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Killer Elite: The Inside Story of America's Most Secret Special Operations Team

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  1,387 ratings  ·  62 reviews
A top-secret U.S. Army Special Operations unit has been running covert missions all over the world, from leading death squads to the hideout of drug baron Pablo Escobar to assassinating key al Qaeda members, including Iraqi leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and, in one of their greatest missions, capturing Saddam Hussein. 'The Activity," as it became known to insiders, has a
Hardcover, First Edition (U.S.), 342 pages
Published March 6th 2007 by St. Martin's Press (first published February 2006)
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Mike (the Paladin)
Nov 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
It is often (confidently) stated that the modern CIA grew out of the WW2 OSS. That is true so far as it goes but since the CIA's actual inception it has lived with a sort of split personality. The OSI was a direct action "group" that was directly involved in sabotage, infiltration, combat and even assassination. Historically the role of the CIA has been seen as more a "primarily" intelligence gathering organization. That is however only part of the story.

There has always been a "directive" in th
Bob Mayer
Apr 08, 2018 rated it liked it
There are a lot of books out about Special Operations. This one focuses on the ISA-- Intelligence Support Activity. I recall this unit having a lot of different code names over the years and they recruited widely from not only in the regular Special Ops ranks but for specialties outside, such as unique languages.

The book is good, but not the definitive source. The fact is that very few people know the real truth of how things went down. While the ISA was certainly involved in a lot of the missi
Feb 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
I first heard about this book in the footnotes of Kill Bin Laden: A Delta Force Commander's Account of the Hunt for the World's Most Wanted Man and foolishly assumed that the book was about Delta Force.

This was a very good, very interesting, but very dry account of a largely unknown US special operations unit. The title makes the lay reader think this an action-packed account of "top-secret"(what else?) Hollywood-style Special Forces missions to track and kill terrorists all over the world. So d
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, war, politics
This covered way too much territory to have anything resembling a coherent narrative, but it was still extremely interesting and full of information. I’ve already read a lot on most of what he covers in this book so the jumps in geography and decades didn’t make me dizzy.

If you take anything away from this it should be that our military elite in the USA are the worst elite class we have, and we have some fairly shitty people running things. Our generals are incapable of learning anything from hi
Kristian Reinertsen
Jul 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
A dry read but I'd not expected nothing else. Killer Elite delivered what I didn't expect it would: inside information on a world the regular citizen won't ever see.

I liked the wealth of detail and explanations of how world events, political decisions and technological advances affected The Activity and the methods it employed in the field. Sadly, I wasn't up to par on all the linguo and designations, which left me confused at times. But that's not something I can chalk up to the book itself.

Daniel Frank
May 16, 2015 rated it it was ok
This book was a bit dry for my tastes, probably just due to its very nature. While it covered the general "who" and "what" of the Activity, it left absent most of the "how". There was no exciting tales or intricate details of trade, but instead a lot of vaguery amidst historical events. Most of the book doesn't even really talk about the Activity, but about other special operations teams and what events they were involved in and successes they achieved.
Dylan G
Mar 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Didn't really like the book in the beginning but the middle to the end was very good It had much more action in it, Good book for people who like Army, U.S Military kind of books
Liam S.
Mar 12, 2020 rated it liked it
This book was decent. It was very slow and rather boring towards the beginning. As I went on, I felt miserable reading it. I knew some parts of it were good as I kept reading, so I pushed myself to stick to the book. Eventually, it started getting actually really good. I started to enjoy it much more than before, considering I got to read about the takedown of Bin Laden. That was probably the most exciting part of the book, as the other teams featured in the book I didn't recognize whatsoever. A ...more
Patty Hope
Jan 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Although skipping through several decades and distant global counter-terrorism operations, discerning that the truest enemy lay within our own traditional military hierarchy was disturbing. From the final chapter, The Activity and other special operations forces, such as Delta and Dev Gru, appear to be well supported and established and flourishing globally ; and hopefully, they will continue to remain immune from political winds.
Kym Robinson
I never could really get into this book. It covers an interesting area and I found it to be more generic than cutting edge as nothing inside was really revealing to those who had read this subject matter.

It is however a quick read and however much truth is found inside one will be entertained all the same.

35 %
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Incredible insight into the history of the United States Army Intelligence Support Activity. Think of them as the military's version of the CIA, albeit with less oversight and more capabilities. A wonderful read if you're interested in how politics plays into military operations, as well a the bureaucracy of rivalries between different special operations forces.

Michael Smith has truly pulled back the curtain on one of the most secretive units in the American military and gives it context for ho
Erik Sapp
Sep 29, 2019 rated it did not like it
I love reading about SpecOps so thought this book would be just what I wanted. And maybe if it had been about the ISA, I would have enjoyed it. But there is no real substance to this book. The author says the ISA was involved with all these different things, but what did they actually do? There is nothing about how they did their jobs, or really how they are even selected. Given the number of books that do exist about SpecOps, you can't even say the author had to be vague for security reasons. T ...more
Johann Lilly
Apr 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Provides an introduction to FOG, SOG, SAD, SMU, ISA, and, FID, the focus of which is the ISA through 2015. The ISA has gone by many name: Intelligence Support Activity or Mission Support Activity, and nicknamed The Activity, Task Force Orange, the Army of Northern Virginia, or Office of Military Support (formerly Gray Fox).

