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THE TARGETER

MY LIFE IN THE CIA, HUNTING TERRORISTS AND CHALLENGING THE WHITE HOUSE

An exciting tale of cutting-edge espionage and a rueful account of how political exigencies can blunt tradecraft’s...

Tense memoir of a CIA analyst’s pursuit of terrorists in the post–9/11 era.

In her debut, Bakos shares her insider’s view of analytical tradecraft, set against the unraveling of civil order in Iraq. In her position, she “focused on whether there was a connection between Iraq and al Qaida,” especially regarding “the movement sparked by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,” the “godfather of terrorism in Iraq.” Her unusual background underscores the unique qualities of intelligence officers, who “worked in quiet obscurity” to guard against the mass-casualty attacks that al-Zarqawi popularized in Iraq. Growing up in rural Montana, where “self-reliance was less an ethos than an expectation,” Bakos joined the CIA’s human resources division and then transitioned into the Career Analyst Program after 9/11. Following the Bush administration’s focus on Iraq, she spent time in Baghdad, observing the insurgency’s beginnings. She realized that al-Zarqawi’s hybrid terror group al-Qaida in Iraq could potentially destabilize the country, so he remained her focus once back at Langley, where her briefings routinely reached the White House. Frustrated by the disconnect between their meticulous analysis and the flawed military actions that followed, she recalls her unit’s camaraderie: “We were on a misfit island of targeters within a larger Agency that didn’t understand how to embrace our work.” Still, she notes that the team dynamic could not survive the grueling pace and increasingly uncertain goals of the occupation. She left the unit in 2006 yet remained haunted by her targeting experience. In an epilogue, she describes coming to terms with PTSD and unwelcome publicity from a congressional report on the CIA’s treatment of detainees. Ultimately, she writes, the terrorist leader’s death “did not signal an immediate downturn in violence.” Bakos writes with the careful discretion of CIA retirees, but her revelations are relevant and unsettling given the continued menace of mass-casualty terrorism and political overreaction.

An exciting tale of cutting-edge espionage and a rueful account of how political exigencies can blunt tradecraft’s effectiveness.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-26047-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2019

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NIGHT

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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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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