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See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War Against Terrorism
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See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War Against Terrorism

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  3,817 Ratings  ·  273 Reviews
In See No Evil, one of the CIA’s top field officers of the past quarter century recounts his career running agents in the back alleys of the Middle East. In the process, Robert Baer paints a chilling picture of how terrorism works on the inside and provides compelling evidence about how Washington politics sabotaged the CIA’s efforts to root out the world’s deadliest terro ...more
Hardcover, 0 pages
Published January 17th 2002 by Broadway Books (first published January 1st 2002)
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Tom Tabasco
Interesting bits of CIA spy reality, some great descriptions of exciting moments in the field, and some (outdated) insight into the real work of an American spy. I enjoyed the book and found it inspiring at times, but oh my, this book is a mess!

It's a mess from the point of view of the structure, that seems to follow the author's career chronologically, but it really doesn't (initially it does, but then later it becomes a description of his thoughts and investigations). Also, I found some parts
...more
Aaron Crossen
Jul 09, 2007 Aaron Crossen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
Revealing look at the decline of the CIA in the 80s and 90s through the eyes of an old-school operations officer, Bob Baer.

Baer argues - largely through firsthand experience - that the CIA, in the simplest terms possible, bowed to political pressure of all sorts, sent idiots overseas to collect intelligence, and basically forgot what its job was and how to do it. After the Cold War, the CIA - and thus, the US - has virtually no idea what was going on in the world. This almost complete lack of a
...more
Will Byrnes
Baer was a bona fide spook, a case officer placed in many of the hottest spots in the world. He is outraged at the failure of intelligence that allowed a 9/11 to happen, and goes into why it was possible for that to have occurred. Baer theorizes that there is indeed a strong relationship between Arafat, AL-Qaeda, Iranian fundamentalists and the other terrorist entities of the region. He talks about the massive decline in human intelligence (humint) as the US seemed to have mostly gotten out of t ...more
Sean Sullivan
For those of you who have seen Syriana, Clooney's character is allegedly based on Baer. But what I got out of this book was not the story of a good solider who believed in democracy and was thwarted by dark forces in Washington. Instead, I got the story of a C.I.A. cowboy who most likely did more harm than good in the region and was thwarted in his attempts at further meddling in the Middle East by the incompetence of the suits at Langley.

This books isn't Syriana. Its a memoir of one operatives
...more
Terence
The source book for George Clooney's Syriana. Baer's account is remarkable for revealing all that's wrong with the arrogant mind-set of a country that believes it has the right to interfere with the internal affairs of its neighbors.
Brian
Apr 19, 2009 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anyone who saw the movie "Syriana" has some idea of the book. Bob Baer is a solid voice of reason in our chaotic war on terror. And he has told it how he saw it on the ground. The deemphasis of solid, human-to-human intelligence has left the U.S. at it's weakest and September 11th only proved it. Bob Baer's excellent critique in this very brief memoir has layed open what the community was when he joined, and then how it devolved into what it is now.

I usually do not get off on political ax-grind
...more
Khalid
Dec 19, 2013 Khalid rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: research
What a great look behind the curtain of what the CIA has become. For years, the CIA was respected as an intelligence organization, but the transformation that Robert Baer presents of how it was emasculated by politicos and career analysts gives me a deeper understanding on why the CIA has not been able to operate as effectively as it did in the past. From Lebanon to Tajikistan, his account of an intelligence organization more interested in photographs rather than on ground human intelligence des ...more
Marius van Blerck
May 28, 2011 Marius van Blerck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent real-life narrative of life as a CIA operative in the decades leading to 9/11. You can't miss Bob Baer's message, since he repeats it so often, on the importance of on-the-ground operatives for intelligence, rather than relying on high-tech means alone. He also has interesting insights into the political correctness that paralysed the CIA after the Iran contra affair. I experienced this tale as an audiobook, superbly narrated by Sean Barrett. Man, is this Barrett guy good or what!
craige
Mar 20, 2007 craige rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I got this because I thought it would shed more light on the movie, Syriana. It did not at all. I'm still not sure how that movie was based on this book. But I still love both the movie and the book. The book is a real account of working with the CIA. Fascinating stuff. You have to read it fairly quickly because there are so many names to keep straight.
Connie
Jul 02, 2015 Connie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent book written by a former CIA agent who has been there. The thing I liked about his writing and his story is that he doesn't take himself too seriously, has a sense of humor, and does (did) his job very well.
Jim Crocker
Mar 07, 2012 Jim Crocker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
SEE NO EVIL—Robert Baer
I didn’t like this story at all, but I loved the book. Baer was “there.” Spent his life “there”—that being the place where none of us (most of us) would ever want to go. It’s the shadow world that resides behind the veil, where it all goes down, for real.

