Black Site: The CIA in the Post-9/11 World

Black Site: The CIA in the Post-9/11 World

A former top CIA executive captures the incredible pressure, bravery, and uncertainty of an agency pushed to the brink.When the towers fell on September 11, 2001, nowhere were the reverberations more powerfully felt than at Langley. Almost overnight, an intelligence organization converted itself into a weaponized warfighting machine, one that raised questions about how...

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Title:Black Site: The CIA in the Post-9/11 World
Author:Philip Mudd
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Black Site: The CIA in the Post-9/11 World Reviews

  • Carl Brookins

    Here is an eye-opening, compelling inside narrative of our premiere intelligence agency during one of the most upsetting periods in the life of our nation. Remember that the Central Intelligence Agency was not very old when Al-Qaeda flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and literally shocked the American public to its core. In intelligence and political circles especially, the question arose: is there a plan to protect us against a second attack?

    None of the law enforceme

    Here is an eye-opening, compelling inside narrative of our premiere intelligence agency during one of the most upsetting periods in the life of our nation. Remember that the Central Intelligence Agency was not very old when Al-Qaeda flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and literally shocked the American public to its core. In intelligence and political circles especially, the question arose: is there a plan to protect us against a second attack?

    None of the law enforcement and counter-intelligence operations in our government could answer that question with any assurance and the political organizations of the nation were peopled with a lot of very nervous individuals.

    Written in the third person, by a former executive in the CIA and at the White House, and also at one time an executive at the FBI, the author has a deep experience with the changing mores and culture of the intelligence world pre- and post-9/11 world. He draws on his knowledge of the important players at all levels from the Oval Office to some of the regular workers at Langley, striving to make sense of ever-increasing flows of information.

    The Central Intelligence Agency was never planned as a keeper of prisoners. It had no jails and it had no protocols to deal with high or low value prisoners who had been members of the CIA’s principal target, Al-Qaeda. Author Philip Mudd follows the torturous path of interrogation techniques through the Department of Justice, the politicians and the operators, agents and analysts of the agency, the creation of black site jails and much of the rising and falling tension and shifting attitudes throughout the nation.

    From it’s very first incident to the final conclusion this is a riveting exploration of the secret and the prosaic world of intelligence gathering.

  • Andrew Bell

    Excellent overview of system that shows government is never prepared for something new so they just muddle through... Although author's conclusion is that the program prevented another 9/11, I did not see the proof. Never got to or mentioned the actual acts that were prevented. Validation of pieces of information does not validate a program. I think some stories about what was prevented would have made the validation more believable. However, this could be like community policing - "The absence

    Excellent overview of system that shows government is never prepared for something new so they just muddle through... Although author's conclusion is that the program prevented another 9/11, I did not see the proof. Never got to or mentioned the actual acts that were prevented. Validation of pieces of information does not validate a program. I think some stories about what was prevented would have made the validation more believable. However, this could be like community policing - "The absence of crime [terrorism] is proof that it works" -- You cannot measure deterrence...

    Still a good read just for the facts showing where they got the ideas from for Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EITs)...

  • Stephen

    A good review of the very specific topic of the CIA post 9-11. The trip down memory lane to the way we were thinking back then, and Obama’s turn against the actors who did exactly what a lot of people wanted them to do was interesting to read, if tough.

  • Michael

    I received this book through a Good Reads “First Reads” giveaway.

    , authored by the former Deputy Director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, Philip Mudd, is an examination of the development and implementation of “the Program,” the CIA’s system of secret detention facilities and the “enhanced interrogation techniques” applied there to extract information from detainees following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

    I believe the book’s primary purpose beyond explaining

    I received this book through a Good Reads “First Reads” giveaway.

    , authored by the former Deputy Director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, Philip Mudd, is an examination of the development and implementation of “the Program,” the CIA’s system of secret detention facilities and the “enhanced interrogation techniques” applied there to extract information from detainees following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

    I believe the book’s primary purpose beyond explaining how “the Program” developed is to remind the reader of the intense pressure the intelligence community in general and the CIA in particular were under to prevent another large-scale attack in the immediate aftermath of 9/11; that there was a definite sense of unity in the country that the United States needed to take extraordinary measures to accomplish that objective; and that much of the later criticism of the CIA’s actions is to a large degree after-the-fact Monday morning quarterbacking. While fully acknowledging the awesome weight of responsibility placed on the CIA at that time, it is still difficult not to squirm when reading the list of approved “enhanced interrogation techniques” such as waterboarding and the rather dubious (in my opinion) legal rationale employed to find that none of those techniques constituted torture. (What I find fascinating is that while DOJ and CIA lawyers struggled to craft legal definitions of what “torture” actually means, Mr. Mudd doesn’t report anyone asking what seems in hindsight to be a fairly obvious question – if another sovereign country’s government applied these “techniques” to captured American military personnel, US government agents, or private American citizens, would the United States Government consider it torture? Yes or no?)

