January 04, 2004

The Man Who Warned America:

from - smijer

Weiss.bmpThe Man Who Warned America: The Life and Death of John O'Neill, the FBI's Embattled Counterterror Warrior

I chose this book to be my first on-line review based on a number of expectations I had of it before I read it. I list them:

  • It dealt with public events but wasn't overtly partisan
  • It promised an heroic personal story
  • I hoped to gain a certain insight into the inner workings of American Intelligence
  • I hoped to have questions answered about how much was known and by whom before the 9/11 attacks
  • Great dust-jacket

    I had hoped my first blog book review would be a "10", and a must-read for every American. Click to continue reading.


    On some points the book was everything I hoped. On others, I was disappointed.

    The author, Murray Weiss, is a journalist by trade. To the best of my knowledge, this is his first book as sole author. It is a shame he didn't have better editors for his first book. There were a number of editor's mistakes, including repetition of entire passages verbatim in separate chapters. This also pointed at an over-all problem of construction Weiss seems to have experienced: a difficulty in organizing a coherent whole from the pieces of John O'Neill's life and work.

    We learn too much about O'Neill's grooming and dating habits, but receive only a two-dimensional treatment of the character of his relationships. He was "sometimes brusque", but we are left to wonder where and how those sharp edges were manifested. We learn that he had a lot of women in his life, and that they (probably) didn't know about one another. We don't learn much about what he meant to each of them, or what they meant to him - just that he "needed" all of them. We learn about O'Neill's view of the Clinton administration (negative), and we learn of some of Clinton's failings, but we learn nothing about Bush (except that he reacted "boldly" to the events of 9/11). It seems the author was unable to tell the story without allowing his own politics to color it.

    Unfortunately, John O'Neill was not part of the story of pre-911 threat assessment, so my hope of getting a clearer picture of that process was not satisfied.

    That's the negative. Now the positive:

    We do learn, not only about the workings of American Intelligence, but also about how John O'Neill changed those workings. We do hear the compelling personal story of O'Neill, and see his career traced through the major events in American and International terrorism from the early nineties all the way to the September 11 attacks. We discover how much obstructionism a single self-important ambassador overseas is capable of in the investigation of the USS Cole bombing. Weiss deploys a sense of suspense relating the unearthing of the millenium plot.

    I'm going to score this book an 8 out of 10. You can learn more about O'Neill by reading this transcript of a Frontline episode about him.

    If you choose to purchase the book, please consider shopping at an independent bookseller. Amazon.com is wonderful, but no one thought much of such phenomena as Rupert Murdoch and Clear Channel Communications a few years ago, either. Use your zip code on the form below to find an independent book-seller who stocks The Man Who Warned America:

    If you wish to direct this purchase to your closest independent bookstore
    with Book Sense, enter your Zip code below before pressing the button. (If
    you do not enter your Zip, a Book Sense store will be chosen for you at random.)

    Posted by smijer at January 4, 2004 05:14 PM
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