Undaunted: My Fight Against America’s Enemies, At Home and Abroad Hardcover – Illustrated, 2 November 2020
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John Brennan is one of the hardest-working, most patriotic public servants I've ever seen, and our country is better off for it. As president, he was one of my closest advisors and a great friend. And in his memoir, Undaunted, you'll see why. I hope you'll read it.
--President Barack Obama
--The New York Times It's a full Brennan, from beginning to end. This is a headstrong and unapologetic book, one whose author tells us what he really thinks...
--The Washington Post Former CIA director Brennan gives a fly-on-the-wall view of life in Langley
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His personal accounts of work at CIA are bureaucratically interesting. Despite a less than stellar substantive reputation internally at the CIA, Brennan recounts that he established relationships with powerful mentors, enabling a successful career. HIs was a career path to dream of. An especially useful mentor was former director of central intelligence George Tenet. Young bureaucrats can learn a lot about the signs of a mentor-greased career path without learning much about how to duplicate it.
Accounts of key events are often superficial but usually contain bits of personal experience that historians will find useful. Scholars of intelligence also will be able to find useful anecdotes and data. He recounts his policymaking roles and many instances of the rapid emergence of his (in)famous temper, which incomprehensibly did not derail his career.
Brennan is highly inconsistent in his extensive discussion of the CIA. On the one hand, the finest people who ever walked the face of the earth allegedly work for CIA, but on the other the agency has made many mistakes and has many institutional deficiencies, including operational performance problems, a flawed culture, and the arrogance of many employees, a trait also cited by many other CIA people. Still, Brennan adopts the currently popular "truth to power" slogan to contrast CIA's alleged purpose and actual performance to Trump's character. This is, however, inaccurate as a description of the purpose of intelligence, which is more traditionally defined as collecting information and assessing it in ways that help improve senior-level decision-making, vent when assessments are incomplete and sometimes only partially accurate. He does so even while, like many others, noting the slow speed at which the intelligence community identified Russian meddling in 2016, a key part of the larger anti-Trump narrative. Brennan outlines five major changes he wanted to make at CIA when he became director in 2013. He accomplished at least some aspects of all of them.
He does not address why and how the insurrection of some intelligence officers since 2016 developed, despite the fact that other sources assert that he himself was a major cause. Brennan injected identify politics into the CIA and he encouraged his people after November 2016 to be political activists in opposition to imagined Trump administration threats to undo the "progress" he had made, particularly concerning personnel management issues. But he certainly confirms his own visceral disdain for Donald Trump. It just seems to be self-evidently obvious to him that Trump is very bad, and it is equally obvious how wonderful President Obama and his team were.
Brennan promises to continue to attack Trump. This attitude may gratify Trumpophobes, but it is hardly good analysis. It surely would not have survived management review in my time at CIA.
He also generally avoids the issue of whether intelligence agencies and leaders inappropriately targeted the Trump campaign in 2016. While this story is sill unfolding, he addresses few of the controversies, perhaps because he himself has been accused of inappropriate actions. There is, however, useful detail about the origin and staffing of the late 2016 assessment of the extent of Russian meddling, and Brennan reveals that some IC people, including CIA officers, did not share his "high confidence" in the estimate.
While this book will titillate some readers, serious students of international relations, American foreign policy-decision-making, and of intelligence will find useful material interspersed with gaping holes and questionable judgments. This book therefore should be used with considerable care.
Thank you Mr. Brennan. Thank you for your service. Thank you for your patriotism. Thank you for speaking the truth.