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5.0 out of 5 stars An Unflattering Account of the FBI...., 16 July 2013
By 
Mr. D. J. Walford (Lancashire, England) - See all my reviews
Concentrating on its role as a political force rather than a law-enforcement agency, Tim Weiner opens the doors on 100 years of FBI history.... and it certainly isn't flattering.

Weiner documents the growth of the FBI from it's inception as the Bureau of Investigation in 1908 to the large and highly staffed body which it forms today. From it's first year in operation successive presidents and attorneys general used the force to spy on the citizens of the United States, hunting communists, fascists, anarchists and those considered simply politically unsound. It broke the law and used it's almost unlimited power to hunt its 'enemies' to the ground. Dominated and guided by the mighty presence of J. Edger Hoover, the biggest issue of the book involves the long term and widespread use of illegal wiretapping by the FBI against anyone it saw fit. This was in spite of repeated demands by the US Supreme Court, not to mention Congress, to cease its practice. By the 1970s, successive presidents since FDR had used the FBI to spy on their political opponents. President Johnson in particular saw communists literally everywhere and he was encouraged in his views by the chief anti-communist himself; Hoover.

Weiner continues with his revelations that the United States was riddled with foreign spies from the 1920s onwards, mainly communists who managed to infiltrate almost every area of the US government by the end of the Second World War. He also touches on the conflict of Watergate and how the FBI was prevented from performing its job by the Nixon administration and the CIA.

But it's the sheer incompetence at how to combat terrorists and terrorism which is the most shocking allegation Weiner makes; there were clues to the Lockerbie bombing, Timothy McVeigh and also to 9/11, many clues, but the FBI simply didn't have the expertise to understand the danger posed by militant Islam or home grown radicals. This situation was not helped by the fact that for years the FBI was an isolated institution experiencing little contact with others in the intelligence community.

This is a consummate history of law breaking and incompetence by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Big Brother, 18 July 2014
Be warned, this is not light reading. It is a detailed account of the history of the FBI. Even so there must be many details omitted for the sake of comparative brevity otherwise we would probably get a further five volumes.
My first thought on starting this book was "paranoia", anyone speaking against the Government, voicing positive opinions about undesirable organizations or attending an un-American political meeting even just out of curiosity branded you as the "enemy".
My second thought was, "what was the point of the American Constitution?" Successive Presidents tore the Constitution to shreds. Gone was the right to free speech, the concept of fair trails and innocence before guilt.
Successive Presidents have condoned the use by the FBI of confinement without trail, torture during interrogation and rendition thus breaking both National and International laws.

This is a book which should be read by every intelligent American as a warning that even innocent people can be caught up in the FBI net with no easy escape route.

The Communist ideals were good but flew in the face of human nature whereas Capitalism thrives because of human nature, greed, do your fellow down if it makes a profit etc
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to put down, 2 May 2012
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This review is from: Enemies: A History of the FBI (Hardcover)
Whatever the weaknesses of Western democracy the alternative of communism as perpetrated by the Soviets would have been infinitely worse. As someone growing up during the 1940s and 1950s, in Britain, the Berlin airlift of 1949, the Berlin uprising of 1953 and the Hungarian revolution of 1956 taught me that latter fact.
What I've always understood is that communism is a political theory and what Bolshevik/Soviet Russia may have been threatening, post first world war was Revolution, post-Second World War imperial expansion under the guise of communism. The line between that imperial expansion and political communism is difficult to identify and may depend on one's viewpoint.
This exciting book demonstrates that from the end of the First World War America's political elite was besotted in preventing the Communist political theory taking hold. In doing that USA laws were ignored and the freedom that the country was built on was forgotten is amply demonstrated in this book. I remember being unable to comprehend why some American involved in films like Losey, Foreman,Enfield and Wanamaker were forced to take refuge in England to continue their work or why I had to wait years to see Paul Robeson and why I had to go to concerts to raise money for Pete Seeger in his battle with the US government - now I am better informed.
The sad thing that this book demonstrates time and again that American Presidents failed to control J Edgar Hoover even knowing that power he had had corrupted him.
A major surprise demonstrated here is how inefficient and ineffective the FBI has been in dealing with America's post-Cold War enemies though we are lead to believe that has changed - I certainly hope so.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read, 24 Oct. 2013
By 
traveller (stirling, scotland) - See all my reviews
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This book takes a broader approach than I expected and the history is more 'pottted' than I had hoped. Having said that, it is an interesting read, charting the rise of the FBI and at its heart, J Edgar Hoover, and it is well written and obviously well researched.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Am only part way through this mammoth audio book. ..., 21 Mar. 2015
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Am only part way through this mammoth audio book. Had no idea how the FBI was established and the influence it had over the decades.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating insight into FBI, 9 May 2013
Tim Weiner's "History of the FBI" illustrates the false assumptions that drive intelligence service agendas, as well as the dubious methods they use to confront their fictitious adversaries. Tim Weiner describes a world of imaginary enemies, where secret service agents resemble above all else, the inquisitors of 15th century Europe.

