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“Turns the long history of the FBI into a story that is as compelling, and important, as today’s headlines.”—Jeffrey Toobin, author of American Heiress
Enemies is the first definitive history of the FBI’s secret intelligence operations, from an author whose work on the Pentagon and the CIA won him the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.
We think of the FBI as America’s police force. But secret intelligence is the Bureau’s first and foremost mission. The FBI’s secret intelligence and surveillance techniques have created a tug-of-war between national security and civil liberties, a tension that strains the very fabric of a free republic. Enemies is the story of how presidents have used the FBI to conduct political warfare—and how it has sometimes been turned against them. And it is the story of how the Bureau became the most powerful intelligence service the United States possesses.
Named One of the Best Books of the Year by The Washington Post, New York Daily News, and Slate
“Pulitzer Prize–winning author Tim Weiner has written a riveting inside account of the FBI’s secret machinations that goes so deep into the Bureau’s skulduggery, readers will feel they are tapping the phones along with J. Edgar Hoover. This is a book that every American who cares about civil liberties should read.”—Jane Mayer, author of Dark Money
“Outstanding.”—The New York Times
“Absorbing . . . a sweeping narrative that is all the more entertaining because it is so redolent with screw-ups and scandals.”—Los Angeles Times
“Fascinating.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Important and disturbing . . . with all the verve and coherence of a good spy thriller.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Exciting and fast-paced.”—The Daily Beast
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
J . Edgar Hoover went to war at the age of -twenty--two, on Thursday morning, July 26, 1917. He walked out of his boyhood home in Washington, D.C., and set off for his new life at the Justice Department, to serve as a foot soldier in the army of lawmen fighting spies, saboteurs, Communists, and anarchists in the United States.
America had entered World War I in April. The first waves of her troops were landing in France, unprepared for the horrors that faced them. On the home front, Americans were gripped by the fear of sabotage by German secret agents. The country had been on high alert for a year, ever since an enemy attack on a huge warehouse of American munitions bound for the battlefront. The blast at Black Tom Island, on the western edge of New York Harbor, had set off two thousand tons of explosives in the dark of a midsummer night. Seven people died at the site. In Manhattan, thousands of windows were shattered by the shock waves. The Statue of Liberty was scarred by shrapnel.
Hoover worked for the War Emergency Division at the Justice Department, charged with preventing the next surprise attack. He displayed a martial spirit and a knack for shaping the thinking of his superiors. He won praise from the division’s chief, John Lord O’Brian. “He worked Sundays and nights, as I did,” O’Brian recounted. “I promoted him several times, simply on merits.”
Hoover rose quickly to the top of the division’s Alien Enemy Bureau, which was responsible for identifying and imprisoning politically suspect foreigners living in the United States. At the age of -twenty--three, Hoover oversaw 6,200 Germans who were interned in camps and 450,000 more who were under government surveillance. At -twenty--four, he was placed in charge of the newly created Radical Division of the Justice Department, and he ran the biggest counterterrorism operations in the history of the United States, rounding up thousands of radical suspects across the country. He had no guns or ammunition. Secret intelligence was his weapon.
Hoover lived all his life in Washington, D.C., where he was born on New Year’s Day 1895, the youngest of four children. He was the son and the grandson of government servants. His father, Dickerson, was afflicted with depression; deep melancholy cost him his job as a government cartographer and likely hastened his death. His mother, Annie, was doting but dour. Hoover lived at home with her for the first -forty--three years of his life, until the day she died. He told several of his closest aides that he remained a single man because he feared the wrong woman would be his downfall; a bad marriage would destroy him. Hoover’s niece, Margaret Fennell, grew up alongside him; she stayed in touch with him for six decades. She knew him as well as anyone could. “I sometimes have thought that he -really—-I don’t know how to put -it—-had a fear of becoming too personally involved with people,” she reflected. If he ever expressed love beyond his devotion to God and country, there were no witnesses. He was sentimental about dogs, but unemotional about people. His inner life was a mystery, even to his immediate family and his few close friends.
