General Overviews


K - S

Kessler, Ronald. The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI. New York: St. Martin's, 2002. With Epilogue. New York: St. Martin's, 2003. [pb]

According to Stein, Washington Post Book World, 5 May 2002, Kessler finds that then-FBI director Louis J. Freeh "almost destroyed the bureau through colossal mismanagement, borne of sheer donkey-like stubbornness and arrogance." The author portrays an FBI that seems to have failed to master today's world of computer-assisted intelligence gathering. Kessler concludes that with the "appointment of Robert Mueller as the FBI's eleventh director, the bureau appears to be in good hands."

Clark comment: As a journalistic versus a scholarly account, this work has its faults. Finding people who say that Hoover used his secret files to "blackmail" even presidents does not mean that it happened that way. Too many quotes from even named sources essentially saying the same thing do not help to advance understanding. Given that it is stronger on 1972-2002 (30 years, 345 pages) than on 1908-1972 (64 years, 189 pages), it is difficult to accept this work as truly a "history" of the FBI. That said, however, the author has produced a work that cuts closer to the bone in describing the Bureau than the usual dichotomous "hate-Hoover" and "defend-Hoover" presentations. Although Kessler spends more words on the FBI's failings than on its successes, he clearly has developed a substantial respect for the organization and the people who populate it. His concluding argument for more leeway and more resources for the FBI is not truly supported by his narrative, but it seems to be heartfelt. Overall, I found this book very useful and, despite its length, easy to read.

Lance, Peter.

1. 1000 Years for Revenge: International Terrorism and the FBI -- The Untold Story. New York: HarperCollins, 2004.

According to Peake, Studies 48.3 (2004), the author "finds widespread fault and is pessimistic about improvements, even from the congressional commissions."

2. Triple Cross: How Bin Laden's Master Spy Penetrated the CIA, the Green Berets, and the FBI -- and Why Patrick Fitzgerald Failed to Stop Him. New York: Regan, 2006.

Peake, Studies 51.2 (2007), notes that this work continues the author's story of Ali Mohammed (begun in 1000 Years for Revenge). He also provides other, new "dots"; the problem is that "it is by no means clear how they connect."

Lehman, John. "Five Years Later: Are We Any Safer?" U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 132, no. 9 (Sep. 2006): 18-22.

The former Secretary of the Navy and 9/11 commission member does not really answer the question raised in the title. Other than that, however, this article is a powerful indictment of how Congress and the White House mishandled the intelligence reform effort. His most pointed criticisms are directed at the FBI ("Our attempt to reform the FBI has failed.") and the failure to create a strong DNI.

Posner, Richard A. Countering Terrorism: Blurred Focus, Halting Steps. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007.

Peake, Studies 52.1 (Mar. 2008) and Intelligencer 16.1 (Spring 2008), finds that the author "is convinced that creating a new MI5-like organization with only a security and counterintelligence mission is necessary to achieve effective domestic counterterrorism efforts." However, Posner does not consider "the level of personal and organizational disruption that creating another new intelligence organization would entail and the time required for it to become proficient." This work merits "very serious consideration."

Posner, Richard A. 

1. Remaking Domestic Intelligence. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 2005.

From publisher: The author "reveals all the dangerous weaknesses undermining our domestic intelligence in the United States and offers a new solution: a domestic intelligence agency modeled on the ... Canadian Security Intelligence Service.... He also shows how a new U.S. domestic intelligence agency might offer additional advantages over our current structure even in terms of civil liberties."

2. Remaking Domestic Intelligence. Hoover Institution Weekly Essays. 16 Jun. 2005. [Downloadable PDF file at: http://www.hoover.org/pubaffairs/we/2005/posner06.html]

"This is a special web-only essay that takes up where Posner's Hoover Studies book, Preventing Surprise Attacks: Intelligence Reform in the Wake of 9/11, leaves off."