You see, it is my view that there is a movie that continually runs in our heads. It’s a narrative about how the world works, the way the stars align, how progress happens, how one gets from Point A to Point B and connects
...more
Henry C.
Jul 22, 2014 Henry C. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robert Baer has lived the real life of a CIA operative: sorties in former Soviet sattelites, covert operations in Lebanon, a restive and unsatisfying post in Paris. And, fortunately for readers, he has taken copious notes along the way.

I came across "See No Evil" _ part memoir, part lament _ after recently re-watching a movie it inspired, "Syriana." It is an entertaining, mole's eye view of the intelligence community. Baer takes you from his itinerant childhood in Europe and restless college da
...more
LVRichardson
Apr 24, 2015 LVRichardson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you think this administration (or any other in the past) knows what's going on in the world because it gets daily intel briefings from rafts of highly effective and disciplined informants and agents strategically placed worldwide, well think again. This book makes it clear that the schism between Washington DC and its intel community is worse today than it was even when this book was written 20 years ago. Our CIA personnel risk their own lives and the lives of countless others around the worl ...more
Andrew
Jun 15, 2014 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the best sources I've read regarding how CIA/NCS HUMINT operations actually work(ed in the 80s-90s). The book can get fairly inside baseball with the exacting attention to detail when it comes to familial and social connections of various terrorists, Mideast politicians/generals/sheikhs/imams/etc. and CIA-run agents in the theaters in which Baer operated, but the intertwining lines that Baer draws between all these figures (in order to illustrate his investigations into the 1983 Beirut em ...more
Tom Schulte
Feb 10, 2014 Tom Schulte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have seen and enjoyed Baer as a talking head on cable news. That got my interest and I came to see him as really not in the stereotypical spy mold when I read The Company We Keep: A Husband-and-Wife True-Life Spy Story. Here he really has a screed against the CIA and a leadership and gov't (NSC, especially) cowed by big business putting profit above national security. Incompetence is a real prominent thread: "...a headquarters staffed with officers [who] so badly misidentified the Chinese emba ...more
Randall Smith
The author of this book was the model for George Clooney’s character in Syriana. It was written in 2002 and details the author’s career in the CIA from 1976 to 1997. The author seems, at first glance, an unlikely person to become a spy. He barely graduated from Georgetown, and while there rode his motorcycle through the library during finals, rappelled down the Kennedy Center, and often flew to Aspen for extended weekends. He was a ski bum who had traveled a lot and had a facility for languages ...more
Jenny
Jun 22, 2015 Jenny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book for Tools of Statecraft, a course on the CIA. I couldn't put it down. Given his material, there are a lot of redactions. They subtract nothing. I encourage everyone to read this book. It's not just a memoir; it reads like a brilliantly crafted novel.

Side note: It is the real life inspiration for the movie Syriana. I know several people who did not follow the movie well until after they read this book.

Baer wrote on his real life investigation on the Beirut barracks bombing and h
...more
Ellis Amdur
Jan 16, 2015 Ellis Amdur rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Baer clearly shows that we - America - has been involved in a secret war with the radical edge of the Islamic world for many years.  This radical edge, is not a mere fringe, however.  It cuts deep, including the governments of many nations we do far too much business with.  This both ties our hands and corrupts many members of our own government - in both major political parties.  Baer writes an absolutely infuriating account of how under Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton, the CIA was gutted of human ...more
Greg
May 15, 2014 Greg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Baer does a good job keeping the reader on the edge of their seat as he recounts his decades long employment in the CIA. It's a very interesting read, especially in light of the NSA news coming out. When Baer first entered the CIA, they focused on human intelligence--contacts with people who had personal connections and knowledge of the goings-ons in the world. Baer says that this strategy changed over the years until US intelligence relied almost entirely on technology-gathered information.