Hoover learned how to march in military formation and how to make a formal argument. The drill team and the debate team at Central High School were the highlights of his youth. Central High’s debate squad was the best in the city, and Hoover became one of its stars; his school newspaper praised his competitive spirit and his “cool relentless logic.” He told the paper, after a stirring victory over a college team, that debating had given him “a practical and beneficial example of life, which is nothing more or less than the matching of one man’s wit against another.”
Hoover went to work for the government of the United States as soon as he had his high school diploma. Its monuments were all around him. His -two--story home sat six blocks southeast of Capitol Hill. At the crest of the hill stood the chandeliered chambers of the Senate and the House, the colossal temple of the Supreme Court, and the Library of Congress, with its vaulted ceilings and stained glass. Hoover dutifully recited the devotions of the Presbyterian Church on Sundays, but the Library of Congress was the secular cathedral of his youth. The library possessed every book published in the United States. The reverent hush of its central reading room imparted a sense that all knowledge was at hand, if you knew where to look. The library had its own system of classification, and Hoover learned its complexities as a cataloguer, earning money for school by filing and retrieving information. He worked days at the library while he studied in the early evenings and on summer mornings at George Washington University, where he earned his master’s degree in law in June 1917. He registered for military service but joined the Justice Department to fight the war at home.
“The gravest threats”
On April 6, 1917, the day America entered World War I, President Woodrow W. Wilson signed executive orders giving the Justice Department the power to command the arrest and imprisonment, without trial, of any foreigner deemed disloyal. He told the American people that Germany had “filled our unsuspecting communities and even our offices of government with spies, and set criminal intrigues everywhere afoot.” The president’s words stoked fear across the country, and the fear placed a great weight on the Justice Department. “When we declared war,” O’Brian said, “there were persons who expected to see a veritable reign of terror in America.”
O’Brian watched over Hoover and his colleagues as they labored day and night in cramped and smoky rooms at the War Emergency Division and the Alien Enemy Bureau, poring over fragmentary reports of plots against America. They were like firemen hearing the ceaseless ringing of false alarms. “Immense pressure” fell upon them, O’Brian recalled; they faced demands from politicians and the public for the “indiscriminate prosecution” and “wholesale repression” of suspect Americans and aliens alike, often “based on nothing more than irresponsible rumor.” Before Black Tom, “the people of this nation had no experience with subversive activities,” he said. “The government was likewise unprepared.” After Black Tom, thousands of potential threats were reported to the government. American leaders feared the enemy could strike anywhere, at any time.
The German masterminds of Black Tom had been at work from the moment World War I began in Europe, in the summer of 1914. They had planned to infiltrate Washington and undermine Wall Street; they had enlisted Irish and Hindu nationalists to strike American targets; they had used Mexico and Canada as safe havens for covert operations against the United States. While Hoover was still studying law at night school, at the start of 1915, Germany’s military attaché in the United States, Captain Franz von Papen, had received secret orders from Berlin: undermine America’s will to fight. Von Papen began to build a propaganda machine in the United States; the Germans secretly gained control of a major New York newspaper, the Evening Mail; their front men negotiated to buy The Washington Post and the New York Sun. Political fixers, corrupt journalists, and crooked detectives served the German cause.
But after a German -U--boat torpedoed the British passenger ship Lusitania on May 7, 1915, killing 1,119 people, including 274 Americans, the German ambassador glumly cabled Berlin: “We might as well admit openly that our propaganda here has collapsed completely.” Americans were enraged at the attack on civilians; Germany’s political and diplomatic status in the United States was grievously damaged. President Wilson ordered that all German embassy personnel in the United States be placed under surveillance. Secretary of State Robert Lansing sent secret agents to wiretap German diplomats. By year’s end, von Papen and his fellow attachés were expelled from the United States.
