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500 Days: Decisions and Deceptions in the Shadow of 9/11

4.06  ·  Rating Details  ·  835 Ratings  ·  108 Reviews
Kurt Eichenwald--"New York Times" bestselling author of "Conspiracy of Fools "and "The Informant"--recounts the first 500 days after 9/11 in a comprehensive, fly on the wall, compelling page-turner as gripping as any thriller.In "500 Days, "master chronicler Kurt Eichenwald lays bare the harrowing decisions, deceptions, and delusions of the eighteen months that changed the ...more
Hardcover, 640 pages
Published September 4th 2012 by Simon & Schuster (first published January 1st 2012)
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Apr 26, 2016 Matt rated it liked it
Back in September 2001, I was still in college, and my societal consciousness was – to put it kindly – undeveloped. Like most college students, I was most interested in my own existence. And in getting drunk. On September 11, and on the following days, I was glued to CNN along with the rest of humanity. After awhile, though, I stopped paying attention, and went on about my life. This is the luxury of tragedy’s spectators. Certainly, I often heard the news droning in the background, but I never s ...more
Dec 09, 2012 Andrew rated it really liked it
The first 500 days after 9/11/2001 could have gone in multiple directions. We could have leveraged the tragedy to reconsider how we engage with the Arab world. We could have used 9/11 as an opportunity to re-evaluate how we monitor and take on threats. We could have used it as an opening to engage deeply into a mideast peace process.

This book is about the path that was was taken instead, a path that was very different from the options above. Instead, we invaded Iraq and instituted torture in int
Aug 07, 2014 Jason rated it liked it
As crazy and/or sick as this may sound, I wish I could go back to the late summer/early fall of 2001. I want to experience it now - again knowing what time and history has shown us. Since time travel is impossible this book is the closest we'll ever get to re-experiencing the entire panorama of it all from that fateful sunny, clear Tuesday morn in September through the Anthrax attacks of that fall up to the Guantanamo Bay scandals - even up to the precursor to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a war th ...more
Jean-Paul Adriaansen
Jun 24, 2012 Jean-Paul Adriaansen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
I wish this was fiction, so that I did not have to believe what I read. The account of what happened in the 500 days after 09/11 is mind blowing, harrowing, even surreal, and so not according to what the USA stands for. In spite of the honest, decent work of thousands of Americans in the war on terror, this is a story about incompetence, arrogance, and jealousy on the highest levels in American politics. When the USA rejects universal agreements, when American jurists are searching for the legal ...more
Mikey B.
Mar 05, 2013 Mikey B. rated it it was amazing
Page 342 (my book) Robert Douman (judge)

“We must protect the freedoms of even those who hate us and that we may find objectionable. The warlords of Afghanistan may have been in the business of pillage and plunder. We cannot descend to their standards without debasing ourselves.”

I have read a few books on the Bush presidency and the aftermath of 9/11. This is quite possibly the best one. It gives a broad view of events in the U.S., Europe, and to a lesser extent Afghanistan and Pakistan. It also
Oct 09, 2012 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm halfway through this book and it is a page turner. It is definitely on my list of books that I will read twice. Only a very few books get that rating from me.

I will read it twice because in my first reading, done in record time, I am sure to have missed some nuances. This is a great book for any reader that wants to understand how the top level leadership and mid level leadership got us to where we are today.

There are heroes and incompetents that formed the response to 9/11, but they are n
Oct 26, 2012 Wanda rated it it was amazing
A NYT review prompted me to read this fascinating and depressing book. There were no specific jaw dropping revelations for me, as I have carefully read most of the legitimate news media accounts on the Bush administration and its near declaration of martial law in the post 9-11 years. To say that this bunch used the Constitution as toilet paper is to be generous.
The NYT reviewer opined that these were the years that an inexorable psychosis took hold of the Bush administration and he is right. T
Apr 30, 2013 Jerome rated it it was amazing
The title made me think this would be just another political rant, but this book is admirably balanced and never gets polemic. Eichenwald shows how the Bush administration struggled to find a proper balance between national security and legal rights. While it is all too easy to portray the Bush team as evil dictators hellbent on breaking laws, it is important to consider the context of the time period. After 9/11 NOBODY wanted to see another such terrorist attack happen without having done somet ...more
Christopher Rex
Nov 24, 2012 Christopher Rex rated it it was ok
This book's subtitle should NOT be called "Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars" (not sure why Goodreads says it is "Decisions & Deceptions in the Shadow of 9-11"). It should be "Stuff that Happened After 9-11....stuff you probably already knew if you're interested in this book in the first place."

