Surprise, Kill, Vanish: The Secret History of CIA Paramilitary Armies, Operators, and Assassins

Surprise, Kill, Vanish: The Secret History of CIA Paramilitary Armies, Operators, and Assassins

The definitive, character-driven history of CIA covert operations and U.S. government-sponsored assassinations, from the author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Pentagon's BrainSince 1947, domestic and foreign assassinations have been executed under the CIA-led covert action operations team. Before that time, responsibility for taking out America's enemies abroad was eve...

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Title:Surprise, Kill, Vanish: The Secret History of CIA Paramilitary Armies, Operators, and Assassins
Author:Annie Jacobsen
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Edition Language:English

Surprise, Kill, Vanish: The Secret History of CIA Paramilitary Armies, Operators, and Assassins Reviews

  • Eric

    I received this book as a free give-a-way from Goodreads Giveaways. I have never been disappointed by Jacobsen's writings, and this one does did not disappoint. This read was one that was hard to put down. If you're interested in paramilitary/special ops history, this book is for you!

  • Aaron

    A remarkable narrative on the history of the CIA with numerous interviews, first hand accounts and a bibliography filling several pages. If you seek an unbiased account of the shadowy world of espionage in the United States, this book delivers. Without bias or blame, the political aspect is acknowledged and given its place in the hidden hand operations of the CIA. Being a consumer of numerous spy & action books & movies, this true history of America's secret organization is remarkable an

    A remarkable narrative on the history of the CIA with numerous interviews, first hand accounts and a bibliography filling several pages. If you seek an unbiased account of the shadowy world of espionage in the United States, this book delivers. Without bias or blame, the political aspect is acknowledged and given its place in the hidden hand operations of the CIA. Being a consumer of numerous spy & action books & movies, this true history of America's secret organization is remarkable and fascinating.

    Given the subject matter, I was not surprised to shelve this one for adult readers. The content discusses killings, both the methods and actual events, as well as the sexual proclivities and cultural norms of many Middle Eastern men. Suffice it to say this is a mature audience book.

    *I received a free proof of this book from Goodreads giveaways*

  • Annie Jacobsen

    My new book coming out in May!

  • 11811 (Eleven)

    The CIA has a really bad habit of recruiting double agents. It's shocking how many operations went awry because of spies we mistakenly thought were working for us.

    This is the fifth book I've read by Annie Jacobsen. The common theme among all of them is they are based on recently declassified information, shedding new light on stories I'm already familiar with from various history classes. This new release covers the topic of assassination and paramilitary operations from WWII to present. The na

    The CIA has a really bad habit of recruiting double agents. It's shocking how many operations went awry because of spies we mistakenly thought were working for us.

    This is the fifth book I've read by Annie Jacobsen. The common theme among all of them is they are based on recently declassified information, shedding new light on stories I'm already familiar with from various history classes. This new release covers the topic of assassination and paramilitary operations from WWII to present. The narrative primarily focuses on Billy Waugh who was involved in roughly 60 years worth of operations. The Waugh narrative makes most of the book read like an action oriented spy novel. We get to see all the sketchy stuff the U.S. was involved with in Germany, Korea, Vietnam, Central America, Cuba, Vietnam, Egypt, the Sudan, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The stories cover everything from the Kennedy assassination (weeks after Kennedy approved assassination as a political tool) to the assassinations of Che Guevara, and countless terrorists in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

    There's also a focus on the morality issues. What methods of murder are more acceptable than others? Is it wrong to assassinate someone at close range with a knife, but okay to take out the same person along with 50 civilian casualties with a 2,000 lbs bomb? The morality issues border on the surreal.

    I've read plenty of books on these topics before but this was mostly new material for me because of the recently declassified information. I think of it as "new" history. I recommend skipping your next spy novel and grabbing this instead. It's so much crazier than fiction. You won't be bored.

    I received a free ARC from Goodreads. This is my second ARC in a row for Jacobsen's books and I'm hoping the publisher sends me the next one, whatever it is, whenever it is released.

  • Liz

    A few years ago I visited the memorial and what is currently occupying the small village of Lidice in the Czech Republic and learned the horrific details of an assassination of a Nazi general during WWII. Then, on another vacation trip, I visited Guatemala and our guide recounted the story of CIA action in that country during the '50s and how its resulting consequences are still being felt today. Both of these events and many others are related in this fascinating book. It finally has begun to s

    A few years ago I visited the memorial and what is currently occupying the small village of Lidice in the Czech Republic and learned the horrific details of an assassination of a Nazi general during WWII. Then, on another vacation trip, I visited Guatemala and our guide recounted the story of CIA action in that country during the '50s and how its resulting consequences are still being felt today. Both of these events and many others are related in this fascinating book. It finally has begun to sink in that those action/espionage/terrorist thrillers that I read have basis in fact. This country is engaged in complex, dangerous and subversive missions that create international outcomes with soul-searching ramifications. This is a long, well- written and well-documented read that has some fascinating historical stories and information about the dark world of black operations. If you are interested in the shady world of covert actions, you will be captivated by this book. If you are not, you might find your interest grows as you read this one.

    I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway for this honest review.

  • David Lucero

    A fascinating, compelling look into how American politics has evolved in its effectiveness in fighting the war on terror.

