Enemies: A History of the FBI
Time Out says
Rating: 4/5, RM109.95
If your knowledge of the FBI begins and ends with J Edgar Hoover’s rumoured homosexual leanings (of which there is absolutely no proof), ‘Enemies’ will be an eye-opener. Pulitzer winner Tim Weiner’s research is exhaustive, with 60 pages of detailed references and lots of material from recently declassified FBI files. The author also has form: 2007’s ‘Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA’ (now reissued) provided a similar take on the equally powerful Central Intelligence Agency.
The scale of operations mounted by the Bureau since its formation in 1908 range from tracking ‘sex deviates’ and trade union members to gathering enough evidence to impeach three presidents (Nixon lost his job; Reagan and Clinton kept theirs). The FBI’s scope was, and still is, staggering. If the Bureau considers you to be subversive you can expect them to have a file on you.
And although Hoover, director of the FBI for 48 years, is prominent, this really is the story of the organisation. And it is bookended by two terrorist attacks on New York: the bombing of Wall Street by anarchists in September 1920 and al-Qaeda striking the World Trade Center in September 2001. While the first helped empower the Bureau with more resources, the second created the odd situation of intelligence being kept from the FBI by the CIA and the National Security Agency, partly because it was easier for these two agencies to work outside the law.
With much of the FBI’s work being conducted via phone taps and spy networks, the detail in ‘Enemies’ makes readers privy to the darkest secrets. It’s a thrilling experience and a superb book. Ben Isaacs