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.
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. \n
Surprise, Kill, Vanish
The writing is America from a different angle. I will recommend it highly. Minor detail misguidance kept the rating to four stars. In reference to the billboard celebrity of Che, the lack of explanation of why Fidel is noticeably missing but from decades old side street murals needed to be explained.
Incredibly interesting and very well written.
Now I know what was happening behind the scenes while serving in Special Forces units in Asia.