See no evil.

Matthew X profrv at
Sat May 8 02:09:22 PDT 1999

Counterintelligence Book Review.(Counter intelligence could be the 
opeRATive words  here,pr)
By CI Centre Professor Hayden B. Peake
A Street-Man’s Story
See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism
By Robert BAER
(New York: Crown, 2002), 284 pp., glossary, photos, index.  $25.95
Edward SHIRLEY’s acidic Know Thine Enemy is a recent contribution to the 
intelligence literature of discontent.  At first glance Robert BAER’s book 
might appear to fall in the same category, but that judgment would be 
wrong.  See No Evil is better characterized as a memoir of disillusionment 
written in a positive style, not the bitter tone of those who wrote because 
they could not cope with the demands of the clandestine life.  While at 
times critical, BAER clearly is proud of the CIA and his service during his 
twenty-four year career.  The book tells of his unusual upbringing and his 
recruitment by the Agency that saw in him the makings of a promising case 
officer.  With restrained modesty, BAER provides a first hand view of a 
successful case officer in the field as an operational street man.
A central theme of the book is the over-reliance on technical collection at 
the expense of human intelligence.  Fluent in Arabic, BAER served in the 
Middle East and at times worked against those directly involved with 
terrorism.  He argues that finding and listening to people who know what is 
going on, despite their often less than savory pedigrees, should be routine 
not the exception.  His examples supporting this truth include comments on 
Osama bin LADEN’s operations, his experiences in the Biqa Valley, the 
government’s failure to support a military coup designed to overthrow 
Saddam HUSSEIN, and the neglect of fundamentalist activities in Afghanistan 
and Saudi Arabia in the 1990s.  He also stresses the problem of language 
skills that has long plagued the Agency.  It was his command of Arabic that 
allowed him to learn of the intent to kidnap Americans in Lebanon, though 
his out-of-channel warnings did not prevent them.
In the mid 1980s, while assigned to CIA Headquarters, BAER observed the 
initial activities of the newly formed National Counterintelligence Center 
led by the FBI.  This little known tale of an attempt to solve an 
operational problem with an organizational fix is disturbing at best.  Back 
at Headquarters in the 1990s, after an assignment in post Gulf-war Iraq, he 
got involved with CLINTON White House politics; a bizarre story that does 
not reflect well on National Security Council political stars and their 
sycophantic subordinates.  On the CIA side, he tells of the environment of 
political correctness that prevailed during the CLINTON administration and 
the long term consequences that this could have on the Agency if it is 
allowed to continue.
This is a timely book, documented with intriguing, often awesome, stories 
written with a sense of humor.  BAER’s comments on the tradecraft of 
espionage as practiced on the ground—the successes and the failures—will 
enlighten historians and layman interested in the profession.  See No Evil 
should be mandatory reading for all candidates for the clandestine service 
and the analysts—geographic, functional and technical—who benefit from the 
collector’s hard work.
This is a fine memoir, one of the very best ever written.

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