    Given the controversial subject matter and Mr. Mudd’s service as the Deputy Director during part of the time that the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center oversaw “The Program,” the narrative is remarkably clinical and dispassionate, reading much like an agency “after-action/lessons learned” report based on collective recollections and general assessments of anonymous former CIA officials and case officers interviewed by the author. In fairness, Mr. Mudd is upfront in his author’s note that he isn’t going to interject first-person references to his own experiences or his direct personal feelings or views into the narrative. Still, I really would have preferred a more personal account from Mr. Mudd on “the Program” and what conclusions we can draw from his own experiences and reflections in terms of the difficult and troubling trade-offs between national security and national morality.

  • Agatha Glowacki

    Surprisingly thorough. A little too apologetic though

  • Hazel Meehan

    I found the book to be thorough, but more biased in favor of the CIA that I had hoped.

    It did a good job of giving a complete summary of events, as well as insight into the chains of decisions and circumstances that lead to those decisions.

    However, I found the analysis of the ethics involved lacking. The felt more like a defense of the CIA's actions and provided a very one-sided view of those actions. I understand that the book is telling the story of the CIA, from their perspective, but an ana

    I found the book to be thorough, but more biased in favor of the CIA that I had hoped.

    It did a good job of giving a complete summary of events, as well as insight into the chains of decisions and circumstances that lead to those decisions.

    However, I found the analysis of the ethics involved lacking. The felt more like a defense of the CIA's actions and provided a very one-sided view of those actions. I understand that the book is telling the story of the CIA, from their perspective, but an analysis should always entertain multiple viewpoints and the one in this book did not.

  • Roberta Havel

    Even though it may have been necessary, the number of anonymous sources made the book difficult to read. I only read about half of it, but felt I learned a lot about the post 9-11 CIA.

  • Trina

    Kind of a slog. I started Black Site but didn’t stick with it... A pity because I like listening to Philip Mudd on CNN a lot. He’s got strong, snappy opinions & expresses them well. But not here. The CIA might’ve gone through its most difficult hour but the reader shouldn’t have to...

  • Asim Qureshi

    Still to this day, one of the most difficult moments in my working life came in April 2009. The Associated Press ran a story about a man named Gul Rahman who had been killed by the CIA at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan in 2003. 3 months prior to this story, I had been in Peshawar investigating disappearances at the hands of the US, and had met with Rahman’s family. They believed him to be alive at that time, and assumed that he was still being detained in Bagram. During those months I reached out

    Still to this day, one of the most difficult moments in my working life came in April 2009. The Associated Press ran a story about a man named Gul Rahman who had been killed by the CIA at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan in 2003. 3 months prior to this story, I had been in Peshawar investigating disappearances at the hands of the US, and had met with Rahman’s family. They believed him to be alive at that time, and assumed that he was still being detained in Bagram. During those months I reached out to all my colleagues who worked on cases at the detention camp, and none of them had heard of this name or case.

    When the Associated Press article ran, I called the Rahman family in order to send my condolences. Except, they knew nothing about what I was saying. Not the Associated Press, the US, Pakistan or Afghanistan government had deemed it necessary to inform the family, and I found myself in the horrible position of having to inform them of their loss.

    This moment is one of many in why I treat former deputy director of CIA Counterterrorism, Philip Mudd’s calls for empathy for the CIA in the post-9/11 environment with complete disdain. I have no time for his argument, and this was only exacerbated by his claim that Gul Rahman’s death was due to ‘oversights’ and ‘mistakes’. This wasn’t just a mistake and as my own colleague @withcage Moazzam Begg witnessed himself, they were willing to kick other detainees to death just for repeating the word Allah.

    Mudd believes that if it wasn’t for the waterboarding, then the public outcry of torture (what is euphemistically referred to as enhanced interrogation techniques) would never have been the same. I think as human beings, we need to constantly remind ourselves that the legal gymnastics that governments play in order to rid themselves of accountability should never define who we are and what we find acceptable. Torture is torture, even the sleep deprivation that he has no problem with. His admissions of sleep deprivation and isolation should be enough to have him convicted of torture in any foreign jurisdiction, due to the international norm against this violent tool.

    Gul Rahman was a person with a family, as were the hundreds of thousands of individuals detained in US detention camps around the world. Eric Holder, the same man who ensured that no one would be presecuted for Michael Brown’s killing, stated that no one could be prosecuted for Rahman’s killing - impunity being the order of Obama’s administration. I am still here though and I will never allow the CIA to forget or revise that history as long as I am alive inshallah.

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