Havi
...more
Catherine
Jun 07, 2014 Catherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great read - even if it's hard to miss that Robert has an axe to grind. He describes lost opportunities, poor follow through by networks and a lack of understanding in the potential of strategic intelligence.

Robert has personality and experience in his subject matter. His arguments are passionate and well reasoned. His belief is that if you under resource any objective it is destined to fail. Combine that with a management structure that doesn't really understand what is needed, intergovernmen
...more
Akshay
Apr 03, 2015 Akshay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent and raw, Mr. Baer takes the reader through the world of espionage and some of the darkest years of middle eastern history. The Lebanese conflict amply highlights failure of CIA and US administration in understanding the changing dynamics of new age warfare. It is no wonder that the political correctness and attempt to shove everything into ethical frames resulted in weakening of national security. Baer shows that the world beyond niceties need practical approach to secure the nations a ...more
Nathan
Sep 10, 2007 Nathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who watch the news but think it's all a tad hooey.
Shelves: biography, cia, history
Scary, frank, honest and intelligent. And quite likely right. Essential reading, with Imperial Hubris - two former CIA agents who are desperately trying to warn us of how direly we're screwing up, proving that the truest patriots are the people who question their government in times when it is most difficult to do so.

NC
Deepa
Aug 24, 2014 Deepa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting, and very intricate, although I didn't find it as shocking as the blurbs say it is. Needs a lot of your attention to grasp the truckloads or names of people and organizations that the author describes. However, it is a well - written memoir.
Noah
Aug 18, 2014 Noah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
CIA agent's memoir starts off promising, but then buries the reader with names and places, without providing much context or background for 70s/80s Middle East.
Ben
May 16, 2007 Ben rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Not great, not bad, just a typical DC memoir where people are more concerned with settling scores than telling a story. Keeping in the areas where the CIA redacted his book seemed especially petty.
Mom
Jan 26, 2017 Mom rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Disappointing and uninformative. This agent's vision appears to be limited and his bellicose instincts do not account for the larger picture. He seems to excuse Reagan's and the Bushs' treason and mendacity, respectively, despite the chaos that resulted in the Middle East, and frets over campaign contributions. I learned nothing from this book, unlike other documentaries on the period, except that the Middle East is complex and bitterness and anger prevail among on both sides of the world.
Steve
Jan 29, 2008 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Apply to the CIA.”

Those words, spoken by Robert Baer’s post-college roommate in the mid-1970s, were the beginning of his 20-year odyssey through the bowels of America’s intelligence apparatus. The son of an adventurous, impulsive mother, Baer traveled the world as a child and attended Georgetown University, ending up without any real clue as to what his career goals were. It’s ironic that Baer really joined the CIA, at least initially, almost as a goof. In time, as he states in his absorbing m
...more
Karen G
Feb 13, 2017 Karen G rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great Read

Biography, spy story and current events make for a fun read that really
piqued my interest to learn more about terrorism and government corruption.
Sarah Ewald
Nov 09, 2016 Sarah Ewald rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Didn't finish, sad to say. Interesting, button rather tedious reading.
William K.
Jan 21, 2017 William K. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very thorough account of what happens right under our noses.
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Langley suckers: See No Evil: A Book Review 1 7 Apr 28, 2013 06:26PM  
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ROBERT B. BAER is one of the most accomplished agents in CIA history, and a winner of the Career Intelligence Medal. He is the author of four New York Times bestsellers, including See No Evil—the basis for the acclaimed film Syriana, which earned George Clooney an Oscar for his portrayal of Baer. He is considered one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Middle East and frequently appears on ...more
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“It seems to me it's always the evil we refuse to see that does us the greatest harm.” 19 likes
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