Enemies: A History of the FBI

Tim Weiner

Enemies: A History of the FBI

The United States is a country founded on the ideals of democracy and freedom, yet throughout the last century it has used secret and lawless methods to destroy its enemies. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is the most powerful of these forces. Following his history of the C.I.A., Legacy of Ashes, Tim Weiner has now written the first full history of the F.B.I. as a secret intellligence service. Drawn entirely from firsthand materials in the F.B.I.'s own files, Enemies brings to life the entire story, from the cracking of anarchist cells to the prosecution of the 'war on terror'. It is the story of America's war against spies, subversives and saboteurs - and the self-inflicted wounds American democracy suffered in battle. Throughout the book lies the long shadow of J. Edgar Hoover, who ran the F.B.I. with an iron fist for forty-eight years. 3.9 out of 5 based on 7 reviews
Enemies: A History of the FBI

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre History, True Crime
Format Hardback
Pages 560
RRP £25.00
Date of Publication March 2012
ISBN 978-1846143267
Publisher Allen Lane
 

The United States is a country founded on the ideals of democracy and freedom, yet throughout the last century it has used secret and lawless methods to destroy its enemies. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is the most powerful of these forces. Following his history of the C.I.A., Legacy of Ashes, Tim Weiner has now written the first full history of the F.B.I. as a secret intellligence service. Drawn entirely from firsthand materials in the F.B.I.'s own files, Enemies brings to life the entire story, from the cracking of anarchist cells to the prosecution of the 'war on terror'. It is the story of America's war against spies, subversives and saboteurs - and the self-inflicted wounds American democracy suffered in battle. Throughout the book lies the long shadow of J. Edgar Hoover, who ran the F.B.I. with an iron fist for forty-eight years.

Reviews

The Guardian

Stephen Holmes

Leaving Hoover's alleged personality disorders to Hollywood scriptwriters, Weiner focuses his efforts instead on refuting a series of misperceptions about the FBI that a lasting cult of secrecy has allowed to crystallise in the public mind ... Readers of a comprehensive history such as Weiner's come away with an indelible impression that the FBI chronically misjudges and capriciously ranks the dangers facing the country.

31/03/2012

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The Washington Post

Dina Temple-Raston

Enemies is more than a definitive history of the FBI. Weiner, who won a National Book Award for his history of the CIA, Legacy of Ashes, is really writing about the basic tension between civil liberties and national security in this country. By carefully laying out how FBI directors, presidents and attorneys general have used and abused their power in the past, he seems to suggest how we might prevent them from doing so in the future.

23/03/2012

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The New York Times

Bryan Burrough

First things first: Tim Weiner’s new book, “Enemies: A History of the F.B.I.,” is an outstanding piece of work, even-handed, exhaustively researched, smoothly written and thematically timely. What it is not is a history of the F.B.I. Here’s the thing: For 104 years now the Federal Bureau of Investigation has essentially worn two hats — its traditional law enforcement “arrest a bad guy” hat and its more controversial intelligence hat. The latter is the part of the F.B.I. that from World War I on investigated all manner of political radicals and Communists, compiled lists of Americans to be detained in the event of national emergency and engaged in at least half a century of illegal wiretapping, mail opening and burglaries. It’s this side of the shop — and exclusively this side — that interests Mr. Weiner ... This is like writing a history of the New York Yankees but ignoring Whitey Ford and the other pitchers.

14/03/2012

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The New York Times

Kevin Baker

Weiner, a Pulitzer Prize winner and former New York Times reporter who has spent years writing about America’s security apparatus and who won the National Book Award for his history of the C.I.A., “Legacy of Ashes,” has done prodigious research, yet tells this depressing story with all the verve and coherence of a good spy thriller.

30/03/2012

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The Sunday Telegraph

Keith Lowe

There are, inevitably, some holes in Weiner’s story. It is not quite a “history of the FBI”: its role as a crime-fighting agency is ignored, so readers expecting to find stories about Al Capone will be disappointed. The 1910s, the Thirties and large parts of the Eighties are barely covered and the author admits there is much that remains a mystery even to him. But this should not detract from a truly impressive piece of research that could have been put together only by a journalist of Weiner’s stature. Where Weiner excels is in his description of the constant tension in America between civil liberty and national security.

20/02/2012

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The Sunday Times

Stephen Robinson

His portrait of Hoover, who inevitably dominates this story, is generally excellent, though Weiner displays an odd lack of human curiosity about his personal life … Speculation about Hoover’s sex life is scarcely gratuitous, given that he ruthlessly exploited his enemies’ proclivities ... These quibbles aside, Enemies is as close to a definitive history of the bureau as will appear for the foreseeable future. It is as illuminating about Washington politics as it is about the dark world of espionage and counterintelligence operations.

18/03/2012

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The Literary Review

Dominic Sandbrook

The story of the FBI should make for a riveting read. But when Hoover disappears from the narrative in May 1972 ... Weiner’s already pallid book subsides further into sub-Bob Woodward bureaucratic history. He rightly notes that the major theme of the Bureau’s history is the tension between security and liberty, but even a nine-year-old could probably work that one out, and he has nothing new to say about it at all. Like most writers on the CIA and the FBI, he is interested only in the headlines, so while there is a lot of stuff about Hoover’s relationship with successive presidents, there is nothing whatsoever on what it was like to be an FBI agent, how people were recruited, what they actually did during the day, whether they solved any crimes, and so on. After reading this book, you could be forgiven for thinking that the FBI only employed about five people, namely the director and his immediate henchmen. Worse, the prose is as flat and lifeless as a Ladybird book. It takes real skill to write a genuinely boring book about the FBI, but Tim Weiner has pulled it off.

01/03/2012

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