A new review! Woooo hooooo!!!! It’s been too long since I sat down and let the keyboard take me away…
This book wasn’t an entirely bad read but it began to wear me out for the last 100 pages, I’ve gotta be honest.
If you’ve been paying attention to the movie buzz lately, there’s a movie coming in December called Syriana, starring George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Jeffrey Wright. This book is listed in the credits as the “suggestion” for the film. Now you know me. Somewhat of a purist when it comes to movie adaptations of books, I always feel that it’s important to give the original source material a gander.
Robert Baer was in the CIA from 1976 to 1997 and had quite a wild ride. The book does a great job of giving you the basics that all new agents go through. He discusses how he hired agents, how he would secretly escort them through all sorts of dark alleyways, trying to protect their identities and safety.
As the book carries on, his cynicism and anger begins to show through. He speaks of the bureaucratic bullshit that bogged down his ambitious operations and investigations. He discusses the CIA’s journey towards a more politically correct organization and further away from a pure spy agency. He laments this political-correctness and gripes about several of his superiors and their lack of field experience.
One thing that he does throughout the book that at first was a bit humorous but got to be a touch aggravating was the blacking out of sensitive information that he discusses. It actually got to the point that so much was blacked out that it was hard to tell exactly WHAT was being hidden. Take for instance, the following sentence;
“I discussed the case with my case officer, ____________, and he said that it was alright to go ahead with the plan.”
You can figure out that the blacked out spot would be a name, right? Well, as the book gets further and further into discussion operational details, entire sentences are blacked out and it’s impossible to even determine what sort of context they were used in. I understand that there’s certain aspects of the operation that haven’t been green-lighted by the CIA yet, but goodness, just KEEP THEM OUT OF THE STORY THEN. It got frustrating to read stuff like the following;
“________________. And after that, we went to Dubai and ______________. That was quite interesting.”
Come on now!!! Don’t even bother with that little passage if you can’t even make it readable!!! That was annoying, seriously.
Overall the book was an interesting story about Mr Baer’s 21 years with The Agency and it’s obvious that he’s a very intelligent guy. The overall picture painted by Mr Baer is quite complex and quite scary as well. He discussed September 11th and how, he believes, the government failed. If his claims are true, then the government really DID drop the ball.
I’d recommend the book for at least one reading if you’re interested in global policy and hearing some pretty interesting agent experiences. If you’re not willing to put in some brain time though (he gets pretty deep into his explanations at times) and some energy (all the Abu, Abil, Niva, Mohammed, Mustafa pseudonyms were overwhelming).
Check it out. I’d give it probably 3 out of 5 stars.
posted Sat, 11-26-05