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Building the Antilibrary

New acquisitions….


Street Without Joy: The French Debacle In Indochina by Dr. Bernard Fall

The Human Factor: Inside the CIA’s Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture by “Ishmael Jones

Sadly, my effort to “stay on the wagon” and refrain from the purchase of books until I wade through some of my unread shelves is failing miserably. I also think this will be a COIN heavy year for the 2010 reading list.


My colleague, Lexington Green, points to this fine review of The Human Factor by fellow Chicago Boyz blogger, James McCormick:

Mini-Book Review – Jones – The Human Factor

….Other reviews of this book have proclaimed Human Factor a rather boring recollection of examples of institutional ineptitude and better as a guidebook for potential employees than a useful description of the CIA but I feel this is in fact the most useful book on the CIA’s clandestine service since:

Orrin Deforest and David Chanoff, Slow Burn: The Rise and Bitter Fall of American Intelligence in Vietnam, Simon & Schuster, 1990, 294 pp.

David Atlee Phillips, The Night Watch: 25 Years of Peculiar Service, Atheneum, 1977, 309 pp.

which covered clandestine case officer activities, first person, in Vietnam and Latin America.

Like these two aforementioned titles, Human Factor focuses on the day-to-day challenges of being a covert case officer … the “teeth” in any intelligence organization. It is noteworthy that the Director of Central Intelligence has rarely, if ever, been one of those covert (non-State Department) officers. It’s as if your dentist was being overseen by experts in small-engine mechanics.

Ishmael recounts the minutiae of what reports he needed to write, the porous e-mail systems he had to manipulate, and the permissions he needed to gain. The timing and delays of decisions from Langley … the phrasing and terminology that was necessary to get anyone back in the US to allow any activity whatsoever. As a former stock broker, Jones was entirely comfortable with the challenges of “cold-calling” and dealing with “No” over and over again. But this wasn’t the case for his fellow trainees or for any of his superiors. At every turn, he was able to contrast his experience in the Marines (and military culture), and with Wall Street’s “make the call” ethos, with what he was experiencing as one of the most at-risk members of the Agency

Read the rest here.

One Response to “Building the Antilibrary”

  1. joey Says:

    Street Without Joy is a fantastic read, my favorite Vietnam book, The American and the French experience were almost carbon copies of each other, the main difference being the amount of material they both had to play with.  

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