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State of War: The Secret History of the C.I.A. and the Bush Administration

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  794 ratings  ·  70 reviews
With relentless media coverage, breathtaking events, and extraordinary congressional and independent investigations, it is hard to believe that we still might not know some of the most significant facts about the presidency of George W. Bush. Yet beneath the surface events of the Bush presidency lies a secret history -- a series of hidden events that makes a mockery of cur ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published January 5th 2006 by Free Press (first published January 1st 2006)
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Erik Graff
Sep 16, 2022 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
NYT national security expert James Risen's book traces the disastrous U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq through 2005 and the destructive roles played by neoconservatives and the Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld. ...more
Jerome Otte
A hastily written,breezy, and somewhat opinionated analysis of the CIA's role in the Bush administration's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but evenhanded for the most part, even though it paints the administration as naive, overly hawkish neocons. He also briefly sums up Clinton's counterterrorism policies and their failures. Very easy, snarky read. Also includes an interesting, very detailed account of Abu Zubaydah's capture. He also writes about the CIA-sponsored Iraqi paramilitary "Scorpions". ...more
Will Byrnes
Risen writes what he calls “a secret history of the CIA and the Bush administration, both before and after 9/11” (p 10)

P 3
The absence of effective management has been the defining characteristic of the Bush administration’s foreign policy and has allowed radical decisions to take effect rapidly with minimal review

Risen’s obvious sympathies cloud his judgment on occasion. In talking about Louis Freeh and his hostility towards Bill Clinton he takes Freeh’s self-justifying word for it that what he
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2018
Twelve years on from its original publication date, much of what Risen writes about here regarding the blatant abuses of power of the Bush administration and the role of the CIA in the lead-up to and during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (including egregious failures on various fronts) has become fairly public knowledge. Yet, these subjects remain very much relevant today and this book very much worth reading.
Steven Kaminski
This book goes back to how the Bush Administration acted and reacted to the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq invasion. But the more I read it the more I was sort of perturbed that Congress wasn't involved at all. Congress had no oversight which they are supposed to do, Congress didn't challenge anything about what the administration put forward and they didn't even call for any accountability. They just sort of were hands off said that the Bush administration owned this and let them screw it up.
The ad
Oct 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Reading this book some 8 years after it was published filled me with anger (again) about what was (and is) done in our country's collective name. Done without oversight; in fact, done with the deliberate intention of avoiding ANY oversight. There are no successes trumpeted by Risen and one can be certain given the egotistical and megalomaniac nature of the Bush Administration that any successes would have been "declassified" and brought forth then - or later. Instead, we remain in 2014 waiting f ...more
James Piper
Beacause I have read so much on this topic, much of it wasn't new, but a worth a read.

One thing you'll conclude is Cheney used the CIA, manipulated the CIA to support his conviction that the US had to invade Iraq. It's this type of warped thinking I find repulsive. Data picking to support a conclusion and not the other way around.

I'm amazed that everyone seems to think it was the CIA's fault. They became the scapegoat. Where they failed was not being more politically savy.
Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recomended to any liberty minded individual that wants to be enlightened to the corrupt geopolitical machinations that our government commits behind our backs.
Jul 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a good description about how the war in Iraq started and what a mess the whole thing was. Basically just a cesspool that is playing with people lives. The whole system is rotten to the core. ...more
Tony duncan
May 09, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, history, audio
An excellent even handed analysis of the CIA's role in the fight against Al Qaida, and the war in iraq. Mostly about the role in the Bush Amin. it does not spare the Clinton years.
This is just another confirmation of the lies and the manipulation that the Bush admin, especially Cheney and Rumsfeld, used to channel the CIA into a role of supporting admin policy rather than giving unvarnished intelligence.
It gives a good line of the progression from the initial policy decisions of the Administrat
Oct 06, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Difficult to read and follow because so many sources had to remain anonymous. Continously seeing the phrases "anonymous highly-placed source in the CIA" or "anonymous highly-placed source in the white house" or "anonymous high-level officer in the FBI" made the book clunky and more than a little tedious to read. The material was both enlightening and depressing as the 30 second sound bites from television news reports these last 7 years coalesced into a grand, cohesive web of power plays and dec ...more
After reading Risen's long piece in NYT about source protection and the political war on anonymous sources, I chose the most interesting-looking of his books to start with.

The book relies heavily on anonymous statements, as expected in an arena like this where losing one's job is would be the minimum consequence for speaking to a reporter about CIA operations in Afghanistan. However, his assertions seem to have met heavy criticism and opposition by other, more well-informed reviewers. I'm not a
Gregg Puluka
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good book and important read. Obviously a little dated since the war continued on during the Obama administration and the revalations from Snowden and other leakers. One should also read John Tenat's own account to gain some perspective. Another great book to supplement is Horse Soldiers which discusses the ground offensive in Afganistan and illuminates the CIA role within the broader context of the role in the war.

