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The Human Factor: Inside the CIA's Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture [Hardcover]

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Item Number 393478  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   383
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1.25" Width: 6" Height: 9.25"
Weight:   1.6 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Jul 25, 2008
Publisher   Encounter Books
ISBN  1594032238  
EAN  9781594032233  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
George W. Bush's presidency was poisoned by a lack of human source intelligence on 9/11, Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. Carter was himiliated by the hostage crisis in Iran. The Bay of Pigs was President Kennedy's greatest blunder. Vietnam ended the Johnson presidency and Korea ended Truman's. In each case, American blood and treasure were spent; and in each case, a lack of reliable intelligence played a great role. This book is the story of a deep-cover agent facing both the day-to-day obstacles of survival and ludicrous challenges from his own agency's impenetrable bureaucracy. If the CIA is to be fixed - and for our own security it must be - The Human Factor may constitute the first step in that direction.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Indirectly reveals much about the NY Times  Oct 23, 2008
My "ah" moment about the CIA came in the aftermath of the Cold War, when many Soviet files became open. A professional intelligence operation would have poured over those files in great detail, seeking to discover what they did right and what they did wrong, so they could do better in the future. The CIA displayed no such interest, preferring illusions to the truth. Careerism reigned supreme.

Although ths book focuses almost exclusively and often humorously on the author's struggle with the dysfunctional CIA bureaucracy over a 15+ year career, it does occasionally touch on larger issues. The one the struck me most forcefully came in the aftermath of 9/11 when the CIA faced the distinct possibility that reform would be forced on them after such a monumental intelligence failure. What did they do? They bought themselves near-immunity from press criticism by leaking heavily biased information to a rabidly anti-Bush press, particularly the NY Times. As the 2008 election demonstrates, much of the press, (FOX-News excepted) has become so highly partisan that nothing trumps putting Democrats in office, not even reforming the CIA, so it has the skills to prevent the next 9/11.

This is not the first time this has happened. We should never forget that Britain's BBC displayed a similar bias during the 1930s. The BBC was so rabidly pro-appeasement that it refused to let Churchill on the air. And appeasement was simply the 1930s term for our present day fetish for getting to the alleged "root causes" of violent behavior. Chamberlain's visit to Munich, without preconditions, is precisely what the historically ignorant Obama talks about doing in the Middle East. A horrible war resulted from a failure to recognize that Nazism was evil in the same sense that today many refuse to believe that radical Islam is evil.

Both Churchill and G. K. Chesterton recognized that a radicalized Islam would pose the same threat to peace that 1930s Germany posed. The only distinction was that in their day Islam lacked the military means to go to war, a situation that has changed with the development of terrorism, asymmetrical warfare, Muslim immigration to Europe, and the enormous amounts of oil money pouring into the Middle East.

--Michael W. Perry, Chesterton on War and Peace: Battling the Ideas and Movements that Led to Nazism and World War II
It's hard to know what to make of this book  Oct 16, 2008
The author writes under an alias, which immediately tells you that the most important thing this expose on the CIA must do is address the credibility problem. How do we know "Ishmael Jones" was really a CIA officer, and that he is telling us the truth? "Jones" writes as if he is unaware this is even a problem, which I suppose is better than protesting too much, but I am still leaning towards the idea that this book is moderately entertaining fiction.

It's not that I'm a fan of CIA. I have seen no credible evidence that CIA has ever given useful warning of a major strategic surprise. I have seen ample credible evidence that they have missed some major surprises. (I'm not sure I can go into detail, since I may have heard the details at my classified workplace at LANL.) The major intelligence coups of WWII were achieved largely in spite of Donovan's OSS, and I'm inclined to believe open intelligence belongs at State and clandestine at Defense, where those who screw up are more likely to face the consequences for it. I would not shed a tear if CIA were summarily disbanded.

I did find "Jones'" description of the bureaucracy at CIA believable, having seen some of the same things at DoE and heard similar stories from friends who are government workers. "Jones" describes layers of risk-averse managers who are more interested in creating the illusion of activity than doing actual useful activity, which after all is going to be risky. His description of bureaucratic inertia is entirely believable. So is his description of memos that talk about salary and vacation policies rather than tradecraft. However, this isn't enough to establish his credibility. Any attentive reader of Dilbert (and "Jones" is one, judging from his use of a Dilbert quote in a chapter header) could probably paint as convincing a picture.

