A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies

James Bamford, Author Doubleday Books $26.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-385-50672-4
In this hard-hitting expose, investigative journalist Bamford (The Puzzle Palace; Body of Secrets) paints a damning portrait of an incompetent and politicized intelligence community. Before 9/11, he contends, the inadequacy of the CIA's clandestine service hobbled its fight against Osama bin Laden, forcing it to rely on mercenary Afghan proxies and cruise missile drive-bys. Meanwhile, bread-and-butter undercover operations to infiltrate and monitor al-Qaeda were eschewed, and leads on the upcoming attacks bungled. After 9/11, he asserts, the Bush administration used the attacks as a pretext for a long-planned invasion of Iraq; a Defense Department intelligence unit was set up to tout trumped-up evidence against Saddam, which, Bamford says, CIA analysts were pressured into endorsing. Much of the book rehashes a now familiar critique of both the pre-9/11 lapses and the Bush administration's selling of the war, but the author enriches it with a wealth of insider interviews that illuminate structural problems in the nation's intelligence effort. Bamford lards his account with pointless mise-en-scene (""in the onyx darkness, George W. Bush switched on the brass sidelight next to his bed"") and a gratuitous, if gripping, narrative of the carnage of 9/11. But when he gets down to analysis, his broad understanding of America's intelligence institutions and procedures make this a must-read for anyone concerned about the current state of affairs.
Reviewed on: 05/01/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
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Paperback - 480 pages - 978-1-4000-3034-7
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