Bob Woodward


Woodward, Bob. "Attack Was 48 Hours Old When It 'Began.'" Washington Post, 23 Mar. 2003, A1. []

At 1 p.m., Washington time, on 19 March 2003, "31 Special Operations teams [including contingents of British and Australian special forces] -- about 300 men -- began pouring under cover of darkness into western and southern Iraq. Joining smaller contingents of U.S. Special Forces and CIA paramilitaries already in Iraq, the special operators fanned out to sever communications, take down observation posts and position themselves to prevent what the Bush administration most feared -- moves by the Iraqi high command to use chemical or biological weapons, attack Israel with Scud missiles or destroy the country's oil fields....

"The first CIA paramilitary team secretly began operating in Iraq in June 2002 to gather intelligence and meet with and support opposition groups. Eventually the CIA deployed additional paramilitary teams and established links with Iraqis throughout the country, including Baghdad. On a parallel track to this covert operation, [Defense Secretary Donald H.] Rumsfeld, [U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Tommy R.] Franks and other civilian and uniformed Pentagon officials began work on the administration's top-secret war plan."


Woodward, Bob. "CIA Paid Afghans To Track Bin Laden: Team of 15 Recruits Operated Since 1998." Washington Post, 23 Dec. 2001, A1. []

"For four years prior to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the CIA paid a team of about 15 recruited Afghan agents to regularly track Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, according to well-placed sources. The team had mixed results, ranging from excellent to total failure. Once every month or so, the team pinpointed bin Laden's presence in a specific building, compound or training camp, and that location was then confirmed by the CIA through communications intelligence or satellite overhead photography.... The creation of the tracking team was part of a covert CIA operation to capture or kill bin Laden launched first by the Clinton administration and continued under President Bush."

[CIA/90s/98/Gen & 00s/01/Gen; Terrorism/98/Gen & 01/Gen]

Woodward, Bob. "CIA Paid Millions to Jordan's King Hussein." Washington Post, Feb. 18, 1977, A1.

[CA/ME; CIA/70s]

Woodward, Bob. "CIA Told to Do 'Whatever Necessary' to Kill Bin Laden." Washington Post, 21 Oct. 2001, A1.

"President Bush last month signed an intelligence order ['finding'] directing the CIA to undertake its most sweeping and lethal covert action since the founding of the agency in 1947, explicitly calling for the destruction of Osama bin Laden and his worldwide al Qaeda network, according to senior government officials."


Woodward, Bob. Obama's Wars. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010.

Clark comment: The wars referred to in the title are not those of Iraq and Afghanistan but those fought within the administration. That point aside, this book is pure Woodward. It reads quickly but is filled with detail. Along the way, it throws out tid bits that entice. In the end, however, the book may raise more questions than it answers. Among the enticing items is Woodward's scattered references to "the CIA's 3,000-man army of Counter-terrorism Pursuit Teams (CTPT)."

For Sheehan, Washington Post, 3 Oct. 2010, this is another of the author's "superbly reported insider accounts.... According to Woodward's narrative, Obama seems to have first stepped into the Afghan war in a somewhat absent-minded way, granting the military another 21,000 troops for the conflict, without much examination, during the opening months of his administration." But the military wants another 40,000 "with no strings attached, no promise that this will be the last request and no fixing of a date when Obama can begin withdrawing them. The president sees the pit opening before him." But, in the end, he "surrenders and gives the military most of what it demands."

Baker, New York Times, 21 Sep. 2010, notes that Woodward "was granted extensive access to administration officials and documents for his account, including an interview" with President Obama. "Beyond the internal battles, the book offers fresh disclosures on the nation's continuing battle with terrorists. It reports that the C.I.A. has a 3,000-man 'covert army' in Afghanistan called the Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams, or C.T.P.T., mostly Afghans who capture and kill Taliban fighters and seek support in tribal areas. Past news accounts have reported that the C.I.A. has a number of militias, including one trained on one of its compounds, but not the size of the covert army."

An insultingly negative review comes from Richard Adams, Guardian, 9 Oct. 2010: "Disjointed and meretricious, Obama's Wars seeks to tell a tale with no beginning or end, delivered without insight and written without narrative.... Woodward's style is to leave his readers to their own devices, wandering through the corridors of power and eavesdropping on a few muttered conversations, often without context and certainly without analysis. No detail is too trivial to be recounted.... The overall result is what American journalists call a 'notebook dump.'" On the other hand, Kitfield, Proceedings 136.12 (Dec. 2010), praises Woodward's "meticulous research and unmatched access to the top players themselves"; and Mead, FA 90.1 (Jan.-Feb. 2011), calls the work "a riveting and at times revelatory read."

