Still, a valuable critique of an intelligence unit that is clearly in need of reform—and, one gathers, of more money, power,...



A tattler’s tales—some censored—from the hidden files of The Agency.

Being in the CIA is different from being in just about any other walk of life, writes former case officer Mahle: “We tell ‘cover stories,’ not lies. We motivate agents to ‘collect intelligence on their behalf’; we do not manipulate, trick, or coerce. We ‘assess and exploit target candidate’s vulnerabilities’; we do not prey upon the weaknesses and entrap people by virtue of these weaknesses. We ‘collect intelligence’; we do not steal information.” And so on. For all the self-deception and self-congratulation, Mahle suggests, the CIA is now deeply compromised, having been overseen by a succession of directors who prized technology over human intelligence and steadily eliminated agents who, by virtue of speaking various languages and maintaining various networks, could actually turn up useful information. Not that human agents were infallible; as Mahle writes, “in an amazing act of stupidity and bravado,” the senior agent in charge of tracking Somalian strongman Mohammed Farah Aideed blew his brains out in a game of Russian roulette, and Aideed went on to Black Hawk Down infamy. A worse blow, by Mahle’s account, came when the paramilitary power of the CIA was all but destroyed following the Iran-Contra affair of the 1980s. “Not only did the CIA no longer have a real capability to wage a secret war,” she writes, “it no longer thought in those terms.” Which, of course, has made the Agency all but useless in the days following 9/11. There are a few gaps in Mahle’s argument—the CIA “requested” that several passages be removed, including at least one that “discussed a lack of accountability for Iraq operations”—and the book is indifferently written. Readers will want to be watchful, too, for sour grapes, inasmuch as Mahle was herself fired for “an operational mistake” that remains classified.

Still, a valuable critique of an intelligence unit that is clearly in need of reform—and, one gathers, of more money, power, and people.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2005

ISBN: 1-56025-649-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Nation Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2004

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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