Kirkus Reviews QR Code
NO BACKUP by Rosemary Dew


A Female Agent’s Life in the FBI

by Rosemary Dew & Pat Pape

Pub Date: Jan. 19th, 2004
ISBN: 0-7867-1278-3

A former special agent fillets the FBI’s sorry slide into a paranoid, overextended, fear-driven, image-conscious organization.

Dew was with the Bureau for 13 years, rising through the ranks of field agent and became only the seventh female supervisor at headquarters, but Dew left in 1990 to become a law-enforcement consultant. Now she’s ready to explain, in a gruff, no-nonsense, not-real-happy tone, exactly why there are so few women in the Bureau, and why “the Bureau has become a Stalinist absurdity that eradicates dissent, along with truth and integrity . . . a dysfunctional family of agents willing to undercut each other for imagined steps up a golden career ladder.” Other structural failings include sexual and racial harassment, corruption (“the current system of FBI self-policing is an incestuous management structure”), fear of admitting mistakes, and inability to share information within and without the organization, all problems so ingrained they have become part of the Bureau’s leitmotif. Dew worked on cases involving the Weather Underground, the Aryan Nation, Abscam, child pornography, and dozens more; every one of her stories about them displays both her pride as an agent and the inevitable rude backlash she experienced at the hands of her self-defeating, sexually insecure bosses. But she’s not here to grouse about her treatment; rather it serves as evidence of the Bureau’s pathological inability to be flexible and adaptive. Dew believes in the FBI’s mission to combat terrorism, espionage, and organized crime, and she presents a catalogue of sensible changes that might allow the Bureau to become effective. If the FBI knew what was good for it, the Bureau would take her well-framed criticisms to heart. But, from the evidence presented here, the arrogant, timid, contemptuous, and anal-retentive FBI doesn't know what's good for it.

A scathing insider portrait.