I like Eichenwald. "Conspiracy of Fools" and "The Informant" were both good. This one is not so good. In fact, it's downright boring and dry in parts. Where "Informant" and "Conspiracy" moved with
Mar 25, 2013 Owen rated it really liked it
This is a spectacular piece of writing. Eichenwald blends a dozen or so storylines into a taut thriller that actually happened. A warning, though- this book will hurt you. Having lived through these events, and even been privileged to be a part of a late chapter in some, I had to put this book down more than a few times and just breathe. You know most of these stories: terrorists in the US, having been tracked by the CIA into the country, then left to wander as they pleased. You know about FBI a ...more
Uwe Hook
Feb 24, 2013 Uwe Hook rated it it was amazing
This book does a beautiful job of taking a very dark period of our history and laying bare the truth of how our leadership lost their way. It does a wonderful job of switching from key player to key player, world leader to world leader, as a group of misguided appointees hurtles the country towards a war we never needed and a war based on lies and faulty intelligence sculpted into something we wanted to believe. Mr Eichenwald is a masterful storyteller and has a unique way of taking fairly dry c ...more
Apr 29, 2013 Caroline rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
Despite being 500+ pages, this was a pretty quick read. Eichenwald has a very easy to read narrative style, which is both a strength and a weakness of the book (I find that narrative journalism often actually takes me OUT of the book, it can be distracting in non-fiction). Although there weren't any startling revelations, having a compact narrative of the post-9/11 Bush administration was a nice refresher on this nightmare, and should be a primer on how to NOT run the executive branch.
Jan 02, 2013 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
This book should be required reading for all is a meticulously researched history of the 500 days following 9/11. To say that the policy and legal choices made by our government in those days have had horrifying and long-lasting consequences may not really do justice to the situation created, but it should give all of us pause when we consider what was done in our name. The author did a masterful job of research and writing here.
Jun 02, 2013 Dinakar rated it really liked it
Excellent book with an enormous amount of detail of what actually went on behind the scenes. The relationship between the UK and the US though we know has had its moments, will be even enlightened more in this book.

Cannot help but think, people will do what they want to do without thinking of its validity, legality etc but with purely a 'get it done' subjective lens.
Martha Johnson
Aug 24, 2014 Martha Johnson rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I listened to this on tape and it took me across the great states of Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and ND. It's long.

It's very good. I learned a lot about the internal machinations of the post 9/11 moments. I always wondered about Tony Blair and this makes his story more clear.

There were some startling things for me -- not the least of which was the bumbling nature of things at Gitmo (unprepared interrogators and the incredible fight over tactics between CIA and FBI). It was valuable to g
Sep 08, 2013 Cathy rated it really liked it
This was an especially good read - so timely in light of what is going on in the world now (SYRIA) I highly recommend this book to anyone with any interest in what goes on in Washington - it is very good. It is a travesty what happened to so many innocent people -
Jan 04, 2016 Benjamin rated it really liked it
If you were aware of what was happening the United States and the countries it interacted with in the first years of this millennium, and you want to know more about who was doing what, especially within the administration and the people they affected, this is the right book for you. If you were born after 2001 and want perspective on the events, the book will be less good, but it is still well-written, well-researched, and balanced overall. Eichenwald says "you will find no heroes or villains w ...more
Gary Warth
This book manages to cover recent history we all know with surprising detail and with a narrative that often reads like an adventure novel.
It's disappointing to hear Ari Fletcher criticized Eichenwald for supposedly blaming Bush for 9/11 and comparing him to truthers. If anything, Eichenwald corrected some distorted and inaccurate facts that have been passed around by conspiracy theorist. He never asks the read to "connect the dots." He quotes CIA agents, FBI agents, politicians and other direct
Apr 27, 2014 Cameron rated it really liked it
I started reading this book after watching a movie (Lone Survivor) and thinking to myself that there isn't a reason worth sending our men and women into dangerous paths. The movie depicts the realities of war, and they are not pretty. After the movie we went to Barnes and Noble where I picked a copy of this book.

