Risen has written a short and at times disjointed book packed with startling stories, a number of which appear to be true. It reflects the view that the intelligence community's mission was undermined by Bill Clinton's indifference, a readiness to sacrifice deep research to superficial reportage, a failure to acquire reliable agents in key countries, former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet's desire to stay too close to the Bush administration, and, finally, the collapse of standards and safeguards in the readiness to facilitate torture and domestic spying. Risen provides new examples of the shoddiness of the analytic work on Iraq and its interaction with the administration's erroneous rationale and botched occupation. There is also some intriguing material on Iran and Saudi Arabia, the veracity of which is hard to determine. This is the sort of book that focuses on the "secret history" without bothering to explain the known history that would provide context, and Risen is so enamored with anonymous sources from the intelligence community that he does not acknowledge those who have already written well on these topics or consider how their evidence fits with his.
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