When Hoover arrived at the Justice Department, O’Brian had just tried and convicted a German spy, Captain Franz von Rintelen. The case was -front--page news. Von Rintelen had arrived in New York a few weeks before the sinking of the Lusitania, carrying a forged Swiss passport. On orders from the German high command, he had recruited idle sailors on New York’s docks, radical Irish nationalists, a Wall Street con artist, and a drunken Chicago congressman in plans to sabotage American war industries with a combination of business frauds and firebombs. But Captain von Rintelen had fled the United States, rightly fearing the exposure of his secret plans. British intelligence officers, who had been reading German cables, arrested him as he landed in -En-gland, roughly interrogated him in the Tower of London, and handed him over to the Justice Department for indictment and trial.
“America never witnessed anything like this before,” President Wilson told Congress after the captain’s arrest. “A little while ago, such a thing would have seemed incredible. Because it was incredible we made no preparation for it.”
Terrorists and anarchists represented “the gravest threats against our national peace and safety,” the president said. “Such creatures of passion, disloyalty, and anarchy must be crushed out. . . . The hand of our power should close over them at once.”
J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI would become the instruments of that power.
Table of Contents
Author's Note xv
Part I Spies and Saboteurs
1 Anarchy 3
2 Revolution 7
3 Traitors 13
4 Communists 26
5 "Who is Mr. Hoover?" 33
6 Underworlds 47
7 "They never stopped watching us" 60
8 Red Flags 65
Part II World War
9 The Business of Spying 73
10 The Juggler 81
11 Secret Intelligence 91
12 "To strangle the United States" 96
13 Law of War 109
14 The Machine of Detection 119
15 Organizing the World 123
Part III Cold War
16 No Gestapo 131
17 Showdown 140
18 "Red fascism" 147
19 Surprise Attack 151
20 Paranoia 163
21 "It looks like World War III is here" 171
22 No Sense of Decency 179
23 Game Without Rules 188
24 The Long Shadow 191
25 "Don't trust anybody" 202
26 Immoral Conduct 211
27 "Murder was in style" 216
28 Dangerous Man 223
29 Rule by Fear 230
30 "You got this phone tapped?" 239
31 "The man I'm depending on" 253
32 Clearly Illegal 264
33 The Ultimate Weapon 277
34 "Pull down the temple" 288
Part IV War on Terror
35 Conspirators 307
36 "The Bureau cannot survive" 320
37 House of Cards 329
38 "A state of continual danger" 337
39 The Price of Silence 351
40 Mosaic 367
41 The Blind Sheikh 374
42 Flaws in the Armor 382
43 An Easy Target 396
44 All Our Weapons 413
45 "If we don't do this, people will die" 432
What People are Saying About This
“Pulitzer-Prize–winning author Tim Weiner has written a riveting inside account of the FBI’s secret machinations that goes so deep into the Agency’s skullduggery, readers will feel they are tapping the phones along with J. Edgar Hoover. This is a book that every American who cares about civil liberties should read.”—Jane Mayer, author of The Dark Side
“Enemies is a research masterpiece. Picking through seventy thousand newly declassified documents and using on-the-record interviews, Weiner reveals startling new truths and debunks nagging old myths about the FBI. Enemies reads like a thriller, but don’t let the heart-pumping prose fool you. Weiner has written a scholarly tour de force that will be an instant classic for any serious student of American national security.”—Amy B. Zegart, Ph.D., Stanford University, author of Spying Blind
“Tim Weiner’s Enemies is the most comprehensive history of the FBI as an intelligence agency we have ever had. Based on extensive research in previously unavailable materials, Weiner gives us a fresh way to think about J. Edgar Hoover, the many presidents he worked with, and the FBI as a national security agency. The book is also a cautionary tale that is essential reading for anyone concerned about American civil liberties.”—Robert Dallek, author of An Unfinished Life
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Very well written. Extremely we'll documented and presented. A mind blowing historical review of our ineptness (and sometimes greatness) in times past and as a modern society, to do what apparently must be done, to protect ourselves, indeed, preserve our nation and our way of life -- such as it seems to be. A clear case of what America and Americans must learn, and how we must behave, to survive in our world today.... and tomorrow.
