Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligenceby Published 22 May 2018
|Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence.pdf|
The former Director of National Intelligence speaks out
When he stepped down in January 2017 as the fourth United States Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper had been President Obama's senior intelligence advisor for six and a half years, a period that included such critical events as the discovery of Osama bin Laden, the leaks of Edward Snowden, the Benghazi attack, and Russia's influence on the 2016 U.S election. In Facts and Fears Clapper traces his career through his rise in ranks of the military, the history of several decades of national intelligence operations, the growing threat of cyberattacks, his relationships with presidents and Congress, and the truth about Russia's role in the presidential election. He describes, in the wake of Snowden and WikiLeaks, his efforts to make intelligence more transparent and to push back against the suspicion that Americans' private lives are subject to surveillance.
Clapper considers such difficult questions as, is intelligence ethical? Is it moral to use human sources to learn secrets, to intercept communications, to take pictures of closed societies from orbit? What are the limits of what we should be allowed to do? What protections should we give to the private citizens of the world, not to mention our fellow Americans? Is there a time that intelligence officers can lose credibility as unbiased reporters of hard truths by asserting themselves into policy decisions?
"Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence" Reviews
While it's really an overview of James Clapper's career, Facts and Fears also serves as a history of the IC because James Clapper was there for almost every significant event of the last 50+ years. A very important book to read especially now.
Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence by James R. Clapper is a book I had heard a lot about and wanted to read but really I was worried it was going to be dry and boring, boy was I wrong. He looks so calm and ... sorry, but drab, I know that exciting story is he going to tell me? Well, I need to eat that piece of humble pie now, even this man's childhood was exciting! His life would make a great movie! This book talks about life growing up and his life all the way to now, it was certainly not boring! His college life, service life, the many colorful people he met, and so much more. I got this book from the library but I wish I had the money to buy it, it had some good lines I would have liked to highlighted. Recommend to all! Especially now in this day and age!
President Barack Obama referred to the job of Director of National Intelligence as the second most thankless job in Washington. After reading James Clapper's memoir, it would be hard to argue that point. Clapper recounts his life from birth up to the present day, but certainly the bulk of the book concerns his six and half years as DNI. One has to wonder what impulse of sadism possessed Clapper to take this high profile, high responsibility, yet low authority job. Seriously though, he did it because he was asked to take it on by Obama, because he was an expert in intelligence and had spent his life working in the field, and because he has a deep commitment to the United States, which is evident throughout his entire life.
Clapper breezes through his early life and keeps most of the stops in his long military career (he served in the Air Force for over thirty years) confined to describing what particular position he occupied and when he was promoted. He has lived all over the world. Unfortunately, as good as he is on intelligence matters, his story-telling skills leave much to be desired. The narrative quickly bogs down with acronyms for the various intelligence agencies and government departments that he either worked for or with. At times it was like reading the alphabet soup agencies that the New Deal created. There are just too many to keep everything straight. Add the various generals that come and go, and it quickly becomes difficult to remember what exactly Clapper is doing at any given location.
Another thing the reader will need to become accustomed to while reading about Clapper's life is the phrase “speaking truth to power”. Clapper uses it constantly. Had I know how often, I would have started a count when I first came across the phrase. It means not being afraid to tell someone that you report to things that person does not want to hear. Despite his penchant for occasionally being blunt, and also for living the phrase that he so often repeats, Clapper achieved some very high positions, both in the military and in civilian roles for the government. While I did grow tired of the repetition of the phrase, it would be most welcome to see some current high-ranking members of the government use it, aside from some who are soon to be leaving the scene.
Clapper is pro-LGBT rights, and frequently mentions his support for this group, which I most definitely applaud. He recites some examples from early in his career when government employees were dishonorably discharged from the military for no other reason than being gay, and how stupid he thought it was – both on a personal level for the people involved and on a professional level for the loss of knowledge and experience that these people were using towards defending our country. It makes me wish that Clapper had been in higher in the military much earlier than he was, so he could have slowed or tried to derail such discriminatory policies.
