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Enemies: A History of the FBI

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  2,290 Ratings  ·  334 Reviews
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

Enemies is the first definitive history of the FBI’s secre
Audio CD, 15 pages
Published February 14th 2012 by Random House Audio (first published January 1st 2012)
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Michael Finocchiaro
Tim Weiner's Enemies: A History of the FBI is an interesting book about the FBI's straddling the line between legal and illegal pursuit of criminals. The book spends a lot of time discussing the career and legacy of J Edgar Hoover dispelling myths (most evidence discounts the commonly held belief that he was a closeted homosexual) and describing in detail his relentless pursuit of power in his personal fight against Communism which colored most if not all of his tenure. There are some great, tim ...more
"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
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
May 11, 2017 marked it as maybe  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Rachel Maddow
May 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Oct 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 08, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book kept my husband and me entertained through a trip to Phillie and then to Michigan for Memorial Day. Considering recent news, many of the names mentioned at the end of the book are in the news again. Of course, the first half (or more) of the book involves J. Edgar Hoover. Much of the book, we've lived through. It was just a matter of dusting off the cobwebs.
Apr 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Upon finishing this book, my conclusion is that the history of the FBI can be boiled down to J. Edgar Hoover, warrantless wiretaps and black bag jobs (a phrase I learned that means breaking and entering for spying purposes). The FBI began it's life as the president's secret police force, then it branched into counter-intelligence during World War I. The scope of J. Edgar Hoover's power, and his willingness to abuse it, intimidated a string of presidents and attorneys general.

Hoover dies consider
Mark Mortensen
Apr 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: americana
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
Apr 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Tim Floyd
Feb 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a fascinating book! I was really disturbed at how much intelligence was floating around before the 9/11 attacks. Even as far back as the mid 1990s. I have a lot greater respect for the current director Robert Mueller. Mueller was essentially thrown in to the position right as the 9/11 attacks happened. His resolve to maintain a bureau of integrity and legality is quite impressive. In all Enemies was a tremendously informative book which was filled with all sorts of thrilling stories and det ...more
Bill Shannon
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
J. Edgar Hoover is the main character in this book, at least for the first 2/3rds, and if there was ever any question that Hoover is one of the most consequential people in American history, that question no longer exists in my mind. But the Hoover of the book surprised me: my mind's eye had always pictured Hoover as a Machiavellian, power-hungry manipulator: the Master of Whispers of the American government.

But the Hoover I read about is less a scheming Edward G. Robinson type, and more of a d
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This took me a while to read because it was a bit dry in spots, and I took some time this summer to slow down on my book reading (my news reading was at an all-time high, though!). But in the end, I enjoyed it quite a bit.

I'd love to pick the brains of current FBI agents and see what they think of J. Edgar Hoover. What a conundrum! He helped make the FBI as powerful as it is but wow, he did plenty of really shady and awful things.

I enjoyed the more modern history more than anything else becaus
Here's a quick summary of why you might want to read this: it's a well-researched and documented history of the FBI, including all the good and they bad, about Hoover in particular, but the good-bad stuff didn't end with him of course. Hoover led the FBI for 55 years (about 2/3 of its existence) and so there's a lot about him and his relationships with the many presidents who came and went over during his tenure. The last third of the book takes on the post-Hoover decades: how it slowly rose fro ...more
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not so much shocking revelation after revelation, but more threading together a long history where various things make sense as part of a whole.

If there are times when an American citizen might be disappointed in their country and the law, well, that's not really a surprise, is it?

It is still good to see that there are people who serve honorably, and times when the government does the right thing.

The book fills in a lot of blanks for things of which I had heard but did not know the intricacies.
Joe Boenzi
Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tim Weiner produced a thorough history of the FBI, working through a century of archival material (much of which has been restricted or secret until recently). By telling the history of the FBI, and particularly in his treatment of the agency's origins and development under J. Edgar Hoover (first director of the FBI), the author has given us a history of the USA during a century of transition from rural and WASP, to the turn of the 21st century as a multi-ethnic super-power. Where does Law and O ...more
Zohar -
May 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
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 terrorism.

Enemies: A Histor
Apr 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
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
Jul 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fic
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
Sam Bruskin
Jun 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Simon Bullock
Feb 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Enemies is a candid and shocking behind the curtain look at the USAs most shrouded clandestine organization. The chronology of the bureau from conception through to the war on terror is eye opening in scope and reach, as well as fascinating in detail. The are many reference from the past that would shake a reader in 2017 with its uncanny resemblance to our current trials and crisis. Enemies is a MANDATORY read for anybody of political interest and/or grapples with the ongoing debate of safety an ...more
M.G. Edwards
Jul 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Enemies” is a colorful tale of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from its humble beginnings in 1908 fighting organized crime to its recent involvement in the War on Terror. Based on a wealth of research, declassified documents and interviews, the book devotes many of its pages to the larger-than-life character of its first director, J. Edgar Hoover, who for half a century personified the FBI and left an indelible stamp on the agency housed in the Hoover Building in Washington, D.C.

I was comp
Feb 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nancy Oakes
as usual, this is a short review; for a somewhat longer post click here.

My many thanks to Random House for sending me a copy of this book. It is an eye-opening, well-researched and intelligently-constructed history of the FBI in its role as a "secret intelligence service." The book examines how the Bureau has long been operating outside of the rule of law -- "the foundation on which America was built", and offers its readers a look at the ongoing struggle between national security and civil libe
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
Richard Fox
Aug 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Tim Weiner reported for The New York Times for many years as a foreign correspondent and as a national security correspondent in Washington, DC. He has won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting and the National Book Award for LEGACY OF ASHES: The History of the CIA. His new book, out in July, is ONE MAN AGAINST THE WORLD: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon.
More about Tim Weiner...
“[Re: J. Edgar Hoover] His knowledge was enormous, though his mind was narrow.” 1 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.” 1 likes
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