From Abstract: "The magnitude of the terrorist threat..., coupled with the lack of coordination among our domestic intelligence agencies and the failure of the lead agency, the FBI, to develop an adequate domestic intelligence capability, argues compellingly for reform. Because the FBI's failure is systemic, being rooted in the incompatibility of criminal law enforcement (the FBI's principal mission) with national-security intelligence, the reform must have a structural dimension. The WMD (Robb-Silberman) Commission's proposal ... is to create a domestic intelligence agency within the FBI by fusion of its three units that at present share intelligence responsibility. Such a fusion may or not be a good idea; but clearly it is not enough. The Director of National Intelligence should take the coordination and command of domestic intelligence firmly into his hands by appointing a deputy for domestic intelligence, while the President should by executive order create outside of (but not in derogation of) the FBI a domestic intelligence agency, modeled on such foreign agencies as the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, that would have no law enforcement functions. The agency could be lodged in the Department of Homeland Security."

Clark comment: As much as I admire the clarity of Judge Posner's reasoning (especially his critique of the 9/11 Commission's work), the very thought of lodging another agency in the DHS gives me cold shivers.

Posner, Richard A. "We Need Our Own MI5." Washington Post, 15 Aug. 2006, A13. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

Judge Posner's argument is clearly stated in the title to this Op-ed piece. The United States lacks "a counterpart to MI5. This is a serious gap in our defenses. Primary responsibility for national security intelligence has been given to the FBI. The bureau is a criminal investigation agency. Its orientation is toward arrest and prosecution rather than toward the patient gathering of intelligence with a view to understanding and penetrating a terrorist network."

Powers, Richard Gid. Broken: The Troubled Past and Uncertain Future of the FBI. New York: Free Press, 2004.

To Peake, Studies 49.2 (2005) and I&NS 21.3 (Jun. 2006), this work is "the story of how as great an American institution as the FBI could become so traumatized by its past that it failed in its duty to the nation it was sworn to protect." In his review of the history of the FBI, the author "adds new insights." Jeffreys-Jones, Chronicle of Higher Education, 21 Jan. 2005, calls this a "brilliant study." The author's "argument is that terrorists must be stopped from using weapons of mass destruction, and that Americans must not be unduly queasy about the methods used." However, he "is too prone to engage in faddish liberal-bashing."

Riebling, Mark. "Uncuff the FBI: Congress Must Undo the Church Committee's Damage." Wall Street Journal, 4 Jun. 2002.

"The FBI's failure to aggressively investigate Zacarias Moussaoui prior to Sept. 11 ... highlights the need for immediate repeal of congressional limits on national security surveillance."

Sibley, Katherine A.S. Red Spies in America: Stolen Secrets and the Dawn of the Cold War. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2004.

Peake, Studies 49.4 (2005), says that this work is "well documented," "well written," and looks at domesic counterintelligence in America "from a new perspective." Nonetheless, the author's thesis that the FBI was more active prior to the end of World War II than previously thought "is not proved."

For Kirkland, JIH 5.1 (Summer 2005), the author's "scholarship is impressive, drawing upon multi-archival research in the United States and Russia.... Her work is balanced and perceptive and is a compelling and authoritative treatment of Soviet spying and the actions the United States took to counter it." Craig, I&NS 21.1 (Feb. 2006), comments that while "[t]here is little new" in the author's "generalized thesis,... [w]hat is unique ... is [Sibley's] assessment of espionage in the manufacturing, military, and industrial sectors.... [T]he book is enlightening and a good read."

Simeone, John, and David Jacobs. The Complete Idiot's Guide to the FBI. Indianapolis, IN: Alpha, 2002.

Smith, I.C. Inside -- A Top G-Man Exposes Spies, Lies, and Bureaucratic Bungling Inside the FBI. Nashville, TN: Nelson Current, 2004.

Peake, Studies 49.3 (2005), says that the author "gives us a genuine inside look at the FBI and his own life. Both make absorbing reading.... [I]intelligence professionals will be ... interested in his insights into the familiar counterintelligence cases of the era." Smith also provides "very candid comments about the directors under whom he served." This is "is a valuable contribution to current intelligence issues and to the literature of the profession."

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