Back to some of my current events and political reading and now, having finished, ready for another fiction. lol
Facts and Fears is authored by a former Director of National Intelligence and comes by way of high recommendations from various reviewers. Clapper was one of those guys who usually slipped under my radar during the time he was in office so it was interesting. Actually, this book is very much like that of James Comey, A Higher Loyalty, in that it’s a memoir of times and events they were directly involved in, leading up to the Trump presidency. But where Comey was working in the FBI, and fired, Clapper worked in the military and intelligence and retired shortly after Obama left office. Their careers spanned several decades and they have a lot to say.
The first couple chapters of Facts and Fears consists of a narrative describing Clapper’s childhood, education, marriage and life in the military to today.
Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence
by James R. Clapper and Trey Brown
2018 / 431 pages
read by Mark Bramhail – 18h 43m
rating: 9 / memoir – US intelligence
(read and listened)
Then there are a couple of relatively boring chapters about the intelligence community’s groups and organization and leaders and a little summation of how the IC got to be structured that way. Clapper presents himself well, as expected in a memoir, while owning up to some errors – he had a lot of difficulties at certain times – Chapters 3 and 4, made a few errors, etc.
But my interested picked way up in Chapter 5 after he started serving under Obama and being hired to working on the Osama bin Laden raid and Benghazi, etc The international events and policy which I remember and am interested in start here – the reason I was attracted to this book. It continues in Chapters 6 with Arab Spring, Gaddafi, Benghazi, and so on. Clapper’s description of what happened on September 11-12th of 2012 is understandable, thoughtful and insightful.
Clapper covers a lot of issues in depth from his perspective and each one is reported in chronological order. But it seems he always inserts the wonderful statements he made – at hearings and so on – he lauds others though, lots of others. It feels like he just wants to explain himself. It works because he’s rarely defensive; he just wants to go on record as (whatever).
Clapper apparently does have a habit of writing letters to clarify his comments – several incidents are referenced in the book.
Chapter 7 covers the money troubles of 2011 with budget problems which affected intelligence and security agencies. At some point there is no “fat to trim.” Then there is the Boston bombing by the Tsarnaev brothers which is tacked on in this chapter for some reason. The timing maybe – it certainly fits that if not the budget issues so well.
In Chapter 8 he is very hard on Edward Snowden (No Place to Hide – my review) Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange for their “leaks” about US intelligence and military misdeeds and especially the way Snowden did it – and how he talked about it later – saying Clapper was lying before Congress. He gets quite defensive here but he’s angry about it all which hit on him personally. Still, he acknowledges real errors – it’s a thoughtful book.
Chapter 9, Not a Diplomat: Diplomatic duties and the trip to North Korea to get a couple US prisoners. North Korea and Clapper’s surprise trip to fetch two US captives there –
Chapter 10 – Unpredictable Instability – This is an amazing chapter – perhaps especially coming from Clapper – it’s about the instability of the US and what that could lead to. This chapter also concerns cyber-security as witnessed by the theft of the Office of Personnel Management in
Chapter 11 – The Election – background and detail – some new to me including RT (Russia Today – a Russian propaganda machine still alive on YouTube – Clapper dings Comey.
Re the election of Trump – page 395:
“Of course the Russian efforts affected the outcome. Surprising even themselves, they swung the election to a Trump win. To conclude otherwise stretches logic, common sense, and credulity to the breaking point. Less than eighty thousand votes in three key states swung the election. I have no doubt that more votes than that were influenced by this massive effort by the Russians.”
Chapter 12 – Facts and Fears – the aftermath – from the Trump campaign’s surprise and ignorance – up to the intelligence report to Obama, Trump and the Congress and Clapper was going around saying “It’ll be okay” but not quite believing it.
He emphasizes how he’s a “Truth to power” guy. There are moments of humor or glimpses of personal life which serve as some necessary tension relief.
Obama is not presented as anything like a saint – he gets angry and so on, but he’s generally a kind, considerate, humble, thoughtful guy.
In general – I knew about Putin in the Ukraine and surprised to see him agreeing with some of what Tim Snyder says in The Road to Unfreedom, but some of what he said about Putin in Syria was new.
Definitely worth the read –