THE THREAT MATRIX

THE FBI AT WAR IN THE AGE OF TERROR

Action-filled, richly detailed portrait of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in its new guise—charged not just with solving crimes already committed, but now with preventing at least some of them.

When the music piped in to the FBI’s Visitor Center in Washington, D.C., includes cuts by John Lennon, you know that these aren’t your grandpa’s G-men. By Washingtonian editor-in-chief Graff’s (The First Campaign: Globalization, the Web, and the Race for the White House, 2007) account, almost everything we know about the FBI is frozen in time, locked in anachronistic images of J. Edgar Hoover and Eliot Ness. Today, under the direction of Robert Mueller, the FBI enjoys as much influence as it did in the days of Hoover: The president sees an FBI agent and an FBI “threat matrix” report every day, the latter “a printed spreadsheet of all the various terrorist plots and worrisome intelligence the government was currently tracking.” Hundreds of FBI agents now travel the globe in search of enemies and criminals, stationed in some 60 countries; as Graff notes, the agency once “even worked a computer-hacking case in Antarctica.” The nearly 14,000 agents are a very special kind of law-enforcement officer indeed—nearly half have a graduate degree, many are lawyers or accountants and Mueller himself specialized in litigating complex white-collar crimes before heading the agency. There is good reason for this specialization, for if the FBI has transformed itself into a prosecutorial rather than primarily investigative force, in response to George W. Bush’s demand that “the Bureau adopt a wartime mentality,” it is to fight crime at the level of terrorist cell and secret bank accounts. Graff highlights the agency’s work in the post-9/11 world, cogently examining the role of intelligence in international affairs while making a quiet case for us to think a little better of the G-men and women. The CIA is another matter... There’s solid storytelling at work here—and quite a story to tell, too.

 

Pub Date: March 28, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-316-06861-1

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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