There are "false notes", as another reviewer pointed out. "Jones" found it remarkably easy to simply ignore or deceive bureaucrats in order to do what he perceived to be his job, thereby building up his unblemished career of intelligence success. For example, he claims to have routinely asked permission to make a contact *after* having already met the contact several times. I can't imagine getting away with this kind of thing in my own bureaucracy, which, bad as it is, isn't nearly as bad as what "Jones" claims CIA has become. He shrugs off CIA being a year behind on forwarding his pay as if it was nothing (though I can't rule out an alternate explanation, which I'll come to in a minute.)

"Jones" also irritated me with his description of Mormon temple garments as "wife-beater tee shirt and boxer shorts." I'm guessing he *does* know how offensive this is. (And I acknowledge that that may be enough to have seriously biased my review.) In fact, "Jones" has left us an awful lot of clues about himself, which in a way makes me suspect a carefully designed synthetic persona: His family visited a lot of far corners of the world when he was a child, suggesting his father was either military, State, or fashionably rich. He was a Marine Corps officer. His claims about money are either an outright fabrication (which would completely undercut his credibility; they're essential to his story) or he is independently wealthy. (Not impossible; OSS was basically an alternative to the conventional military for very rich overeducated young men, and the evidence is that CIA inherited this predisposition.) He loathes Mormons and people who are not in top physical condition, and displays a curious mixture of loathing and respect for rednecks. He loathes Russians. He prides himself on being a family man. He is skeptical of conventional religion but has a mystic streak. He comes across as a man who has learned the art of winning by intimidation. This bullying personality is easy to read between the lines, but not so easy that it's obviously part of a synthetic persona. I'm guessing the author of this book, whoever he is, either really is a bully or has been the victim of bullies and is engaging in some wish fulfillment. Most telling, perhaps, is that he doesn't describe a single serious failure or mistake on his own part; the failures are all the fault of others at the Agency. This last part emits a strong odor of decomposing rodent.

Then again, there's no reason why there couldn't be a CIA agent raised in an elite Northeastern family who served with the Marine Corps, is a fitness nut, is a bully, loathes Mormons and rednecks, and is completely blind to his own failings, who resigned from CIA in a huff and decided to write a tell-all.

"Jones" claims the reason he uses an alias is because it's a felony to blow an agent's cover. Well, he says he resigned; he's not an agent any more. Since his alias makes it virtually impossible to check his story, while other disgruntled CIA have put their real names, and reputations, before the world in their exposes, this is another big red flag.

Another suspicious claim is that Ames was revealed by a Russian defector rather than careful detective work. Having heard a classified brief by the woman who led the investigation, I have to say that I found the woman a lot more credible than "Jones."

Still, the book is a mildly entertaining read, even as a humorous fictional account of a made-up government bureaucracy. There are some nice touches: "Jones" claims to have briefly met Valerie Plame, who he claims was removed from foreign assignments out of fear that Ames had compromised her. He thinks she could have been a good agent and is sympathetic to her, but he is also clearly sympathetic to the Novak version of how she was outed. He is not sympathetic to the accuracy of Joe Wilson's yellow cake report. "Jones" describes Plame as a political pawn, which is hard to disagree with, though Plame seems to have taken to the role of liberal martyr with relish. A few pages later, "Jones" describes his theory that a retired CIA agent, active in Democratic politics, was responsible for several damaging leaks during the Bush/Kerry campaigns, but he couldn't get anyone to take his theory seriously. There is very little else in the way of partisan politics in the book, but I think I'd have to add "Republican" to the list of characteristics of "Jones'" persona.

Do I recommend the book? It's not a long read; many readers could manage it in an afternoon. If "Jones" is for real, then, yeah, it's probably worth a read. The problem is that I suspect "Jones" is at least partially a fabrication (maybe even an unconscious one) and I'm not sure the book is good enough fiction to be worth the time. I am, however, curious to see what others' reactions to it are.
What a sad state of affairs  Oct 14, 2008
This book would make most readers afraid, angry and sad. All I can say is, "Wake up America".
A Must Read  Oct 1, 2008
This is an amazing book. It's truly scary that our intelligence community is this dysfunctional.
An insider's view of the problems plaguing the CIA at the "sharp end"  Sep 18, 2008
Mr. Jones has done a great service in providing this clear, passionate and compelling picture of life in the CIA's clandestine service. People better informed than I can quibble with details, but the Appendix, "Solutions for reform of the clandestine service", should be the checklist against which any future reforms of the DO are judged.

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