The author and is contributors obviously spent numerous hours compiling the necessary information to begin the tale. The focus in on the days following the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. and
Rose Be
Feb 06, 2013 Rose Be rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Politics geeks, the curious, Americans
Recommended to Rose by: The Daily Show
"Every aspect of the terror wars flowed from judgements made in little more than 500 days after 9/11-- 554 to be exact. Everything-- the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, warrantless wiretapping, detainee treatment, CIA tactics, and more-- could be traced to those eighteen months. What followed in the nearly six years afterward was little more than reactions to those early decisions." -xiii

What the hell happened after 9/11? How did we go from chasing terrorists to being bogged down in two countries
H Wesselius
Jan 27, 2013 H Wesselius rated it really liked it
There are problems with this book and one can waver between three and four stars halves not being an option here. Writing a day at a time results in several parallel stories with very few connections interrupting each other; a result which is initially irritating but once the reader becomes acclimatized it becomes manageable.

The two main strands of the story is the legalization of torture and the road to Iraq with rendition and strangely the anthrax attacks providing minor distractions. The boo
Jaclyn Day
Jan 02, 2013 Jaclyn Day rated it really liked it
The name of this book is a little misleading. It’s not so much a dissection of secrets and lies, so much as it is a seemingly full account of the 500 days after 9/11. According to the publisher description, Eichenwald had originally intended on writing a complete post-9/11 analysis of Bush’s presidency, but realized that many of the critical decisions and events that led to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were clustered in the first 500 days after 9/11.

It’s an extremely compelling nonfiction f
Aug 21, 2013 Randy rated it liked it
The book has an extraordinary amount of information in it, some of it expected, some not. The author claims he wanted to document all the events during the time period without making judgments, but this is not really possible unless he had recordings or written/approved “minutes” of meetings. So he could not and did not succeed in really doing that. In not all situations did he simply present the facts – sometimes there were added comments beyond the facts. As soon as he chose to accept hearsay ...more
Oct 25, 2013 Richard rated it really liked it
This huge book details what happened in our government and around the world on 9/11 and how the decisions were made in the months to follow.

Eichenwald writes nonfiction in an adrenaline-laced way that keeps you turning page after page. I couldn't get enough of this book. The information is incredible and straight forward. He explores what mistakes were made and how judgments were made.

I did not see anything partisan about this book. It's great to have this resource - all the War on Terror detail
Virginia Strukel
Oct 11, 2012 Virginia Strukel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2012
Very interesting factual based book written by same author as The Informant. Some surprises such as Jose Padilla stopped at O'Hare for customs declaration form filled out improperly, then questioned by agents from NY who already had a material witness subpoena signed by future US Attorney General Michael Mukasey, then a federal judge in NY, for grand jury testimony in NY in case he did not cooperate as a witness. Padilla requested to talk to his mother, then a lawyer, and told the agent he would ...more
Oct 22, 2013 Will rated it it was amazing
What an ominous and troubling book. Eichenwald brings us the darker and lesser-told version of events following al-Qaeda's deadliest attack against the United States.

Of course, we are privy to the struggles among Washington's most powerful leaders - Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld. But it is their insidious favoured advisors who make manifest the policies of rendition and unprovoked war. Following these influential and unfamiliar figures through the vast Washington wartime apparatus, Eichenwald sheds su
Aaron Shields
Oct 19, 2013 Aaron Shields rated it it was amazing
I get the liberal bent and the examples of interrogation that makes America look bad were hand picked and there was no balance whatsoever (then again maybe there was nothing noble going on within interrogation circles post 9/11) but the descriptions of stuff I had zero clue about was still incredible. One of the better researched books on post 9-11 events I've come across.

Seriously, is Ali Soufan the only one who has a clue how to effectively interrogate suspected Al-Qaeda guys? The disconnect
Feb 28, 2013 Geraldine rated it it was amazing
I always believed America was a moral country, that we were the best of the best and that we did not engage in horrific torture and that our government was incredibly open. This book has changed my mind.

I am appalled at the behavior of the leaders of our government after 9/11, particularly President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and those who served under them. I do understand the great need to protect Americans, but the United States did some dastardly things in order to save us.

To be plucked o
Dec 09, 2014 Junaid rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
This was a very readable book. It read like a novel, but it was very well researched, and included great endnotes (which gave me great ideas on other materials to read). Today the U.S. Senate released the Torture Report. Although I haven't read the report yet, the snippets of information I've gleaned from the news and from social media are most familiar to me, because Eichenwald covered them in his book.
Feb 25, 2013 Kimberly rated it liked it
Good review of the counter-terrorism efforts after 9/11 and decisions by the administration. Excellent behind the scenes look at Gitmo, the CIA, the Pentagon, and the White House and decisions they had to make. While the author is objective in his narrative of the events, I found his selection of the events to be biased and his initial surmise in the introduction to be somewhat incorrect...he seemed to believe that the terrorists held at Gitmo and the administration's dealings with them set the ...more
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