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Enemies: A History of the FBI

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3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  1,176 ratings  ·  217 reviews
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The Washington Post • New York Daily News • Slate

“Fast-paced, fair-minded, and fascinating, Tim Weiner’s Enemies turns the long history of the FBI into a story that is as compelling, and important, as today’s headlines.”—Jeffrey Toobin, author of The Oath

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

Enemies is the first definitive history of the FBI’s secret...more
Audio CD, 15 pages
Published February 14th 2012 by Random House Audio (first published January 1st 2012)
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Community Reviews

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Mara
"A free people must have both security and liberty. They are warring forces, yet we cannot have one without the other."
When William Webster became Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1978, he was shocked to find that the FBI, spawned from the Bureau of Investigation (BOI) in 1935, was without a legal framework for its activities and operations. Author Tim Weiner describes:
"The Bureau had no charter—a legal birth certificate from Congress spelling out its role. It had never ha
...more
Hadrian
An alarming and sobering book, comparable to the same author's study on the CIA.

From the 1920s to 1972, the FBI was little more than the personal satrap of J. Edgar Hoover. From the First Red Scare, John Reed and Emma Goldman all the way up to the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement - he had almost total control over domestic intelligence. However, the FBI also acted as a foreign analysis and counterintelligence bureau, counteracting or competing with the CIA on multiple occasions.

Their re...more
Jason
Reading this book i realized a couple things i didn't know before. One, that J. Edgar Hoover was probably the most powerful man in American history, only because of the amount of sway that he had on just about anyone. And two, that the FBI is this weird mix of 1984 and the Wizard of Oz, where you have this agency that is presumably watching you all the time but it does have a head; and that head, until his death, was J. Edgar.

I really love the fantastical element of his character. The daunting s...more
Helaine
This is not a pretty picture of the FBI. In fact, when you finish it, you wonder why we should be supporting this institution with our tax dollars. This book focuses on the FBI's role in terrorist activity prevention and investigation so I hope that the history of the FBI with regard to good old crime is better. Some info that I didn't know: The FBI for most of its existence didn't even have a viable information system to retrieve all the information it obtained, legally and otherwise. We heard...more
Albert
As I approach the midway point of Enemies: A History of the FBI I must confess I'm surprised at how easy the book has been to read. Being that J. Edgar Hoover was synonymous with the FBI, I'm not surprised to find that so far it is basically about the man who singlehandedly built the FBI to what it is today. Even knowing what I did about how Hoover used, and abused his powers to fight communism, I have still been shocked at how far he actually went to increase and retain the power that he welded...more
Horza
If you liked Legacy of Ashes, you'll like Enemies. The converse also applies; Weiner retains the fast-paced, journalistic style of Legacy - tantalising links are left hanging and background is left as exercise for the reader.

Like his biography of the Agency this effort starts to fade as it heads closer to the present, deprived of declassified documents and on-the-record testimony it starts to read as a recap of recent NYT/WaPo exposes and the insights become less and less penetrating - one wonde...more
Mike
Apr 28, 2012 Mike rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in american history, the fbi, civil liberties
I got this book through a goodreads giveaway; that didn't affect my opinion.

Excellent, well-sourced work of relatively (can't expect total) impartial scholarship covering the history of the FBI, focusing on the Bureau as an intelligence organization (if you're interested in crime fighting, the mob, Waco, etc., you'll be disappointed). A tale of utter incompetence, constant leaks, constitutional infringements, blackmail, political infighting and abuses, miscommunication, petty jealousies, and que...more
David
Dryly factual. Five stars for the overwhelmingly interesting facts, one star for the dry writing style which rarely goes into sufficient detail in its rush to recount large events often taking up large swaths of time. Of course, the detail I'm looking for would at least triple the length of the book, so you may disagree. The writing style would certainly make me hesitant to read three times the pages.

This book should be read by all Americans despite the intelligence-report style of writing. This...more
Justin Evans
There's not much to see here: a one-damn-thing-after-another journalistic history, which makes no effort whatsoever to explain the events that it's relating. No doubt if you can simply accept and embrace that, you could find it vaguely interesting.

Weiner has a major advantage here, compared to his CIA history, which was so sprawling and unfocused that I sometimes wondered if he'd bothered to edit it at all: the FBI, for a long time, can be told as the story of J. Edgar. Of course, that story ha...more
Maitrey
I rarely read American history. I've to confess, I like more of Ancient and Medieval history which rules American history out, but who doesn't like spies and the cloak and dagger world of espionage eh?

Enemies is a history of 20th Century America I could say. I only knew the FBI as an elite law enforcement agency, but Enemies really opened my eyes to a wholly different FBI.