Most of the final quarter of the book is devoted to the 2016 election and Russia's interference in that event. Despite not caring for the book's plodding pace up to this point, Clapper really picked it up in this area. He is sharp, professional, non-partisan, and direct about what he saw (at least, what he is able to tell us, as apparently there is still a plethora of classified materials concerning this seemingly never-ending subject) and how he felt during his last year as DNI. I believe that his non-partisanship and objectivity lends him an authority that many other officials lack. This is someone who has devoted his life to intelligence gathering on behalf of the United States. He is not interested in helping or hurting Republicans or Democrats; he is interested in keeping America safe. His work at high levels in both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations confirms that statement.
If he did have a partisan agenda, it is not evident here. While Donald Trump comes in a large dose of criticism, and with good reason, Clapper makes it known that he was not always in agreement with Obama's actions and statements. The media also get their turn on the roasting spit as he writes of multiple times where networks and newspapers either got something blatantly wrong, twisted something but did not retract it, or tried to play games with him in the hopes of causing him to stumble and say something that he probably should not have said. It is clear that he has a somewhat caustic view of today's media environment, while also understanding that they do have an important role to play in maintaining a democratic society. The institution that he is most critical of, though, is Congress. The partisan political ploys that both sides played over a number of issues during his tenure as DNI has left him with a sour taste for Congressmen. In that sense, he is much like a vast majority of Americans, if polls about Congressional approval ratings are at all accurate.
Clapper wrote this book because he is genuinely fearful about the direction that Trump is taking this country. He sees a fundamental breakdown of our democratic system, and he shudders to think where this will ultimately lead the United States. While I do think that Clapper's book is worth reading (anything who has served as long as he has is going to have some interesting experiences to recount), it really will not appeal much to a general audience. You have to be either really interested in the unfolding Russian meddling saga, or be highly attuned to the various intelligence agencies and what they do, for this to hold your sustained interest. I do think that Clapper has a sense of humor, and a passage here and there are pithy. But on the whole, this is pretty dry – though quite important – stuff.
A book that everyone, no matter what party should read
The beginning of this book is a Birdseye view of something few of us see. Two generations giving their life, and in a sense the lives of their families to the service of our country. Service to protect us. General Clapper wrote this book and does media interviews to try to give honest information as best he can within the constraints of material being classified. He followed his father in a lifetime of protecting Americans. If you enjoy a review of out nations history, this book gives you that. When he gets to recent years, it’s not just history that we obviously can’t change. He gives us an insight of the current situation of the Russian threat to our elections - something we need to know. No matter what party you are affiliated with. We need to aggressively monitor and stop the infiltration of Russia into our US cyber soil.
Thanks to General Clapper for writing this “must read”
I would recommend it to anyone.
This is the memoir of James Robert Clapper (1941- ). Clapper is a retired Lieutenant General of the United States Air Force. He was Director of National Intelligence (2010-2016), Director of Defense Intelligence (1992-1995), Director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (2001-2006), Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (2007-2010).
Clapper wanted to attend a military academy but he failed to meet the vision requirements. He joined the U.S. Marine Corp Reserve then after a time he transferred to ROTC at the University of Maryland. I noted that General Colin Powell and General Michael Hayden also were ROTC graduates. After graduation he joined the Air Force and later got his masters at St. Mary’s University. He also graduated from Air Command and Staff College and the Air War College. Clapper says his father was an Intelligence Officer and he wanted to follow in his steps. I am impressed by both Clapper and his wife Sue’s dedication to service of country and military. Both of them were children of career military parents.
The book is well written. Clapper does a good job explaining how the intelligence community works and interacts with Congress. He is very candid with his observations and sheds light on how intelligence works. He is objective and does not hesitate to point out his mistakes as well as successes. He notes that an intelligence office is to provide unbiased facts only. I was most interested in his comments about Leon Panetta, Diane Feinstein and Claire McCaskill. I found the book helpful in understanding what’s going on today. Clapper also provided insight on the conflict between civil liberties and federal intrusions. The section where Clapper uses the evaluation they apply to other countries and applied it to our county, I found fascinating. Clapper also explains how the intelligence agencies work. I found the section about the budget interesting. He also explains how the Russian interfered with the election.
Clapper did not write the book all by himself; he used Trey Brown a former military speech writer to help him. Mark Bramhall does a good job narrating the book. Bramhall is an actor and award-winning audiobook narrator. The book is almost nineteen hours.