NERVE CENTER: Inside the White House Situation Room

Robert L. Scheina, Author . Brassey's $24.95 (624p) ISBN 978-1-57488-451-7

This timely and informative study of the White House Situation Room—a department with its own staff and duties, as well as a meeting space—is organized more thematically than chronologically. The guide is a retired naval intelligence officer and the room's director under the first President Bush. One chapter discusses how, as a result of the Bay of Pigs, the suite was carved out of the White House basement. (None of the rooms look the way Hollywood or the news media would like us to think.) Other chapters discuss the Situation Room protocols for handling alerts, communications between the President and just about anybody in the world, crises great and small and foreign and domestic, the Hot Line to Moscow (and other places) and a host of other vital national security functions. The human equation is not neglected, either: Presidents' comportment in the room has ranged from the intimidating (LBJ) to the amiably laid back (the first Bush, a former CIA director). The staff, young intelligence professionals both civil and military, enhance their careers in return for weird schedules and a wide range of unexpected tasks. The latter can range from being the only White House staff not evacuated on September 11, 2001, to warning JFK to kick out a girlfriend because Jackie was coming home early. Bohn, in his book debut, has done his historical homework and expresses himself cogently. The more background the reader has in contemporary history and intelligence the better, but this book will appeal and be accessible to anyone who has ever picked up a techno-thriller. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 03/03/2003
Release date: 07/01/2003
Hardcover - 1250 pages - 978-1-57488-788-4
Paperback - 1250 pages - 978-1-57488-789-1
Ebook - 1395 pages - 978-1-59797-478-3
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