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A fascinating, illuminating read. Lucid, insightful and explosive - Smith draws a compelling picture of the Special Ops community, and its perennial battle against Washington and the top brass in pursuit of their deadly mission. Things seemed to have improved under the auspices of Rumsfeld, but how long this spring will last is anyone's guess. Anyone with a healthy respect for our hard-won freedoms should hope now that the Activity, Delta, et al will be allowed to go to work without political hindrance.

My only quibble is with the title. While the Activity retains a small cadre of shooters, the group's main mission is to provide intelligence (where the CIA has no assets) for direct action which is followed up the true 'Killer Elite' of Delta and Seal Team Six (or DevGru, as it now appears to like to be known).

That aside this is near peerless books - as gripping as a novel but all too chillingly real - and stands among the best books about modern covert warfare.
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on 15 April 2009
This is an excellent book about the US military which shows the importance of good intelligence before the brute force part of Special Forces can be accurately used. The constant fight between the conventional senior military powers whose fear of the "cowboys" means that Special Forces are either not used, or used in such a way that the likelihood of failure is higher, is well told. This is one area where Rumsfeld receives a lot of credit as he manages to put in place some sort of unification of the command structure. There is a lot of detail which seems to be credible - partly because it is honest about some of the organisational and operational shortcomings over the past 30 years.
The title is misleading as the Activity (as they are known) only tend to get involved in killing when things go wrong.
Given how little is publicly available on the British Special Reconnaissance Regiment, one can assume that they are being somewhat modelled on the Activity. In this context The Operators by James Rennie is a key read.
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on 7 March 2011
An excellent book- insightful, well-paced and rarely dull. My attention was held from beginning to end. This is a fascinating look into an organisation less glamorous or well known than the likes of Delta or the SAS, yet arguably as influential. If, like me, you've ever suspected that something like 'The Activity' existed, but could never quite find any information on it, then this is the book for you. It is not really about blazing firefights or action- the main subject here is intelligence.

I found the sections on South America and the involvement in Colombia most interesting, as is the account of The Activity's work in the Balkans and Somalia. The insights into internal politics between competing branches of the US military are also fascinating. If there is one criticism to be made, it is that one is left wanting for more examples of The Activity's operations, which is of course a big ask. In many parts of the book one gets the sense that the author knows about- and wants to hint at- 'other' operations, but cannot for obvious reasons.

'Killer Elite' really whets the appetite for learning more about the secretive world of special ops/intelligence that goes on around us everyday. Now, anytime I hear stories about unrest in the Middle East or some other part of the world, one of my first thoughts is 'I wonder are The Activity there?'. A thoroughly enjoyable read on a fascinating organisation.
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on 25 October 2012
This is a truly well written, and well researched book, but don't go into expecting to find tales of men in black with futuristic optics sneaking into Iranian nuclear facilities, or real life stories of Jason Bourne.
What the book does give is incredibly in depth overviews of some of the major moments in US/ world history, and the role played by US (and UK)SF, and the ingenious and cutting edge methods used by them, especially the book's main protagonist 'the activity', to get whatever job it is, done. How the author documents the history and rise of the unit is also a fascinating insight into the inner workings of military politics at high levels, and how the bad guy got away too many times because of them.
If you are interested in the inner workings of the type of SF unit you haven't really heard about, but assumed must exist, read this book.
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VINE VOICEon 23 August 2006
"You can't judge a book by looking at the cover" it is said. Well in this case it is true. The enigmatic title and cool cover photo are just not what this book is about, which is regrettable, because those who should read it probably will not, and vice versa. This scholarly, well researched work is about the litany of failures by the US high command and politicians to implement the skillful work of those operators on the ground. The number of times that OBL has escaped certain doom because of the dithering of those on high is painful to read. The amount of infighting within the hierarchy, which effectively disabled the sterling work of the real operators, is absolutely tragic. The world could have been a better place is this book's message; shame on all those named here.
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on 12 March 2014
I thought the book would be better.
It speaks about Many missions but not enought.
I thought ti was different
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on 21 April 2006
This book can be assessed as a fairly in-depth look at the creation of a military anomaly: an intelligence gathering unit that also carries out direct action missions as and when required. Persons looking for a "Bravo Two Zero" tpe book may be disappointed. The book requires some thorough editing though: one glaring example is the description of the "Black Hawk Down" mission as "Operation Gothic Snake" Participants of the battle and official after-action reports name the operation as "Gothic Serpent". In addition, there is much repeating of facts and analyses that are contained in other works, all of which, in fairness, are annotated and footnoted in detail. Overall, this book does shed some light of the work of the ISA which may have been hitherto unknown.
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on 16 September 2014
SF tales of derring do
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on 6 April 2006
This is a more than decently written work. The author does not use an expose form or tone. He doesn't disparage the US, the US services, Special Operations Forces (SOF), or the unit in question.
He does discuss the perennial Conventional/SOF clash in DOD and the rest of the national security apparatus. He also discusses the controversies over policy, strategy, and tactics in OEF, OIF, and GWOT.
Is Killer Elite perfect? No, but no work is!
Killer Elite is an important addition to SOF literature. It's a preliminary work that others can build on. The "Activity" needs some recognition because its mission is critical to SOF and the GWOT. Five years from now there will be more substantial works on OEF and OIF, but the research has to begin somewhere.
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