See No Evil Review

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See No Evil:

The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism

X X

X N X Security

Fall Semester 200N

Professor X X

See No Evil Review

This report is based on the book; See No Evil, by Robert Baer. To be honest, I didn't read Baer's book. I listened to the audio version which has Robert Baer himself reading his book. While flying commuter and mail flights, I was able to listen to Baer’s adventures in the Middle East. There is a distinct similarity between this book and Harvey Kushner's Holy War on the Homefront, being that despite all the warnings our intelligence officers have supplied to our government agencies, there seems to be little or no action taken to stop terrorist attacks that could have been prevented. Our well-paid politicians stay fairly busy attending fundraisers and creating policies that hinder responses to vital information gathered by case officers and law-enforcement personnel about terrorist activities.

Robert Baer's book describes his years in the CIA from recruitment to retirement. He focuses mostly on the many years that he spent in the Middle East. He felt the need to know our enemy and understand how he works and moves so that we could be prepared for the eventual strike or strikes that would be sure to come. For years he investigated the embassy bombing in Beirut (1983) and the Marine barracks bombing, as well as other historical events. It seemed that whenever he came up with a plan to gather more information, his superiors would pull in the reins and try to hold him back. A number of times he would gather vital intelligence warning of a kidnapping, bombing, assassination, or even an all-out assault, and the information would be ignored because his source wasn't prepared or approved with the proper paperwork or bureaucratic red tape or some other flimsy excuse not to follow up.

Things in the Middle East work very differently than other places in the world. The multi-faceted, multi-directional way that the many Islamic factions are a part of the inter connected links of events that have occurred over the last thirty years (at least) is very difficult to grasp without the insight based on the firsthand experience of someone like Robert Baer. The Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds spend a fair amount of energy killing each other, but will stay their swords to slate their thirst on Christian and Jewish blood. Getting “in” isn’t just a matter of who you know, like here, but more so who’s family member you know. Baer points out these idiosyncrasies in his story telling in such away that brings clarity and understanding of a very confusing culture that is rife with religious fanaticism.

Early on in the story Baer spoke of Edgeware Road in London, which has a multitude of Islamic fundamentalists bookstores with venomous writings expressing hatred towards Americans. The same print that endorses violence would be outlawed in the Middle East, yet in London it is widespread. At the time of his experience there, the local CIA in London had no Arabic speakers that could even read this hatred in print. Not only that, English law prevented the CIA from recruiting sources. Since the Cold War, the CIA has been lacking the agents, training and even attitude for a proper intelligence network in Europe and the Middle East.

Madras India was Baer's first assignment and from there on to New Delhi. It was a real “shit hole,” as Baer put it, to break in new caseworkers and to weed out those unfit for this lifestyle. He survived a botched pitch to a possible field agent and soldiered on, but learned a lot and gained experience there. Two years after the embassy bombing in Beirut (April 1983), he finished a course in Arabic and was assigned to a post in the Middle East. His supervisor (nothing like the hard charging previous boss) was a type to stay at the desk and fret over paperwork and preferred not to take action in the field, like...
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