The book extensively details the Illegal break-ins, wiretaps and cointelpro harassment activities of the FBI under Edgar J Hoover. Had these files been shredded as intended, much of the controversial aspects of the early history of the FBI might have been lost forever. One would assume that the FBI will in future take care to hide or destroy evidence of its illegal activities more thoroughly.

Whilst the book pursues the early history of the FBI with great authority, the same cannot be claimed for the agencies history of the past 30 years, despite the author's attempts to convey the contrary. The sources simply aren't there. However, what we do know is not encouraging, undercover spies and agent provocateurs, many of whom have criminal backgrounds, are paid ludicrous amounts of money to find and groom potential victims, supplying both the plot and the means and method of its execution. At times a considerable monetary incentive is necessary to encourage the often poverty stricken uneducated individuals to participate. If the victims bite, another terrorist plot is foiled, and the agencies paychecks justified, the belief in a clear and present danger vindicated.

After having described this more recent and disturbing aspect of the FBI's contemporary modus operandi, Tim Weiner is nonetheless able to conclude that, " The chance remained that the principle might prevail, the possibility that in a time of continual danger Americans could be both safe and free."

Tim Weiner should have another read of his book.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Freedom and Security, 23 April 2012
By 
Neutral "Phil" (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Enemies: A History of the FBI (Hardcover)
The kerfuffle over the attempted deportation of the radical cleric, Abu Qatada, highlights the delicate nature of the balance between freedom and security in a liberal, democratic, society. Defending the right of those who wish to destroy society to speak without let or hindrance is an impractical ideal. Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of the United States, wrote in 1787, "Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct....the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort......to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe they at length become unwilling to run the risk of being less free." The history of the FBI is proof of Hamilton's claims.

Social changes in the late nineteenth century facilitated the growth of anti-state forces. Anarchists favoured the propaganda of the deed, including the assassination of public figures. In 1901 Leon Czolgosz killed President McKinley who was succeeded by Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt had a reputation for getting his own way and told his Attorney General, Charles J Bonaparte, to establish a Bureau of Investigation within the Justice Department. Congress refused to support or finance it but Roosevelt ignored them and the Bureau was created de facto. During its first decade the Bureau targeted political dissenters such as Socialists, Anarchists and Communists, using imprisonment and deportation as weapons. The dissenters, many of whom were born outside the USA, used the terror of public bombings in the ideological but vain hope they could overthrow the existing world order. In August 1919 Hoover was given the responsibility for launching a counter-revolution by the State which he did by developing intelligence sources throughout the USA, irrespective of their integrity.

