Enemies: A History of the FBI

By in Criminal Law on July 21, 2013

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The Washington Post • New York Daily News • Slate

“Fast-paced, fair-minded, and fascinating, Tim Weiner’s Enemies turns the long history of the FBI into a story that is as compelling, and important, as today’s headlines.”—Jeffrey Toobin, author of The Oath
Enemies is the first definitive history of the FBI’s secret intelligence operations, from an author whose work on the Pentagon and the CIA won him the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.
We think of the FBI as America’s police force. But secret intelligence is the Bureau’s first and foremost mission. Enemies is the story of how presidents have used the FBI to conduct political warfare, and how the Bureau became the most powerful intelligence service the United States possesses.
Here is the hidden history of America’s hundred-year war on terror. The FBI has fought against terrorists, spies, anyone it deemed subversive—and sometimes American presidents. The FBI’s secret intelligence and surveillance techniques have created a tug-of-war between national security and civil liberties. It is a tension that strains the very fabric of a free republic.
Praise for Enemies

“Outstanding.”—The New York Times
“Absorbing . . . a sweeping narrative that is all the more entertaining because it is so redolent with screw-ups and scandals.”—Los Angeles Times

3 thoughts on “Enemies: A History of the FBI

  1. Wulfstan "wulfstan"
    93 of 101 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    A sort of sequel to Legacy of Ashes, February 15, 2012
    Wulfstan “wulfstan” (San Jose, CA United States) –
    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)

    If any of you read & loved Pulitzer Prize winner Tim Weiner’s National Book award winning book, “Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA”, then you are in for a another fascinating and in depth treatise, this time on the FBI.

    Weiner calls the FBI “America’s Secret Police” . We often think that the FBI’s main job is crime fighting but it’s actually more anti-terrorism and counter-intelligence. Weiner has been able, again, to base a definitive book upon recently declassified documents, thus there is a lot here which may be news even to FBI buffs.

    One of the things I didn’t know about (and is revealed here) is that the FBI actually engaged in overseas intelligence work, such as when J. Edgar installed a FBI informant as the President of the Dominican Republic!

    It’s been commonplace to demonize J. Edgar, but here Weiner is careful to note that the Director wasn’t “a monster” but instead compares him to “an American Machiavelli” (still hardly a compliment).

    It really reads much like a sequel to his earlier book on the CIA, but this time concentrating on how the FBI works in that same arena.

    Solid, readable, meticulously researched… and more than a little controversial.

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  2. Peter Hillman "(budding enthusiast)"
    53 of 58 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Another Triumph!, February 16, 2012
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    Tim Weiner’s excellent treatment of the FBI’s 100-year-old history of domestic spying is destined to be the seminal work on the subject.

    Not too long ago, Weiner got a call that his 27-year-old Freedom of Information Act request for declassification of J. Edgar Hoover’s secret intelligence files had been granted. Three banker’s boxes of documents appeared. Together with other recently-declassified files, numerous interviews and other reliable sources, primary and secondary, Weiner crafts (with 60 pages of illuminating endnotes) a riveting and revealing history of the FBI’s domestic surveillance.

    Weiner recounts the admonitions of Founding Fathers, such as Hamilton and Madison, that a free nation must be ever-vigilant; but, in conducting such vigilance, must not compromise civil liberties. President-by-President, we see a constant tension between the two tenets. The consistent thread, for the first 60 years, is J. Edgar Hoover.

    This is not the Hoover of the Clint Eastwood movie. The Hoover Weiner describes as an “American Machiavelli” seems relatively uncomplicated. He always hated Communism. He resisted aiding the civil rights movement (until late, cajoled by LBJ) because he believed the movement was fostered by the Soviet Union and U.S. Communist Party. He had “evidence”–e.g., a close confidant of MLK was a Communist. For Hoover, and many of the Presidents, the end justified the means, unconstitutional as they were. But Weiner points out that even Hoover had his limits. Hoover’s refusal to carry out Nixon’s directive to spy on Democrats led Nixon to organize “the Plumbers” of Watergate and other disasters.