Tim Weiner is a New York Times journalist whose previous book is a Pulitzer Prize winning history of the CIA (and next on my...more
Alisa
The history of the FBI from its inception up to the early days of President Obama's first term in office. The FBI is an institution cloaked in secrecy and mystique, not all good, in the eyes of many Americans. What is great about how this author writes and approaches his subject is to dig deep into the details, line them up so that the facts tell the story all while drawing together disparate parts and weaving together relevant pieces to lay the story all out there. Victories to missed opportuni...more
Zohar - ManOfLaBook.com
Ene­mies: A His­tory of the FBI by Tim Weiner is a non-fiction book which tells of the 100 year his­tory of the famous orga­ni­za­tion. Mr. Weiner is a Pulitzer Prize win­ning author and a for­mer New York Times reporter who wrote largely about Amer­i­can secu­rity.

The book is divided into four parts: Spies and Sabo­teurs, World War, Cold War and War on Ter­ror. Each part spot­lights on the main focus of the FBI dur­ing those times from Com­mu­nism, to spies to polit­i­cal espi­onage and terrori...more
Mark Mortensen
Few authors would feel qualified to tackle a historical account of the FBI, but Tim Weiner had the qualifications and put forth an unbiased account. The overwhelming theme of the book follows’ Alexander Hamilton’s quote “To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free”.

From its origin in the early 20th Century to present the FBI in its effort to protect America has accumulated and maintained vast files of personal information on Communists, mobsters and others...more
Richard Fox
Most of the reviews are quite good at Describing the main thrust of the book. So, I will be content to render my general opinion. Having also read Time Weiner's previous History of the CIA, I was struck by the thoroughness of the FBI's counterespionage efforts - many of which were illegal or of questionable legality - compared with the CIA's woeful record. Perhaps the most impressive realization I came away with was how, in this age of ?the War on Terror, so many of the Strategies and tactics pi...more
Chris
One of the greatest take-aways from this book is how we as Americans have failed in our responses to dissent. Rather than appreciating that we have the freedom of dissent, we've in all cases attempted to crush it. Attempting to silence one's enemies almost always backfires. J. Edgar Hoover's obsession with stamping out Communism, a passion he shared with several presidents, was a colossal waste of resources and lives, and created an atmosphere of distrust and a lack of faith in a nation that was...more
Sam Bruskin
This thing blazes along, (the Fire I smelt smoldering in the Smoke of Leo daCappo's JEH {or is it smoke that smolders?}); even more furiously than TW's CIA Legacy. It's really well-done History, with lots of trails to follow. Enormously useful for researching my own project, where i set the early '50's as the centerpiece, and has had me revise just who is the main character in a period where everyone seems to be: The Wild West of the Cold War, with mushroom clouds making bigger and bigger booms...more
Shaun
This book is not as much a comprehensive review on the history of the FBI as the title might suggest. It's more of a biography of J. Edgar Hoover and his interactions with the Presidents and the Attorneys General of his time with an elongated addendum of what happened after he died. This makes sense considering the book was created after a declassification of quite a bit of confidential documents made during Hoover's time. It's still an interesting read nonetheless, especially if you are interes...more
Becky
A fascinating account of the FBI that extends 1917 to present time. Weiner chronicles J. Edgar Hoover's administration until his death, accounting his many attempts to illegally circumvent the Constitution with illegal wiretaps, bag jobs, secret enemy lists and other illegal techniques on countless Americans. I found it mind boggling that Hoover held such sway over FDR, Truman, Eisenhower and the Kennedy's. But one must look at his actions in context of the times and the events that were occurri...more
Max
Why is it so hard for the United States to have an effective intelligence service and achieve a reasonable balance between individual rights and national security? Weiner’s history of the FBI had me asking that question and the likely answers were not comforting. Ever since 1917 when the Red Threat arose and J. Edgar Hoover joined what would become the FBI, abuse of power and confusion have been the hallmarks of the FBI. Hoover’s need to keep tight personal control meant the FBI was never proper...more
Book
Enemies: A History of the FBI by Tim Weiner

"Enemies: A History of the FBI" is an encyclopedic and fair and even-handed chronicle of the first 100 years of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as a secret intelligence service. Pulitzer prize-winning author and correspondent Tim Weiner provides the public with a superbly researched account of the agency's conflict over its conduct of secret intelligence in an open democracy. Weiner makes revelations that can only result from exhaustive and in...more
Alan Zabel
Excellent book! At first, it's a bit intimidating since there is so much information. The best way to approach it is as a compelling story, without worrying about how much of the detail you can remember. Of course, you can also treat it as a history textbook and return to it time and again to learn more and more of this fascinating history.
Nelson Cardozo
Antes de leer Legado de cenizas, este fue el primer libro en caer en mis manos pero la razón para leer fue la película de Edgar Hoover que había visto así que esperaba alguna especie de elogios al FBI por su avance en la crimimalistica. Todo lo contrario y aun mejor fue leer este libro.