Scrolling along the timeline of history, Weiner dismantles the FBI incident by incident and presents the realities of our nation's police force. I found the perspective deeply refreshing. The "view from within" through the Cold War, the Space Age, the New Tech Age gives new life to old histories and a better understanding for the realities of the times. One of the most revealing histories I've come across.
Great read - and well researched and documented
Very well written and informative.
The book starts of at a fairly good pace, and continues throughout the rest of the book. Contrary to what we were led to believe by television programing and movies, There was a whole lot of anecdotes that films always leave out for sake of time and space. ENEMIES fills in those spaces. Anybody wanting to know about the FBI, this is the book. Anyone wanting to know about the history of the United States over the past century, this is the book to read!
If you love history, this is a great book. The history of the FBI and the effects of FBI policies and activities on life in the US are engrossing reading. The writing is brisk and moves right along, which I didn't expect because it delves so much into historic files.
I had always pictured the FBI as this super-secret,highly effective agency with flaws. Surprise,surprise! Great research! Read it and learn.
This book is both frightening and reassuring. It is frightening to know what the FBI has done it is almost 100 year history in the name of national security. The obsession, first with Communism, and then the New Left, and anti-war movements; the failures on identifying real Communists and spies within its own organization and more important, preventing the attacks on 9/11 (partly a result of aging technology, a leadership vacuum, and a long-standing feud with the CIA. But there have been success along the way - ferreting out German agents during WWII, and post 9/11 success in preventing future attacks and its "honorable" methods of interrogation of enemy combatants under tremendous pressure from the Bush-Cheney administration. Enemies recounts all of these successes and failures in this history that explains the role of the FBI as a domestic intelligence service. The FBIs mission, is of course, conflicted. They must both make us secure and ensure our liberties under the Constitution. It is easy to be a critic of the FBI but this book, written by noted national security writer Tim Weiner provides a fair balance in the "tug-of-war between national security and civil liberties..." Of course any history of the FBI needs to address J. Edgar Hoover. Weiner attempts to distill the rumors of Hoover as a "cross-dressing crank" and identifies him more as an American Machiavelli and credits him with being the architect of American intelligence. The book adds tremendously to our understanding of the workings of the FBI over the last 90 years and its current adherence to principal of maintaining at least some hope of keeping our civil liberties.
Weiner¿s book chronicles the darker side of the FBI, from Hoover¿s time to the War on Terror. For the less cynical, Enemies provides a shocking portrait of the top law enforcement agency repeatedly breaking the law. Opening mail, break-ins, and wiretaps are just a few of the things the FBI did under the guise of upholding the law. Then of course, there is the gossip fuelled information kept by Hoover to use as leverage against political leaders that might question the actions of the FBI.Although more time could have been spent on the Clinton and post-9/11 years, this is a very good book. I look forward to reading Weiner¿s previous work on the CIA.
Tim Weiner begins his extensively-researched history of the Federal Bureau of Investigation by observing that ¿Over the decades, the Bureau has best served the cause of national security by bending and breaking the law.¿ The 104 years of the Bureau¿s existence has been a constant tug-of-war between the Nation¿s need for national security and the desire of its citizens for the protection of civil liberties. And at the center of this struggle between safety and freedom was J. Edgar Hoover, who served a forty-eight year tenure as the head of the FBI.Weiner benefited from over seventy thousand pages of recently declassified documents and more than two hundred oral histories from agents who worked for the Bureau. Weiner claims the newly unsheathed evidence shows Hoover in a new light; as not a monster but as ¿an American Machiavelli": astute and cunning and a master manipulator, but also the architect (for good or evil) of American intelligence and surveillance.The story begins in 1908 during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt¿s principal concern was the anarchists, like the one who assassinated his predecessor, William McKinley. He ordered his attorney general to create an investigative service within the Department of Justice. The order resulted in the formation of the ¿Bureau of Investigation.