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Broken: The Troubled Past and Uncertain Future of the FBIby Richard Gid Powers
Synopses & Reviews
The FBI that failed on 9/11 is the creation and captive of its spectacular and controversial past. Its original mission — the investigation and prosecution of only the most serious crimes against the United States — was forsaken almost from the beginning. This abandonment of purpose has been accompanied by a long history of political pressure, both from within and without. This sorry and scandal-ridden path culminated in a twenty-five-year run-up to 9/11 in which predictable and preventable lapses became hopelessly entrenched.
In Broken, Richard Gid Powers, one of the country's leading historians of national security and law enforcement, offers a definitive and provocative study of the Bureau from its origins to the present. Combing through the archives, and interviewing more than 100 past and current agents, he unearths stories behind some of the most famous cases and characters in our history. Powers, who attended new-agent training classes at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, was grantedaccess to restricted FBI facilities. His research included visits to the scenes of controversial FBI cases across the country, including Ruby Ridge, Waco, and the Indian reservation at Pine Ridge.
Powers did not set out to write a muckraking attack, and he gives the Bureau its due for many triumphs. Nonetheless, his story features an astonishing range of political abuses, misdirected investigations, skewed priorities, and sheer intelligence failures.
From the Bureau's outrageous participation in the anticommunist Palmer Raids and their successors, to its abuses of civil liberties during the Cold War, to its flagrant acts of domestic political interference during the civil rights era, it has often seemed to be consumed by feuds with such opponents as Harry Truman, Martin Luther King Jr., the Kennedys, and Bill Clinton. With the discovery of turncoat spies within its own ranks, and with the severe intelligence failures of 9/11, the Bureau has finally proven itself incapable of spotting the true enemies of our country within our borders.
Richard Powers's account is a searing indictment of failure, yet it is also strong evidence that the Bureau could be returned to its original mission of detecting the most serious crimes against the United States: terrorism, political corruption, corporate crime, and organized crime. Readers must decide for themselves whether America should mend it or end it.
"Popular historian Powers, biographer of J. Edgar Hoover, has produced a timely and nuanced history of the legendary agency that puts its current struggles in appropriate context. Beginning with the debate about the need for a federal detective force in the early 1900s, Powers traces the evolution of a small unit within the Justice Department into the G-Men of lore. Despite some odd omissions (there is no mention of the bureau's role in investigating the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy or the first bombing of the World Trade Center) and a little sloppiness (Rudolph Giuliani passed on trying the Mafia Commission in order to try a political corruption case, not to handle insider trading investigations), Powers succeeds in showing how the FBI's handling of terrorist threats prior to 9/11 was the direct result of the public backlash against Hoover's excesses and a desire to better respect civil liberties. His balanced and reasoned defense of recent director Louis Freeh, who has become a convenient scapegoat in the eyes of many, will spark renewed debate, especially as the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and consideration of reforms of the intelligence community remain in the spotlight. History Book Club alternate. Agent, Virginia Barbar at William Morris. (Oct. 16)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Necessary reading for would-be reformers and critics of the agency alike." Kirkus Reviews
"Powers presents a shocking and accurate picture....Broken is required reading for anyone who wants to understand how the FBI failed to operate as an effective defense against al Qaeda in the run-up to 9/11, despite the best efforts of some very fine agents." John Lehman, former Secretary of the Navy and member of the 9/11 Commission
On the heels of 9/11, historian Powers shows how the FBI has arrived at a critical juncture and why its future has become gravely imperiled.
Table of Contents
ONE A Shadow of Itself
TWO A New Force (1902-1908)
THREE The First Decade (1909-1918)
FOUR Red Webs and Normalcy (1919-1933)
FIVE Hollywood (1933-1945)
SIX The Cold War FBI (1945-1961)
SEVEN A Secret Society (1961-1972)
EIGHT A Haunted Bureau (1972-1978)
NINE Exorcising the Ghosts (1978-1993)
TEN Louis Freeh's FBI (1993-September 11, 2001)
Afterword: End or Mend?
What Our Readers Are Saying
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