Cuenta detalladamente aquellas hazañas de un funcionario todopoderoso que legó una institución que hasta el día de hoy no encuentra su lugar adecuado en el mundo de la inteligencia; cuando lleguen a la parte del W...more
Skuli Saeland
Mér fannst bæði fróðlegt og gaman að hlusta á þessa hljóðbók um starfsemi FBI eftir Tim Weiner. Upphafsár og starfsemi bandarísku alríkislögreglunnar undir stjórn J. Edgars Hoovers er ævintýri líkust. Bæði hvernig hann mótaði hana eftir sínu höfði og gerði hana að ríki í ríkinu.
Hann beitti sér miskunnarlaust gegn þeim forsetaframbjóðendum sem hann taldi ekki þess verða að setjast í forsetastólinn. Njósnaði takmarkalítið og faldi upplýsingar fyrir þeim sem voguðu sér að reyna að rannsaka starfse...more
Louis
Enemies: A History of the FBI chronicles the history of the FBI from the beginning to its present. This book spends a substantial amount of time on J Edgar Hoover, the first and longest-serving director. Hoover’s legacy remains complicated: he had a lot to do with professionalizing the FBI and making an effective law-enforcement agency. However, Hoover also egregiously abused his power, overseeing a large number of operations that he knew to be illegal.

One of the more striking features of this...more
Emily
So I'm kind of perplexed why this guy keeps winning literary awards! His books are SO BORING. They just seem like endless strings of facts. Not fun anecdotes just a very, very dry retelling of the mess that one would call the FBI. I'm really into that show The Americans - and its a great look at the FBI counterintel unit as they fight Russian spys that are under deep cover in Washington D.C. in the early 80s. So the FBI intrigues me! But I will say, reading this book makes me very depressed abou...more
Joseph
An entertaining and thorough book that details the history of the intelligence division of the FBI. (Its crime-fighting function is basically glossed over.) It does not rise to the level of its predecessor, *Legacy of Ashes*, but is still a worthy book. The narrator goes out of his way to be fairer to J Edgar Hoover than history has generally been, but the main still comes off like a proper villain, brilliant and complex and ultimately destructive in a way that few literary villains ever manage...more
Heather
As a child of the 90′s, I’m well aware that there are large gaps in my 20th century history knowledge. I’m not sure if my high school American history experience is typical of others from my generation, but I remember spending entire quarters on the Revolutionary War and The Civil War, but barely two or three weeks on 20th century history (and by the time I was actually in high school the 21st century had begun). So I knew there were very large gaps in my knowledge, but I was surprised to find o...more
C.J. Prince
Be ready to set aside a few hours because this book is dense with dates and facts for 537 pages. However, it is so well written that when you want to skip ahead, you might find it hard to do.

I heard Tim Weiner interviewed by Jon Steward (http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon... was intrigued by the history of the United States through this lens. So, I recommended it to my book group. Guess who gets to facilitate it? Right. (I'm sure I'll have more comments after our meeting in May.)

J. Edgar Hoov...more
Steve Smits
Our republic has faced external and internal threats since nearly its beginning. A critical challenge for our system of government in dealing with these real or perceived threats is whether we can address them while maintaining the individual liberties guaranteed by the constitution -- liberties which without question impede the range of responses government may use to respond.

Sadly, we fail time after time. From the Alien and Seditions laws of the 1790's to imprisonment of dissenters in WWI and...more
Eric Wallace
Confession: I wouldn't normally pick a "history" book like this one... but who can resist a good spy-thriller exposé?

Showing clear evidence of some serious research on the author's part, Tim Weiner has written an instant-gratification story for the impatient reader: he skips past boring details and gets right to the good dirt of backstabbing, law-breaking, and history-making from the insider view. There's plenty of shocking content from presidents you'd never expect to be so sleazy to laws which...more
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159090
Tim Weiner has been a reported for the New York Times since 1993 as a foreign correspondent in Mexico and as a national security correspondent in Washington, DC. He won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting as an investigative reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer for his articles on the black budget spending at the Pentagon and the CIA.
More about Tim Weiner...
Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA Betrayal: The Story of Aldrich Ames, an American Spy Blank Check: The Pentagon's Black Budget

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“[Re: J. Edgar Hoover] His knowledge was enormous, though his mind was narrow.” 0 likes
“The answer was Stellar Wind. The NSA would eavesdrop freely against Americans and aliens in the United States without probable cause or search warrants. It would mine and assay the electronic records of millions of telephone conversations—both callers and receivers—and the subject lines of e-mails, including names and Internet addresses. Then it would send the refined intelligence to the Bureau for action. Stellar Wind resurrected Cold War tactics with twenty-first-century technology. It let the FBI work with the NSA outside of the limits of the law. As Cheney knew from his days at the White House in the wake of Watergate, the NSA and the FBI had worked that way up until 1972, when the Supreme Court unanimously outlawed warrantless wiretaps. Stellar Wind blew past the Supreme Court on the authority of a dubious opinion sent to the White House the week that the Patriot Act became law. It came from John Yoo, a thirty-four-year-old lawyer in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel who had clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas. Yoo wrote that the Constitution’s protections against warrantless searches and seizures did not apply to military operations in the United States. The NSA was a military agency; Congress had authorized Bush to use military force; therefore he had the power to use the NSA against anyone anywhere in America. The president was “free from the constraints of the Fourth Amendment,” Yoo wrote. So the FBI would be free as well.” 0 likes
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