A Pretext for War reveals the systematic weaknesses behind the failure to detect or prevent the 9/11 attacks, and details the Bush administration’s subsequent misuse of intelligence to sell preemptive war to the American people. Filled with unprecedented revelations, from the sites of “undisclosed locations” to the actual sources of America’s Middle East policy, A Pretext for War is essential reading for anyone concerned about the security of the United States.
Acclaimed author James Bamford–whose classic book The Puzzle Palace first revealed the existence of the National Security Agency–draws on his unparalleled access to top intelligence sources to produce a devastating expose of the intelligence community and the Bush administration.
In this hard-hitting expose, investigative journalist Bamford (The Puzzle Palace; Body of Secrets) paints a damning portrait of an incompetent and politicized intelligence community. Before 9/11, he contends, the inadequacy of the CIA's clandestine service hobbled its fight against Osama bin Laden, forcing it to rely on mercenary Afghan proxies and cruise missile drive-bys. Meanwhile, bread-and-butter undercover operations to infiltrate and monitor al-Qaeda were eschewed, and leads on the upcoming attacks bungled. After 9/11, he asserts, the Bush administration used the attacks as a pretext for a long-planned invasion of Iraq; a Defense Department intelligence unit was set up to tout trumped-up evidence against Saddam, which, Bamford says, CIA analysts were pressured into endorsing. Much of the book rehashes a now familiar critique of both the pre-9/11 lapses and the Bush administration's selling of the war, but the author enriches it with a wealth of insider interviews that illuminate structural problems in the nation's intelligence effort. Bamford lards his account with pointless mise-en-scene ("in the onyx darkness, George W. Bush switched on the brass sidelight next to his bed") and a gratuitous, if gripping, narrative of the carnage of 9/11. But when he gets down to analysis, his broad understanding of America's intelligence institutions and procedures make this a must-read for anyone concerned about the current state of affairs.