Generally speaking, the Activity gathers intelligence while Delta and DEVGRU finds, fixes, and finishes. It is claimed that ISA selection is more physically difficult than tha
Brian Anderson
Dec 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not a shoot em up book but very interesting

If you're looking for a door kicking, shoot em up book this is not it, however, if you ever been in the military or even know anybody that's been in the military this book will make your hair stand on end . It shows the ineptness of our government and our most senior military leaders. It should make you shiver in fear for our military, at least now they figured out what we need to do to defeat our enemies. Every time our military had a bad guy in their
Esequiel Contreras Jr

I enjoy and love most of what I finish reading. This book is one of the few in which I could actually say kept me up into the wee hours of the night or up early mornings before work. I truly enjoyed every chapter and look forward to continued learning.

Zeke Contreras
San Antonio, Texas

May 2017
Don Brunell
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I never expected this story would reach the public

This is an incredible book about an incredible group. The Activity truly is at the very point of the spear. They manage to conduct intelligence in places must of us think as completely denied. If it was not for the Activity our special mission units would not have the intel to be successful.
Robert L Dixon
Sep 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Couldn't put it down

Very good job providing the history of our special ops hero's over the past 30 plus years. Gripping and informative! I now understand that there is many things that we will never hear about.
Ra Fe
Jul 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Smith provides an incredibly detailed history of the "Activity" from inception through Afghanistan. Written (documented) in a style allowing the reader to nearly participate in the journey of spec ops reorganizations, distrust, successes, and ops models that finally allowed the Activities operators and knob turners to get the jobs done. Smith provides a richly footnoted and detailed accounting and it is one that I was appreciative of reading. Recommended.
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Interesting, well written and informative. The excess of episodes is boring at times. Fewer episodes would have sufficed.
A pity that with all their power and tech the Americans never managed to capture a terrorist leader. A bit like a bull in a china shop.
May 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I loved the way the author gave the reader a behind the scenes version of all the operations that were in this book.
Michael Robinson
Dec 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Good synopsis of the conception and history of a very unique intelligence support unit. A little dry at times but the book is good overall.
Jun 29, 2017 rated it did not like it
too many trivial details, boring to read
Chad Wichmann
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Counter terrorism requires intelligence, technology, and mission competency - our special forces have made tremendous strides. The war on terror is in good hands...
David Maynor
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favorite history of a unit book.
James Wood
Dec 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent read.

Gives a real insight into the role of the special services and there struggle to get fully operational in the fight against terrorism.
Christopher Hedges
Sep 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Military aficionados and historians, or researchers looking to add detail to military fiction
Two things: this was a dry read, and it wasn't truly about the hunting down of Osama Bin Laden. I anticipated the book being a dry read, but I was using it as a reference book for another project. So that really was a moot point for me. As for critics who bought the book expecting adventure and violence, I think you should take their negative reviews with a grain of salt because they're attacking the book's positioning more so than the content. They read into the title and made an assumption as ...more
Oct 14, 2014 rated it did not like it
Poorly edited, poorly constructed, and poorly written. Instead of reading this book, please read the following--

For SOF Missions..
in Latin America during the 1980s and 1990s: Killing Pablo by Mark Bowden
in the Horn of Africa/Somalia: Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden
in the Middle East and the Balkans in the 1990s: Masters of Chaos by Linda Robinson
in Afghanistan at the beginning of the War: First In by Gary Shroen or Jawbreaker by Gary Bentsen
in Afghanistan during the "middle" of the war: Lone Sur
Jul 28, 2008 rated it liked it
"Killer Elite" is about the history of "The Activity" which is a special operations intelligence unit. The Activity was created to provide actionable intelligence for other special operations forces around the world. As with other books about SOFs, a lot of the material is devoted to the institutional barriers that have limited the use of this group, and the general mistrust of special operation forces by conventional military leadership. Most of the books appears to be derived from a "top secre ...more
Jul 16, 2009 rated it liked it
Pretty good. The author sheds light on a little known unit which provides on the ground intelligence to special forces units.

Similar to other "unit" based books, the author presents the units success' as being stand alone with little support from other groups (or often in spite of other groups in the govt/military while failures are the fault of someone else (most often the sr. leadership who is too risk averse). The author may have a point, but the black/white presentation often sounds a littl
Aug 09, 2016 rated it it was ok
A terrible book written by a journalist that summarizes history. It covers the periods that are the most general interest/marketable. There are summaries of actions in Iran South America Bosnia etc. By the time this book was published half of these operations were covered in better more detailed works. I gave up after the introduction which provided no unique perspectives. After stating the special forces needs to win hearts and mind the type of book became obvious. Anyone with actual knowledge ...more
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There is more than one Michael Smith in the database.

Michael Smith is a British author and screenwriter who specializes in spies and espionage.

Source: Wikipedia.

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Author and illustrator Alice Oseman is known to her long-time fans for her young adult novels about—as she calls them—"teenage disasters," start...
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“any country which failed to live up to its international responsibilities and allowed terrorists to use its territory was likely to be a target of US special operations forces. “Those responsibilities include the requirement to stop terrorism within its borders,” O’Connell said. “And if you can’t do that as a sovereign nation, you can expect the United States to have to respond.” 0 likes
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