America,  Book Reviews,  FOUR STARS ****,  History,  India/Pakistan/Afghanistan,  Islam,  NON FICTION

Ghost Wars by Steve Coll **** (of 4)

This book changed the way I viewed the CIA.  I used to believe they were ideologically driven bumblers, but after observing the careful exhibition of the CIA’s involvement in Afghanistan from the inception of the Soviet invasion during the 1980s years through  the 9/11 attacks of 2001 I realized how really difficult it is to gather good intelligence.  You have to assemble electronic data (spotty at best) and human intelligence.  Your spies on the ground are being paid and their loyalties or veracity cannot be independently verified.  Often you are trying to gather data from extremely hostile territory where your opponents are in the business of flooding your sensors with misinformation.  And how in the world do you maintain your own objectivity as information arrives at CIA headquarters?  Don’t we all tend to find what we are looking for rather than what we are not?  The only shortcoming of this book, perhaps, is its length and detail, but in trying to ascertain what someone like Osama Bin Laden is up to, or the next Osama might be planning, detail is really what it is all about, isn’t it?