A former top CIA executive captures the incredible pressure, bravery, and uncertainty of an agency pushed to the brink.When the towers fell on September 11, 2001, nowhere were the reverberations more powerfully felt than at Langley. Almost overnight, an intelligence organization converted itself into a weaponized warfighting machine, one that raised questions about how far America would go to pursue al-Qa’ida. Now, more than fifteen years later, ex-CIA executive Philip Mudd comes forward with a never-before-told account of the 9/11 story, one that illuminates the profound impact that enhanced interrogation techniques and other initiatives known internally as “The Program” took on those who administered them. With unprecedented access to officials at the highest levels―including Director George Tenet―Mudd goes beyond the 2014 Senate report to show us what life was really like at the CIA prisons and why interrogators were forced to make decisions that they still ponder today. As hair-raising as it is revelatory, Black Site shows us the tragedy and triumph of the CIA during its most difficult hour.
Black Site Review
- January 1, 1970MichaelI received this book through a Good Reads “First Reads” giveaway. Black Site, authored by the former Deputy Director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, Philip Mudd, is an examination of the development and implementation of “the Program,” the CIA’s system of secret detention facilities and the “enhanced interrogation techniques” applied there to extract information from detainees following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. I believe the book’s primary purpose beyond expla I received this book through a Good Reads “First Reads” giveaway. Black Site, authored by the former Deputy Director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, Philip Mudd, is an examination of the development and implementation of “the Program,” the CIA’s system of secret detention facilities and the “enhanced interrogation techniques” applied there to extract information from detainees following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. I believe the book’s primary purpose beyond explaining how “the Program” developed is to remind the reader of the intense pressure the intelligence community in general and the CIA in particular were under to prevent another large-scale attack in the immediate aftermath of 9/11; that there was a definite sense of unity in the country that the United States needed to take extraordinary measures to accomplish that objective; and that much of the later criticism of the CIA’s actions is to a large degree after-the-fact Monday morning quarterbacking. While fully acknowledging the awesome weight of responsibility placed on the CIA at that time, it is still difficult not to squirm when reading the list of approved “enhanced interrogation techniques” such as waterboarding and the rather dubious (in my opinion) legal rationale employed to find that none of those techniques constituted torture. (What I find fascinating is that while DOJ and CIA lawyers struggled to craft legal definitions of what “torture” actually means, Mr. Mudd doesn’t report anyone asking what seems in hindsight to be a fairly obvious question – if another sovereign country’s government applied these “techniques” to captured American military personnel, US government agents, or private American citizens, would the United States Government consider it torture? Yes or no?) Given the controversial subject matter and Mr. Mudd’s service as the Deputy Director during part of the time that the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center oversaw “The Program,” the narrative is remarkably clinical and dispassionate, reading much like an agency “after-action/lessons learned” report based on collective recollections and general assessments of anonymous former CIA officials and case officers interviewed by the author. In fairness, Mr. Mudd is upfront in his author’s note that he isn’t going to interject first-person references to his own experiences or his direct personal feelings or views into the narrative. Still, I really would have preferred a more personal account from Mr. Mudd on “the Program” and what conclusions we can draw from his own experiences and reflections in terms of the difficult and troubling trade-offs between national security and national morality.more
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