Action soon followed with the deportation of the anarchist Emma Goldman and others unable to distinguish between freedom and licence, dissent and destruction, or reform and revolution. Soon after the formation of the American Communist Party (which was infiltrated from the outset by FBI agents) between 6000 and 10000 people were arrested, not all in accordance with the rule of law or by due process. When questioned by a Senate Committee about the raids Hoover disavowed any knowledge of them. In 1924 Calvin Coolidge appointed Harlan Fiske Stone Attorney General. One month later Stone sacked William J Burns from his post as Director of the Bureau of Investigation, publicly condemning the Bureau as a police system which had operated beyond its proper limits. Hoover was appointed interim director in accordance with clear guidelines to investigate federal crimes and to stay out of political activity. Hoover agreed but ignored the guidelines in practice.

In 1934 Franklin D Roosevelt enlisted the Bureau's help to collect evidence about "Fascism and Communism". The former had little support so Hoover concenrated on the latter. In 1934 Congress passed the Communications Act which banned the interception of telephone calls and disclosure of their contents. Hoover interpreted this as meaning wiretaps could be authorised but their contents not be disclosed in court. He made enemies in high places, including the president's wife, but the extent of his secret survellience gave him great power. "People respected him but some simply feared him and a fair number despised him. Hoover knew it." Nontheless he had legitmate concerns. He was aware the Soviets, Germans and Japanese were spying on American military activity and was determined to find out everything, no matter what rules Congress laid down. The weakness of Congress's policy was demonstrated in 1938 when fourteen of eighteen Nazi agents fled the country rather than appear before a grand jury. Hoover was then able to persuade Roosevelt to provide for an expanded Bureau which Roosevelt did with an unwritten order, financed by a secret account created by the president. This gave him the power to conduct political warfare and Hoover had no intention of giving them up when Harry Truman became president following Roosevelt's death.

Truman established the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to deal with foreign intelligence, leaving the Bureau to concentrate on domestic matters. Hoover was annoyed but there was sufficient intelligence to keep him in the public eye. This increased when the Soviets exploded their own atom bomb, which had been facilitated by agents in the United States. Truman was blamed for failing to take the communist threat seriously while Eisenhower was a willing party to the removal of communists from government jobs in the 1950s. Hoover was at the peak of his powers using his intelligence files to ward off attacks from members of Congress, spreading disinformation and implying misbehaviour by those he considered enemies. It's ironic that the false claim Hoover was a homosexual cross dresser was a rehashing of a memo the Bureau circulated against Adlai Stevenson in 1952. Hoover's weakness was his inability to distinguish between different forms of dissent. This caused him to form prejudicial judgements about those who did not share his conservative political views. Hence he saw the 1960s civil rights and student demonstrations as communist fronts. Richard Nixon and his closest aides tried to have him removed, attempts which only ended when Hoover died in 1972.

Hoover's legacy was a lasting one, though not necessarily one which served the American nation well. The Bureau and its counterpart, the CIA, were at loggerheads while Hoover was in office. Nothing changed after his death. Each fought the other in a debiltating turf war. Had they pooled intelligence, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington may have been prevented. In addition both organisations were riddled with spies who regularly passed information on to the Soviets in exchange for cash. It was 9/11 which finally gave impetus to the creation of a more effective intelligence community in the United States with the passing of the Patriot Act which destroyed the notion that freedom can be uninhibited. Five stars.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enemies A Hisytory of the FBI, 25 Oct. 2013
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There is very little it is just another book with the contents of which I take an interesting. Very good reading .
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0 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tim Weiner's talk at the London School of Economcs, 13 Mar. 2012
By 
Mike (London, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Enemies: A History of the FBI (Hardcover)
Tim Weiner's talk about the book this evening at the LSE was absolutely fascinating. A must read for me.

There was a wonderful (but apocryphal) story about J Edgar Hoover (who ran the FBI for nearly 50 years) writing on a document 'watch the borders' which caused agents to rush to the ports - when in fact it was an instruction to his secretary about the layout of the typing!
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Enemies: A History of the FBI
Enemies: A History of the FBI by Tim Weiner (Hardcover - 1 Mar. 2012)
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