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Publisher Description

From Pulitzer Prize finalist Annie Jacobsen, the untold USA Today bestselling story of the CIA's secret paramilitary units.
Surprise . . . your target. Kill . . . your enemy. Vanish . . . without a trace.
When diplomacy fails, and war is unwise, the president calls on the CIA's Special Activities Division, a highly-classified branch of the CIA and the most effective, black operations force in the world.
Originally known as the president's guerrilla warfare corps, SAD conducts risky and ruthless operations that have evolved over time to defend America from its enemies. Almost every American president since World War II has asked the CIA to conduct sabotage, subversion and, yes, assassination.
With unprecedented access to forty-two men and women who proudly and secretly worked on CIA covert operations from the dawn of the Cold War to the present day, along with declassified documents and deep historical research, Pulitzer Prize finalist Annie Jacobsen unveils -- like never before -- a complex world of individuals working in treacherous environments populated with killers, connivers, and saboteurs.
Despite Hollywood notions of off-book operations and external secret hires, covert action is actually one piece in a colossal foreign policy machine.
Written with the pacing of a thriller, Surprise, Kill, Vanish brings to vivid life the sheer pandemonium and chaos, as well as the unforgettable human will to survive and the intellectual challenge of not giving up hope that define paramilitary and intelligence work. Jacobsen's exclusive interviews -- with members of the CIA's Senior Intelligence Service (equivalent to the Pentagon's generals), its counterterrorism chiefs, targeting officers, and Special Activities Division's Ground Branch operators who conduct today's close-quarters killing operations around the world -- reveal, for the first time, the enormity of this shocking, controversial, and morally complex terrain. Is the CIA's paramilitary army America's weaponized strength, or a liability to its principled standing in the world? Every operation reported in this book, however unsettling, is legal.

Annie Jacobsen
hr min
May 14
Hachette Audio

Customer Reviews

Douglish_420-098 ,

Enthralling, informative, scary.

The story’s Annie are able to gather are unprecedented in her effort to educate the populations of the world. There were few things I didn’t enjoy about this listen; the constant reminder of acronyms that cannot be confused with others ie HAHO/HALO. This critique does not take away from the story in any way shape or form. Thank you Annie for this book.

Hahaha moo ,

Better Narrator Needed

Good stories, but it would help if the narrator knew anything about the subject matter. She makes a lot of mistakes.

masu9302 ,

Interesting stuff. Poor naration

I think the authors own narration was to their detriment. Her pace is a bit slow and unenthusiastic. Kind of killed the book for me.

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