    At the other end of the FBI Director spectrum is Robert Mueller. Weiner recounts how Mueller told G. W. Bush he and other top FBI officials would resign unless the administration ceased unconstitutional spying after September 11. Mueller prevails, and, as Weiner states, has set a crisp, above-reproach tone for the FBI this century (as the longest-serving Director after Hoover). Whereas Hoover’s mantra was, “Don’t do anything that embarrasses the Bureau” (which allowed for a lot of unsavory things), Mueller plainly has instilled a “Do the right thing” ethos.

    I found the writing anything but dry. Weiner states he believes in largely letting the records speak for themselves. And the records here are often near-incredible. (Personally, I would have liked a photo section). Weiner does a remarkable job of not injecting himself while weaving a century’s worth of activities into a highly readable account.

    In this respect, the book is quite different from, but no less triumphant than, “A Legacy of Ashes.” There, Weiner wisely chose to be judgmental; recollections, impressions, theories, documents and prior accounts were scattered to a thousand winds. Weiner’s judgment was the necessary compass (not for nothing did it win a Pulitzer and the National Book Award!).

    In contrast, the author has no need to constantly judge and forge a path in “Enemies.” Plenty of principals in the FBI’s history have judged. In the main, as Weiner relates, breaches of civil liberties, e.g., secret military tribunals; warrantless tapping) sadly were repeated. Other lessons have been learned. The FBI’s mission necessarily is a work-in-progress. As the Founding Fathers foresaw, the tension between security and civil liberties will always be with us. It is a blessing that we have someone of Weiner’s immense gifts to remind us of this.

    P.S. Earlier this week Terri Gross on NPR’s “Fresh Air” had a terrific interview of Weiner on his new book, at the end of which they played the tape of LBJ congratulating Hoover on the FBI’s breaking the case of the three white civil rights workers’ murders. You hear Hoover deliberately telling LBJ key things only when and as Hoover wants them revealed. Listen to the podcast before, during or after reading the book!

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  3. A. T. Lawrence
    40 of 47 people found the following review helpful
    3.0 out of 5 stars
    A thorough history of the FBI, February 21, 2012

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    Acquaintances ask me whether this is a conservative or a liberal book? It seems like a strange question; I mean I wrote a book about Vietnam that I wrote for everyone; I had no political agenda when I was writing my book. I feel the same with this book. I tell people that Weiner worked as a journalist for the New York Times, but it appears that he is striving to write an honest book, without any hidden agenda. That being said, this is a very readable book; the author writes in a captivating and gripping style — it’s hard to put down. Most of us simply associate the FBI with the life of J. Edgar Hoover, but this is not just another biography of that powerful person, rather this is an insightful history, which begins with the establishment of the Bureau in 1908 under the Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt and continues up to present times.

    It addresses my interest as to the interaction of the FBI with the CIA. I am aware of the fact that the CIA has no legal domestic police authority, and therefore, in regards its narcotics findings, it sends this intel on to the FBI and other law enforcement organizations for action, yet both the FBI and the CIA are involved with counter-terrorism operations. In fact, according to Weiner, the FBI was more successful in countering the KGB than the CIA, and it was the FBI, rather than the CIA, that succeeded in placing “a spy inside the highest councils of the Soviet Union.” Hoover considered “intelligence operations as more crucial than any law enforcement work.” By the middle of the Eisenhower years the “Intelligence Division was .. the most powerful force within the Bureau, commanding the most money, the most manpower, and the most attention from the director.” Weiner draws attention to Hoover’s extraordinary longevity on the job — presidents would come and go, so would CIA directors and the heads of military intelligence, but Hoover would remain, and as a consequence, he was provided the singular opportunity to develop a remarkable degree of patience, and he did. It was LBJ who got Hoover to go after the Klan after three civil rights workers went missing in Mississippi during the summer of 1964; LBJ was a force. Following the Watergate break-in under the Nixon presidency, it was a high-ranking FBI individual, known as “Deep Throat” who leaked info to Bob Woodward in order to counter obstruction of justice by the White House. Hoover died in 1972. In 1975, after Nixon had resigned, Congress began its investigation into past practices of the FBI

    More recently, with the enactment of the Patriot Act during October 2001, the FBI has gained even greater powers in the realm of counter-terrorism, enabling it to search for terrorist connections by gathering information on thousands of Americans. Are we Americans prepared to give up more of our civil rights for greater safety? This is an issue that all Americans need to be concerned about. Tim Weiner has provided an even-handed assessment of these critical questions and has written a thorough and excellent history of the FBI.

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