THE USA TODAY BESTSELLER
'As fast paced as a thriller' Fred Burton, Stratfor Talks' Pen and Sword Podcast
'Jacobsen here presents a tour de force exploring the CIA's paramilitary activities...this excellent work feels like uncovering the tip of the iceberg ...Highly recommended for those seeking a better understanding of American foreign policy in action' Jacob Sherman, Library Journal
'A behind-the-scenes look at the most shadowy corners of the American intelligence community...Well-sourced and well-paced, this book is full of surprises' Kirkus
'Annie Jacobsen takes us inside the darkest and most morally ambiguous corner of our government, where politicians ask brave men and women to kill-up close and personal-on America's behalf' Garrett M. Graff, author of Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government's Secret Plan to Save Itself - While the Rest of us Die
'This is a first rate book on the CIA, its paramilitary armies, operators, and assassins' New York Journal of Books
'Having already demonstrated her remarkable aptitude for unearthing government secrets in books like Area 51 (2011) and The Pentagon's Brain (2015), Jacobsen pulls back the curtain on the history of covert warfare and state sanctioned assassinations from WWII to the present...Jacobsen's work revealing a poorly understood but essential slice of warfare history belongs in every library collection' Booklist
The definitive, character-driven history of CIA covert operations and U.S. government-sponsored assassinations, from the author of the Pulizter Prize finalist The Pentagon's Brain
Since 1947, domestic and foreign assassinations have been executed under the CIA-led covert action operations team. Before that time, responsibility for taking out America's enemies abroad was even more shrouded in mystery. Despite Hollywood notions of last-minute rogue-operations and external secret hires, covert action is actually a cog in a colossal foreign policy machine, moving through, among others, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, the House and Senate Select Committees. At the end of the day, it is the President, not the CIA, who is singularly in charge.
When diplomacy fails and overt military action is not feasible, the President often calls on the Special Activities Division, the most secretive and lowest-profile branch of the CIA. It is this paramilitary team that undertakes dramatic and little-known assignments: hostage rescues, sabotage, and, of course, assassinations.
For the first time, Pulitzer Prize finalist and New York Times bestselling author Annie Jacobsen takes us deep inside this top-secret history. With unparalleled access to former operatives, ambassadors, and even past directors of the Secret Service and CIA operations, Jacobsen reveals the inner workings of these teams, and just how far a U.S. president may go, covertly but lawfully, to pursue the nation's interests.
Journalist Jacobsen (Phenomena) delivers an admiring general history of the Central Intelligence Agency and the special forces units involved in clandestine maneuvers in the past 80 years, while highlighting the careers of individual operatives, particularly Billy Waugh. Waugh, who Jacobsen interviewed at length, is introduced as a 12-year-old Texas kid when the Pearl Harbor attack occurs; he reappears throughout, often gathering intelligence via photography, until his final mission to Libya when he is in his 80s. Some chapters focus on individual operations, as when Waugh's friend and CIA colleague Lew Merletti arranged a training exercise in which Delta Force soldiers parachuted onto the White House lawn, sparking changes in security there; others follow presidents and cabinet members reacting to events, giving orders, and deciding policy for example, the formation of the concept of "preemptive neutralization" of suspected terrorists during Reagan's presidency. Jacobsen frequently refers to such covert action as the "third option" or the "president's hidden hand." The tone is more dramatic storytelling than sober history ("The Taliban government... left behind in its wake one of the most immoral, corrupt, criminal, debauched societies the modern world has ever known"). But, for those seeking an action-packed tour of special ops, this book delivers.