Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligenceby Published 22 May 2018
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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
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!
FACTS AND FEARS. (2018). James R. Clapper. ****.
This is one of those books that is a must-read for most all American citizens. It is a well-written expose of the life and activities of our former Director of National Intelligence. In it, he not only reviews the significant historical events surrounding America during the last 55-years (his length of service in the government), but provides his personal beliefs on the potential and real effects of the activities of the current Trump administration. Mr. Clapper wrote this book in collaboration with Trey Brown, his former co-worker and speech writer. Together they have done a remarkable job. Either they have a remarkable memory for past events, or one or both of them kept journals over the years. There were several events described by Clapper that I had forgotten about, or mis-remembered. Remember though, that this was a long period in our history. The first third of the book is more or less an autobiography, describing his family and his history up to his enrollment in the service. The middle third of the book is very much like an extended resume. The final third deals with present-day events and Clapper’s views on them. He pulls no punches. Although I don’t like to quote extensively from books that I read, I believe that the following paragraph summarizes his views. It is from his final chapter: “Facts and Fears.”
“We have elected someone as president of the United States whose first instincts are to twist and distort truth to his advantage, to generate financial benefit to himself and his family, and, in so doing, to demean the values this country has traditionally stood for. He has set a new low bar for ethics and morality. He has caused damage to our societal and political fabric that will be difficult and will require time to repair. And, close to my heart, he has besmirched the intelligence Community and the FBI – pillars of our country – and deliberately incited many Americans to lose faith and confidence in them. While he does this, he pointedly refuses to acknowledge the profound threat posed by Russia, inexplicably trusting the denials by Putin about their meddling in our political process over the considered judgements by his own Intelligence Community.”
James Clapper has had a very long career in intelligence collection and he goes through it all for us here. He’s had practically every job out there in leadership in this field, capping his career as Director of National Intelligence. The DNI serves as head of the now seventeen U.S. intelligence collection agencies, and advises the National Security Council which advises the president. Listening to Mark Bramhall narrate the audio of this autobiography, it is easy to see why Clapper had such a long and successful career in government. He gets along well with others.
Most others. Clapper freely coruscates Congressional Republicans who used government policy or intelligence outcomes to lash out politically at their opponents (Democrats in office), and he spares no pity for Snowden, Poitras, and Greenwald in their pursuit of borderless-ness in secrets uncovered during surveillance.
Which led me to a queer insight: Greenwald as a journalist does as much spying on government as it does on him. Both want the other side’s secrets uncovered and their own preserved…(“only I can preserve individual liberty…”) Snowden was most outspoken about individual rights, and therefore on the far right of America’s political spectrum, and yet he chose a far-left journalist to reveal his secrets to. Strange bedfellows. I was never completely onboard with Snowden or Greenwald but I think Clapper does himself and his agency a disservice by not acknowledging that these folks provided a corrective to potentially invasive intelligence collection, a fact he does in fact make near the end of this very long book.
I picked up this book because I read a coupe of interesting conclusions he’d come to in his nearly sixty years in office, but i wasn’t expecting such a long recitation of every job in his long career. It struck me at the start that an intelligence chief is an unlikely one to write a tell-all. By the end of his career Clapper acknowledges that the secret aspect of intelligence doesn't have as much cache as it used to, and agrees that it is probably for the best that their activities are out in the open. If you don't mind my saying, this is a result of those men and women who forced this information to be revealed, and yes, it probably is for the better in some ways. Clapper doesn’t seem to hold back on describing the reporting responsibilities and personalities in the agencies he headed, which should save foreign governments time trying to work it all out.
Clapper claims one reason he wrote this book is to want to encourage interested young people to join the intelligence community. The other reason would undoubtedly be countering the criticism he has gotten as a critical person in major intelligence successes and failures of the past forty years. His last posting as Director of the Office of National Intelligence sounds kind of a bum job: no power but lots of responsibility to make sure all intelligence departments are singing off the same sheet of music. That’s the kind of job they give you if you last long enough in a sea of sharks. Big enough to blame, old enough to bury.
There is no doubt that Clapper had a congenial personality and was able to hold his own among those who did not self-destruct over the years. Anyone’s career that lasted sixty years is worth listening to, I reckon. In my opinion, he gave himself more credit than he should have for allowing gay and trans individuals to serve in the military and intelligence services--after all, this was a very long time coming and too late anyhow. It was a real shock to most Americans not directly attached to the military to discover how many individuals had been undergoing sex-change treatment before Chelsea Manning put a spotlight on the fact.
This book is necessary for anyone interested in intelligence as a career, or anyone who wants to know how we got from there to here. I listened to the audio, read by Mark Bramhall and produced by Penguin Audio. Viking produced the hardcover.
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.
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.