¿ The Attorney General, Charles Bonaparte, sought the approval of Congress to start such an independent bureau, but was emphatically rejected. Bonaparte and TR merely waited until Congress adjourned, and hired 34 ¿special agents¿ with money from the Department of Justice¿s expense fund. As Mark Twain observed, Roosevelt was ¿ready to kick the Constitution into the back yard whenever it gets in the way.¿ Interestingly, the FBI to this day doesn¿t have a Congressional charter spelling out its role¿it is the creation of an executive order! Nationwide domestic surveillance under the Espionage Act of 1917 received a fillip when J. Edgar Hoover was appointed chief of the Justice Department¿s newly created Radical Division. Originally charged with keeping tabs on radicals and other ¿untrustworthy¿ citizens during the war, Hoover turned the appointment into a life-long career. Hoover¿s organization did not become known as the Federal Bureau of Investigation until the early years of Franklin Roosevelt¿s presidency. The great Depression spawned a crime wave of bank robberies and hijackings. In response to the perceived lawlessness and incompetence of local law enforcement, Congress passed statutes making it a federal matter if interstate travel were involved in the commission of a crime or robbery of a federal bank. The newly christened FBI was charged with enforcing the new federal criminal statutes. With the help of numerous Hollywood movies and some professional public relations, Hoover became the public face of the government¿s battle to fight crime. Despite his public acclaim as a fearless crime fighter, Hoover always considered his primary task to be combating communism, not law enforcement. He made certain that the FBI¿s principal activity was intelligence gathering, not assembly of evidence to sustain legal prosecution. Unbeknownst to the vast majority of Americans, for Hoover¿s entire career, the FBI allocated the lion¿s share of its resources and talent to surveillance of suspected communists. From the 1930¿s through the 1950¿s the Communist Party in the United States never became a mass movement, but it did have several members well placed in the American atomic weapons program, and the Party was clearly beholden if not completely subservient to the Soviet Union. The FBI was able to infiltrate the Communist Party, but it did not identify several spies until they had already disclosed some important atomic secrets and decamped to Russia. Ignoring the Supreme Court¿s interpretation of the Fourth Amendment¿s proscription of unwarranted searches and seizures, the FBI became expert at ¿black bag jobs¿¿brea
My many thanks to LibraryThing's early reviewers program and 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 liberty. It also details the relationships the FBI directors (especially J. Edgar Hoover) have had with American presidents since the Bureau's inception. Although I may not personally agree with the author's final conclusion, it's still a very well-written book. Enemies is incredibly interesting, fleshing out bits and pieces of history with which I'm somewhat familiar, and it offers anyone remotely interested in the topics he covers a great deal of fodder for further reading. It's very reader friendly, and despite some reviews I've read about it being snooze material, it will grab the attention of anyone who's interested. What you won't find here are any juicy pieces of speculation about Hoover and his sex life, which is just as well -- it's all hearsay anyway and it's also irrelevant. I think, though, that Weiner might be looking through his rose-colored glasses -- an FBI manual of operations is all well and good, but time and again, and he shows it himself, when push comes to shove in a matter of national security, the government can exercise greater powers that don't always mesh with our constitutional rights.
Thank you Early Reviewers! I found this book to be highly informative and an interesting read into the history of the FBI. The book is obviously well researched and from page to page I found myself telling anyone around me the new tidbits I was reading. I did find myself being unable to sit and read this book for any period of time. I found it best to sit and read a couple pages and then digest those for a bit and then read on. Many of the facts were so terrifyingly eye-opening that I couldn't take it in all at once. The biggest flaw I found with this book, which probably could not be avoided, was keeping up with who was who. Since this spans such a long history I found myself confused on who anyone was (besides Hoover of course!) and the author gave little explanation. This made it a much more difficult read, but I still would recommend it for anyone that has any interest in the FBI.
I am really glad I read this book! At times, it feels like reading a great fictional thriller ¿ but knowing that it is a well-researched fact-filled tome makes if even better in my opinion. It surely is not the stuff of which broadcast news is made ¿ however; it provides the reader with an amazingly powerful insight into how, since its inception, the FBI has been in the forefront with influencing political decisions in our country. Fascinating. Sometimes scary. Well worth reading!