I do think the author sometimes oversimplifies the CIA role as a mouthpiece to th
Risen was Eric Lichtblau’s partner at NYT. Eric focused on the Justice system and law enforcement, Jim on intelligence. They were writing their books nearly at the same time. It seems from Eric’s book that Jim was a bit ahead. Eric’s very good 2007 book is Bush’s Law. This book came out in 2006.

Some of it was outdated in some ways just because he had the beginning of stories but it’s only 2006 so he didn’t know how they turned out yet. Like the stuff about tracking bin Laden and Pakistan. But t
David Ross
Jun 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Extremely concise and with a brisk paced narrative, this book examines the failures of the CIA, the Pentagon and the White House during the war in Iraq. It focuses on the main players in George Bush Jr's presidency with narratives created from unnamed sources from within government circles. Obviously with so much sensitive information, you can understand the lack of names attributed with each piece of the author's story but it's still not ideal. It is however, very fair in its assessments of peo ...more
Gary Boland
Jan 20, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobok
Not great. I got it to hear more about the mission to give 'fake' nuclear plans to Iran that went wrong in a carry-on fashion. Some interesting anecdotes but not a huge amount of background or detail on the many intelligence failures in the last 20 years ...more
Oct 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A story that is now common knowledge, but with hindsight rings even more true.
Arun Thulasidharan
Unbelivabke facts revelaed in a very shocking manner. If not for the occasional repeats, an amazing read.
Robin Case
Dull and dated.
Sep 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted more a history. This book focused only post 9/11.
Montana Goodman
Solid history of the Bush administration
Sharon Royle
Jul 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
A great review of recent history and how President Bush handled his presidency. Not an easy read but very informative!!!
Apr 21, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating topic, but too much reliance on unnamed sources. At times it seemed more like a super long newspaper article.
Paul Sande
Aug 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great background to the run up to the Iraq war. Hits all the key historical points and ties them together.
Chris DePoy
The Department of Justice has been cracking down on informants and has recently overturned a first amendment ruling that protected James Risen from disclosing his sources in this book, State of War. Despite these recent developments, Mr. Risen has vowed to go to jail to protect his sources, and last Saturday he said in a statement, “I remain as resolved as ever to continue fighting”. These facts had compelled me to pick up the book and read what all the controversy is about.
This book was an inte
Dennis Fischman
Nov 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Things you'll learn, or be reminded of and still shocked by, if you read State of War by James Risen:

CIA Director George Tenet got and kept his job by sucking up to power.

The CIA specifically avoided asking President George W. Bush for authorization to use torture, providing him with what the spy trade calls "plausible deniability."

The NSA started large-scale spying on Americans almost immediately after 9/11/2001, "The Bush administration...swept aside nearly thirty years of rules and regulat
Clive Hallam
Dec 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finished this over the Christmas/New Year break. It was an unusual book for two reasons. First, while I like American literature I'm not so good with the style of American factual writing - it's a little too "informal" for a a Brit like me. Once I got through that I was intrigued and not a little taken with the fact that Risen had identified seven years previously what Edward Snowden was getting all the credit for last year! namely the insidious nature of NSA's infiltration into the everyday liv ...more
Feb 09, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-written, but limited. It only tells you slices of the mood and facts that led to the Iraq war and the policy for the subsequent "war for peace" that continues today. It focuses on the slices that turned out to erroneous (like that no WMD were ever found in Iraq)or are undermining ethical democracy today (such as prisoner-torture). The endearing part is that he tries to hard to be anti-Bush, but can't help but add some concessions now and again. He managed to phrase at least one sentences pe ...more
Aug 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Scary book. I knew most of the generalities. He writes based on confidential sources in 2006.

He is believable. He reminds me of Admiral Layton"s And I was There, which similarly described the infighting and power struggles over intelligence during World War II in the Pacific and Washington.

The description of allowing the drug trade to grow is revolting. My niece was caught in that. We were both funding drugs and inducing the destruction of so many in this country by addictive drugs.

Similarly, t
Mark Valentine
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Risen has written a powerful indictment against the Bush Adminstration and the Rumsfeld/Cheney tacit authority combined with CIA bungling. I think this is essential reading for anyone who needs or wants an inside or in-depth view into places the Press did not present very well. Risen writes about the fumble over capturing bin Laden (which I found fascinating reading, esp. in light of his recent dispatch under Obama's watch--something that framed the chapter incredibly), about the confirmation bi ...more
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James Risen covers national security for The New York Times.

He was a member of the team that won the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting in 2002 for coverage of September 11 and terrorism, and he is the coauthor of Wrath of Angels and The Main Enemy: The Inside Story of the CIA's Final Showdown with the KGB.

He lives outside Washington, D.C., with his wife and three sons.

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