The Human Factor: Inside the CIA's Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture
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The Human Factor: Inside the CIA's Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture

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3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  116 ratings  ·  19 reviews
American Presidents make decisions on war unaware that the human source intelligence provided by the CIA is often false or nonexistent. From Harry Truman during the Korean War to George Bush during the War on Terror, modern Presidents have faced their darkest moments as a result of poor intelligence. The CIA has assured Congress & the President that intelligence progra...more
Hardcover, 1st, 395 pages
Published July 1st 2008 by Encounter Books (NYC/London)
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Bryan
This was an excellent book. I can never read books very fast due to work and family schedule and finished this in three days. Mr. Jones details his frustrating experience navigating the beuracracy of the CIA as a case officer living overseas under non-official cover. It was an extremely interesting look into a side of one of the most secretive government agencies. At the end, he also details his suggestions on how to fix the problems he identified. You truly get a sense that his superiors were n...more
Sarah (Tail-Kinker)
I borrowed this from my boss when he mentioned it in one of our weekly meetings.

Although you must read this with a grain of salt, as it is unauthorized by the CIA, I also believe there are some underlying truths here.

It chronicles the career of one CIA case officer working to find human intelligence sources and along the way points out the many frustrations a deep cover CIA agent may face when confronted by a bloated bureaucracy.

The author says he tried to get the CIA to authorize it by having...more
John
Not an honest portrayal. Most of the events are probably true, but his version of events is too self-serving. He has some good points - the IC, presumably including the clandestine service, is encumbered by excessive bureaucracy. Some leaders are on ego trips, or put turf ahead of mission. I seriously doubt, however that they make up the majority. Overall I got the impression of someone with a martyr complex who doesn't take direction well, pouts when he doesn't get his way, and isn't as smart a...more
Paul
Ishmael Jones is a pseudonym. The author was a CIA agent for 15 years who spent his career in Europe and the Middle East, and was able to avoid the dead and dreaded HQ assignments. The book is his autobiography as well as his criticism of the CIA.

Jones is sharply and rightfully critical of the layers of CIA bureaucracy required to make decisions, layers which impede decision making and action required for the agents in the field. He's also critical of most of the DCI's under whom he served, suc...more
Joshua
Pretty damning book. Does not paint the Agency in a positive light at all. Probably why it's an unauthorized publication written under a pseudonym. It's just mind blowing the level of wasteful bureaucracy, mismanagement, and incompetent boobs who have inferiority complexes. Thousands of lives have been lost needlessly directly and indirectly because of this agency, alleges the author. Worst of all, is his accusation that the Intel the CIA presented President Bush on Iraq was completely made up....more
Sarah
I do this a lot. I read a book and while I usually understand and appreciate the message intended by the author, my brain often goes off on strange tangents and I wind up contemplating the content of the book from some odd, arguably disconnected angle.

So here we go again. Yes, yes- the CIA is ridiculous and wasteful and frustrating for its employees and United States citizens alike. The crumbling organization throws billions of dollars at problems that don’t exist, contributes approximately zer...more
Chris Wood
Jones offers a rather in depth perspective on an organization that prides itself on anonymity. Attempting to expose many of the bureaucratic layers that create risk aversion and overall lethargy, he describes numerous experiences in which his zeal for the mission was held at bay by the very organization that had created the mission. This sobering discussion dispels much of the myth that the Agency has needed every post 9/11 dollar in order to combat terrorism abroad.

Jones traces the course of hi...more
Howard Olsen
one of the better "I was a CIA agent and this is what's wrong with American intelligence" books out there. Jones tells a familiar tale of bureaucratic waste and inefficiency at the CIA, one of many American institutions that have simply stopped functioning. Jones writes, not just of wasted money or intelligence opportunities, but also wasted lives. It is not uncommon for CIA employees to spend years preparing for a foreign posting, and then spend a few months abroad before being brought back to...more
Zbhall
Unsure what to think of its accuracy since it was unauthorized. But it was a very interesting read even if only parts are true. I wonder how much has changed since Mr. Jones has left.
Jared
Enjoyable read, though there were more than a few places where the truth of Ishmael's circumstances were exaggerated or dramatized for the sake of the book. I share his views with regard to the self-serving corporate entity that the US intelligence has morphed into over the years. PowerPoint and briefing skills have replaced fieldcraft and experience as the tools of the trade. If taken for it's finer points, this is a compelling read for anyone who is concerned about the subject.
Erik Graff
Jun 03, 2013 Erik Graff rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: American citizens
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: biography
Ishmael Jones, a pseudonym for a retired CIA operative, has written a professional autobiography which excoriates the Agency and calls for its radical reform, if not abolishment. Unlike many other such memoirists, "Jones" appears quite comfortable with the dark dealings of covert operatives, he just thinks such work could be much more aggressive and efficacious. Interestingly, the FBI comes off well, compared to the CIA, in his book.
Dave


An interesting read and some good points are made but most of the book comes across as Mr. Jones saying he was the greatest spy ever and was the only one trying to serve his country while everyone else was incompetent and just collecting a paycheck. It got old hearing him toot his own horn so often.
David
An important book. Eye-opening for those who still think CIA accomplishes much of anything other than rack up expenses. Book emphasizes the high quality of people serving, how they are failed by "leadership" that is risk averse and clueless about life in the field.
Todd
This is a great explanation for how the CIA could have what amounts to an unlimited budget and unchecked power and still fail at its most important tasks again and again. Sadly, the book makes perfect sense.
Speed
I can't say this book was 'informative' exactly. It's a bit depressing actually. It provides a perspective on an organization that many of us don't know how to think about.
Jared
While the story was a great one that needed to be told there were times that the delivery was slow and my interest waned. All in all a good message about dysfunction in the CIA.
Ethan
An excellent book on organisational dysfunction and perverse incentives in the intelligence world. Answers the question of why the CIA is bad at HUMINT.
Rick
An eye openning tale. I now have a better feel about the CIA culture
Maeghan
Maeghan marked it as to-read
Jun 23, 2014
Maureen
Maureen marked it as to-read
Jun 06, 2014
Intrepid86
Intrepid86 marked it as to-read
May 19, 2014
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