And I was mistaken in thinking that I would escape the Bonaparte family reading a quintessentially American history of one of its world famous goverment department. How wrong was I. This is a temporary review of a well researched book. The connection between a Roosevelt and a Bonaparte at the origin of the FBI is powerfully entertaining.
After finishing The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, starting Enemies was a bit of a letdown. I went from a scintillating piece of narrative non-fiction of the can¿t-put-it-down/page-turner variety to a pretty straightforward history of the FBI, written in a flat, journalistic style. But I realized almost immediately that these were two very different books and that Enemies is engaging in a totally different way.Just about every chapter brings new revelations about the FBI and its founder/long-time director, J. Edgar Hoover. I found myself saying to myself, ¿Wow, I didn¿t know that,¿ over and over again. We think ¿enhanced interrogation¿ began in the recent wars ¿ think again. The FBI is under the control of the President ¿not a chance. The FBI stands for the rule of law ¿ no way. I also found the rivalry between the FBI and CIA quite interesting. I have to hand it to the author, he could have sensationalized the story ¿ there¿s plenty of material there. But he chose instead to tell the tale as a series of short essays, chronologically and without a lot of folderol. And the back notes are extensive enough to please readers who devour them, as I do.Review based on publisher-provided advanced readers¿ copy of the book.
While Enemies is incredibly informative about the history of the FBI, it was for the most part dense and dry. I worked very hard for every bit of the 200+ pages I read of this book. I will freely admit that I was reading many other books during the two and a half months that I tried to chip away at it; making it my goal to read at least twenty pages per day. It became an exercise of self-control: how much could I force myself to read each day?The irony is that once I read a few pages each time and got myself into the right frame of mind, I did find that there was a lot of interesting (if somewhat depressing) information about the history of the FBI. J. Edgar Hoover¿s obsession with hunting down communists, and his perception of anything having to do with civil rights being inherently communist were not entirely surprising, but the depth of his deceptions and the lengths he went to because of them were surprising. His efforts to undermine the CIA and his attempts to set himself up as ruler of all American intelligence as well as head of a national police force, bordered on treason.In the end, despite the interesting facts, I just couldn¿t force myself to push through the rest of the book in order to say that I had finished. It was quite informative, but written in such a way as to remind me of dense college textbooks ¿ the sort that will probably only appeal to die-hard political history buffs.
Tim Weiner is a good researcher and writes a good, tight story. However, I couldn't continue past the first 100 pages. I found that I hated G. Edgar Hoover so much that I didn't care to find out what happened to him after WWII.
The fascinating story of the creation and history of the FBI, Enemies is also a history of intelligence gathering in the US. In it's 100 year history the FBI has had some tremendous successes, and some equally tremendous failures. J. Edgar Hoover's commitment to national security (or what he perceived as national security) shaped every facet of the FBI. The scope of his power is actually pretty terrifying. Weiner does a good job of laying all the cards on the table (the good, the bad, and the ugly) while telling a compelling story and making us all confront an important moral dilema - Does the end justify the means when national security is at stake?
Perhaps it's because I read this immediately after finishing Brethren (about the Supreme Court in the 1970's) but I'm left wondering if anyone in government cares at all about the Constitution anymore. This is a terrific account of the creation, development, near destruction, and resurrection of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1908 through the present day. Accordingly, the first half of the book is primarily about J.Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI from it's inception until his death in the early 70's. Using warrant-less wiretaps, bugging, and "black-bag jobs" (burglaries) whenever he pleased, Hoover fought primarily against communism but also against the civil-rights movement and whomever he considered an enemy or rival with every dirty trick at his disposal. One could argue that the ends justify the means, but really, should one person in government have the power to set aside the Fourth Amendment? Nowadays there is apparently a panel of judges that rules on wiretap requests so at least there is some oversight, but the ability to spy on American citizens by the Executive Branch scares the daylights out of me. Overall an excellent survey of the FBI - one that I will recommend to anyone interested in government and 20th century American History.
Loved it. This book is full of great detail.