With relentless media coverage, breathtaking events, and extraordinary congressional and independent investigations, it is hard to believe that we might not know some of the most significant facts about the presidency of George W. Bush. Yet beneath the surface events of the Bush presidency lies a secret history -- a series of hidden events that makes a mockery of many of the stories on the surface.
This hidden history involves domestic spying, abuses of power, and outrageous operations. It includes a CIA that became caught in a political crossfire it could not withstand, even against the wishes of the commander-in-chief. It features a president who created a sphere of deniability, in which his top aides were briefed on matters of the utmost sensitivity -- but the president was carefully kept in ignorance. STATE OF WAR reveals this hidden history for the first time, including scandals that will redefine the Bush presidency.
Lucid, balanced and brimming with surprises, this is a-to borrow a notorious phrase-slam dunk expose of the CIA's recent snafus. New York Times reporter 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. The book's disclosures about secret prisons, "renditions"-the transfer of suspects to countries which may torture them-and domestic wiretaps are likely to be talking points for some time, but its lasting value will be as a record of how the CIA came so tantalizingly close to the truth about Iraq's nonexistent nuclear arsenal. The retelling of one undercover operation shows the agency had direct evidence that there was no nuclear program in Iraq, but chose to doubt its source. Other scenes from the secret war on terror make novelist John Le Carre look like a timid plotter: a single misdirected message in 2004 brings down the agency's entire spy network in Iran, four years after a harebrained scheme had given Tehran flawed blueprints for a nuclear weapon-hoping to sow confusion, but possibly helping Iran to arm itself faster. Risen has written a thrilling, depressing and worrying book.