Leonard, Military Review (Jan.-Feb. 2011), says that "Obamas Wars is an exceptional book. No other writer maneuvers through our government's national security apparatus quite so deftly as Woodward.... [N]o other writer can convey the complexities of politics so effortlessly. His investigative methods and his conclusions are as insightful as they are important." This "is an essential resource for understanding the realities of American politics and the challenges of defining strategy in the current era."


Woodward, Bob. "Pentagon to Abolish Secret Spy Unit." Washington Post, 18 May 1977, A1, A5.

Woodward, Bob. Plan of Attack. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.

Series of five articles adapted from Plan of Attack, "a behind-the-scenes account of how and why President Bush decided to go to war against Iraq." []

1. "Behind Diplomatic Moves, Military Plan Was Launched: 'We're Going to Have to Go to War,' Bush Said to Rice." Washington Post, 18 Apr. 2004, A1.

2. "With CIA Push, Movement to War Accelerated: Agency's Estimate of Saddam Hussein's Arsenal Became the White House's Rationale for Invasion." Washington Post, 19 Apr. 2004, A1.

3. "Cheney Was Unwavering in Desire to Go to War: Tension Between Vice President and Powell Grew Deeper as Both Tried to Guide Bush's Decision." Washington Post, 20 Apr. 2004, A1.

4. "Blair Steady in Support: 'I'm There to the Very End,' Prime Minister Told Bush." Washington Post, 21 Apr. 2004, A1.

5. "U.S. Aimed For Hussein As War Began: CIA Informants Told of His Suspected Whereabouts." Washington Post, 22 Apr. 2004, A1.


Woodward, Bob. "President Broadens Anti-Hussein Order: CIA Gets More Tools to Oust Iraqi Leader." Washington Post, 16 Jun. 2002, A1. []

According to informed sources, "President Bush early this year signed an intelligence order directing the CIA to undertake a comprehensive, covert program to topple Saddam Hussein, including authority to use lethal force to capture the Iraqi president."

[CA/Iraq; CIA/00s/02]

Woodward, Bob. Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987. New York: Pocket Books, 1988. [pb] UB351U5W66

Simmons, IJI&C 2.2, argues that Woodward's "errors of fact ... are few and far between and, more often than not, involve narrative embellishments of a situation rather than mistakes in substance.... Probably the greatest value ... are his brilliant descriptions of the bureaucratic conflict between the legislative and executive branches in the arena of U.S. intelligence activities.... He captures the flavor of this struggle."

For Hartung, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Jul. 1988, the "real subject" of this book "is Casey and his efforts to build U.S. intelligence capabilities across the board." Woodward has produced a "readable and at times engaging account of U.S. intelligence activities during the 1980s." Blum, NameBase, notes that the book "is famous for its corny ending.... Other portions ... contain numerous nuggets of interest to historians, but it treats its stated subject entirely unsystematically -- various bits and pieces about each 'war' are scattered here and there."

To Powers, NYRB (19 Nov. 1987) and Intelligence Wars (2004), 283-294, the author has a typical "set piece -- detailed, suggestive, and fragmentary." The central account here is Casey's covert activities, and Woodward "for the most part only adds new details to stories that have already had their day in the press. His story requires close reading. It suggests more than it claims."

[CA/80s/Gen & Begin; CIA/80s/Gen & DCIs/Casey][c]

Woodward, Bob, and Michael Dobbs. "CIA Had Secret Agent on Polish General Staff." Washington Post, 4 Jun. 1986, A1.


Woodward, Bob, and Vernon Loeb. "CIA's Covert War on Bin Laden." Washington Post, 14 Sep. 2001, A1. []

Government sources have said that "[t]he CIA has been authorized since 1998 to use covert means to disrupt and preempt terrorist operations planned abroad by Saudi extremist Osama bin Laden under a [classified] directive [presidential finding] signed by President Bill Clinton and reaffirmed by President Bush this year."


Woodward, Bob, and Thomas E. Ricks. "CIA Trained Pakistani Commandos to Nab Bin Laden." Washington Post, 3 Oct. 2001, A1. []

According to "people familiar with the operation," the CIA in 1999 "trained and equipped" some 60 commandos from the Pakistani intelligence agency to enter Afghanistan to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. "The operation was arranged by then-Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his chief of intelligence.... The plan was aborted later that year when Sharif was ousted in a military coup."

[OtherCountries/Pakistan; Terrorism/01/WTC]

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