level, the author uses his own investigation for murder (he was completely cleared, it was a set-up) by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and at one point by the Secret Service, to shed new light on the complete break-down of internal security processes within the CIA. At its lowest point, he is pressured by DO management with a psychological evaluation to determine his fitness for duty--shades of Stalinism! I know this technique, of declaring officers unfit for duty based on psychological hatchet jobs, to be a common practice over the past two decades, and when Britt Snider was appointed Inspector General at CIA, I told him this was a "smoking gun" in the 7th floor closet. That it remains a practice today is grounds for evaluating the entire management culture at CIA.

There is a fourth story in the book, a truly interesting account of how big energy companies, their "ambassadors" serving as Presidential appointees within the National Security Council, and corrupt foreign elements, all come together. In this the spies are not central, so I leave it as a sidenote.

In my capacity as a reviewer of most intelligence-related books within these offerings, I want to make it clear to potential buyers of this book that the author is not alone. His is the best, most detailed, and most current accounting of the decrepit dysfunctionality of the clandestine service (as I put it in my own book's second edition), but I would refer the reader to two other books in particular: David Corn's "Blond Ghost: Ted Shackley and the CIA's Crusades"--its most memorable quote, on covert action in Laos, being "We spent a lot of money and got a lot of people killed, and we didn't get much for it."--and Evan Thomas' "The Very Best Men--Four Who Dared: The Early Years of the CIA"--its best quote: "Patriotic, decent, well-meaning, they were also uniquely unsuited to the grubby, necessarily devious world of intelligence." There are many other books, including twelve (12!) focused on reform and recommended by the Council on Intelligence.

The author is a brave man--he was brave on the fields of war and clandestinity, and he is braver still for having brought this story to the public. We owe him a hearing.

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167 of 196 people found the following review helpful:

First rate..., April 27, 2002
Reviewer:Dianne Foster "Di" (Arlington VA) - See all my reviews
I saw Robert Baer on CNN last night and he said he thinks the CIA is improving. He says the agency has finally realized it cannot carry out it's mission without field operatives. He says, however, it will take five years to train agents to operate in places like the Middle East. Apparenly, agents cannot get the hang of things overnight. The gist of SEE NO EVIL is that for years, the agency moved in the wrong direction--relying almost exclusively on technology and less and less on human contact. Baer left the CIA in 1997 and was working as a "consultant" last summer in Lebanon when he heard something was afoot. It seems the folks in Washington preferred to look the other way and see no evil--hence Sept. 11. Baer says on that dreadful day, the FBI, CIA, INS, and plenty of others failed. A small band of fellow citizens on a plane flying over PA saved Washington. (The Pentagon is in South Arlington--and as it happens--a few blocks from my house where I stood and watched black smoke rise into the sky. Although the Pentagon was damaged, the damage would have been far worse if the plane had crossed the river, because the Pentagon is constructed of reinforced concrete. Experts think the plane that crashed in PA was headed for DC. Two of my work colleagues were on that flight--Federal workers.)

Since I work for a Federal agency, I can certainly identify with some of the bureacratic struggles Mr. Baer experiences. However, there are ways to get things done, and Mr. Baer himself shows how he managed to do so on more than one occasion. First you have to give up the idea of rapid advancement. Bureacracies don't reward risk-taking. Baer skated on thin ice more than once because he made the decision that he had to live with his own conscience. His his final citation (awarded to him without his knowledge) says, "He repeatedly put himself in personal danger, working the hardest targets, in service to his country."

This is not poppycock. Plenty of career Feds take their jobs very seriously and love the country as much as Mr. Baer. Many have made sacrifices and been sacrificed, and not always for a good cause. Many like Baer have become whistle blowers. Unfortunately, whistle blowers are often seen as "bad" because they upset the status quo and force all of us to face reality. In a land where indulgence and fanasy entertainment rule, many people don't want to be reminded of that evil is real.

Many of our elected officials and appointees are narrowly focused on career advancement, shortsighted and care only about what happens during their watch, and can hardly contain themselves as they prepare for the next election, the next big job, the next salary increase. But don't throw the baby out with the bath water, there are good guys in Washington. Some of them are elected officials like John McCain and John Kerry. Some are appointed like Donald Rumsfield. Many are career civil servents like Mr. Baer.

Robert Baer's book reads like a John LeCarre thriller and I enjoyed it so much I had to slap myself in the face and say, you dummy, this is the real thing, THIS IS NOT FICTION. These guys really get killed--like Michael Spann. I hope the CIA uses the book as part of its recruitment package.

The sad fact is that the U.S. has been wounded over and over and failed to act to stop terrorism. When you add up all the insults and injuries as Baer has done the truth is overwhelming: the hostages, the murders and assainations, the capture and/or destruction of U.S. and other embassies, the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon, Black Hawk down, the military quarters in Yemen, the U.S.S. Cole, the airline crashes and hijackings, and hundreds of other incidents including the Sept. 11 disasters. Our so-called leaders have been asleep at the switch--too interested in partying and/or shagging an intern in the cloak room. Alcohol, drugs, and illicit sex are a problem in Washington DC.

But worst of all is sheer incompetance. As Baer puts it, each administration handed the problem along to the next without really addressing it--the not on my watch syndrome. Clinton seems to have been especially concerned with donations to his campaign war chest than to doing the job he was elected to do. Baer says the Bush Sr. and Reagan administrations could have done more too. Unfortunately, the latter was too concerned with the Cold War to notice the hot war. All of them were not up to the job--yet they were elected, some of them more than once. And don't think BIG OIL arrived with the current President Bush. One can trace the tracks of BIG OIL and big business back to JFK. Ike warned U.S. citizens of the miltary industrial complex--it's other name is oil.

Baer says we are at war, and the war will be difficult to win. The ignorant have already taken to the streets to protest. But what is the alternative? In 1971, I was thrown out of a military commisary for wearing pants--I know I would not survive a Muslim regime.

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Enjoyed the book, January 11, 2007
Reviewer:Kevin Rietema "Kevin" (Chicago) - See all my reviews
Started out a little slow, he gets pretty detailed about some obscure middle east players, which I wasn't terribly interested in. Toward the middle it picked up and got more interesting. Overall it was a good read. At the end he tied his work in the CIA with the things going on in the middle east currently, which I found very eye-opening. Also gave a good, candid perspective of the current state of the CIA, as well as some insight into a career as a CIA case officer.

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Kudos to Bob Baer for "See No Evil", January 10, 2007
Reviewer:J. Davis (Pasadena, MD United States) - See all my reviews
Bob Baer has written an outstanding account of his training and experience as a case officer in CIA's clandestine service. He provides excellent insight into a shadowy world few Americans understand or appreciate. Baer is a hero akin to the old school OSS-bred Directorate of Operations officers. His account of the careerism and political correctness of the new CIA is disheartening. The lack of testicular fortitude among the new generation of intelligence officers is, I am afraid, not limited to CIA. I saw it first-hand in another agency before my retirement after 35 years in intelligence.

It is interesting to compare "See No Evil" to Lindsay Moran's "Blowing My Cover, My Life as a CIA Spy." Moran's book has some value because of its updated information on how CIA case officers are trained at "The Farm" in rural Virginia. However, her account of her short-lived and less than heroic service as a field officer is in sharp contrast to Baer's service and contributions. Moran is the embodiment of what Baer sees as having gone wrong with the DO and with the Agency as a whole. She clearly does not understand what a case officer should be. Baer got it right. He deserves a salute and another medal just for writing "See No Evil." Attaboy, Bob!

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Exciting and Unexpected, January 2, 2007
Reviewer:therosen "therosen" (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Like most readers, I picked this up based on the plug I got from Syriana. For those expecting a rendition of the movie, "Sleeping with the Devil" by the same author is closer, but even then, it misses the point. The book provides an eye opener to both the mundane and important aspects of clandestine operations, and points out where we are grossly failing in the War on Terror. (Or is it extremism nowadays?) When much of the failure in this War is due to a lack of understanding at the top, it is worth a view from the bottom.

Like many books in the genre, the facts are unverifiable, but the ideas and themes can be double checked. Many are right, some not. The book helps point the way for us to find for ourselves.

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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful:

Good, but some details are wrong, December 31, 2006
Reviewer:mjh "mjh" (USA) - See all my reviews
I listened to the CDs, read by the author. It was pretty good but the author's failure to get details right made me question whether he really knew what he was talking about, or if he had really done the things he claimed to have done. For example, he refers to the "PUK" as the "Popular Union of Kurdistan" several times. Everyone knows that the P stands for Patriotic, not Popular. If he really was in northern Iraq, the author would know this. Not saying it's not worth the time, just that I question the accuracy of some of what's there.

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