    Author Annie Jacobsen's novel, 'Surprise, Kill, Vanish,' covers how America fought clandestine, behind-the-lines, covert, and tackling the delicate issue of assassination, all under the order of 'plausible deniability' in order to prevent World War III.

    From the 'Jedburgh' teams dropped into Occupied France during WWII when the Office of Strategic Services was born, to today's

    A fascinating, compelling look into how American politics has evolved in its effectiveness in fighting the war on terror.

    Author Annie Jacobsen's novel, 'Surprise, Kill, Vanish,' covers how America fought clandestine, behind-the-lines, covert, and tackling the delicate issue of assassination, all under the order of 'plausible deniability' in order to prevent World War III.

    From the 'Jedburgh' teams dropped into Occupied France during WWII when the Office of Strategic Services was born, to today's CIA Special Activities Division taking on America's most lethal enemies, this book is an eye-opener.

    American involvement in WWII required a special breed of men and women to fight Hitler's Europe, and volunteers signed up for training which took them to the heart of the enemy. Our men and women needed to fight Nazis in a way never fully understood.... Until now. Jacobsen tackles the delicate issue our leaders faced when fighting an enemy. Even discussing the assassination of a tyrant like Adolf Hitler meant opening a 'Pandora's Box' that left our leaders second-guessing themselves. Killing the head's of state meant our own leaders were subject to equal threats from a determined foe. Legalities of such action also comes to mind. When politics fail to bring peace, and a declaration of war is not an option....Plausible Deniability is the only course of action our American President has with which to keep our enemies at bay.

    In forefront of Jacobsen's powerful books is Billy Waugh, a veteran soldier and CIA operative, this man has done and seen it all. From the battlefields of Korea and Vietnam, and to the Middle East, Africa, and God only knows where else, this man has done so much for his country it's practically a crying shame he is not a household name.

    Jacobsen's book educates the reader on how war has evolved from presidents declaring war, to plausible deniability (meaning, we can neither verify nor deny any and such action).

    I'm a veteran myself, having served in the 82nd Airborne Division '84'-'87, and as a kid I admired some of the persons mentioned in Jacobsen's novel. I dreamed of being and doing what they did. Alas, that was not to be. But I do not have regrets. I've lived a good life. And I, and many of us, owe thanks to people like Billy Waugh and many others mentioned in Jacobsen's book for that. This book reads like an action novel, but it is in fact historically true. The author's research educates us as to how and why we are in a state of war in unprecedented terms. As I write this review, I have family celebrating a niece's 6th birthday, all the while there are men and women serving our nation abroad, fighting in a war our government neither acknowledges nor denies, so that I can be here safely with my family and friends.

    Parts most precious in this novel to me were her details of Vietnam, Laos, and the Ho Chi Minh Trail. My father served in the United States Air Force for 23 years and was assigned to Communications Intelligence. Part of his tour was in Laos, at a time when our president denied we had troops there. They wore civilian clothes and set up communications in the jungles for SOG. He never got any awards or recognition for this part of his service because we weren't supposed to be there. Had he been caught he could have been shot as a spy! I think my father would like reading this book, and so will you. It is insightful, historical, and offers readers the ability to see for themselves how the war on terror has made us fight in a way we never imagined.

  • Monica

    I won this on a Goodreads Giveaway for my honest opinion.

    Even though it took me awhile to read, because I have been sick, it is an interesting book. A nonfiction about some of the things the CIA has done for America since its inception. Sometimes war is not the answer and the President needs another way, when this happens he calls in the CIA Paramilitary Armies. It takes you thru the 1940's up to President Trump.

    Is assassination right, when it's for the safety of our country? I will leave that

    I won this on a Goodreads Giveaway for my honest opinion.

    Even though it took me awhile to read, because I have been sick, it is an interesting book. A nonfiction about some of the things the CIA has done for America since its inception. Sometimes war is not the answer and the President needs another way, when this happens he calls in the CIA Paramilitary Armies. It takes you thru the 1940's up to President Trump.

    Is assassination right, when it's for the safety of our country? I will leave that up to the reader to decide. For me, it's a yes. If one President would have used this, would 9/11 not have happened? Again, that's the readers decision to make.

    Happy Reading 😊

  • Jerome

    A readable, mostly well-researched history of America’s use of assassination in foreign policy, both in wartime and in covert action.

    Jacobsen’s narrative is engaging and crafted around people. She covers the origins and history of the CIA’s paramilitary branch (often using Billy Waugh’s Special Forces and CIA career to flesh it out), and the US government’s search for the best way to protect the president from assassination (using Lew Merletti’s Special Forces and Secret Service career to add th

    A readable, mostly well-researched history of America’s use of assassination in foreign policy, both in wartime and in covert action.

    Jacobsen’s narrative is engaging and crafted around people. She covers the origins and history of the CIA’s paramilitary branch (often using Billy Waugh’s Special Forces and CIA career to flesh it out), and the US government’s search for the best way to protect the president from assassination (using Lew Merletti’s Special Forces and Secret Service career to add the human dimension)

    Jacobsen covers a lot of the Agency’s paramilitary operations here, and, unfortunately, her treatment is often somewhat cursory (there’s more in-depth works available for almost all of these) but, again, she does do a good job with the human element. The writing is lively and almost upbeat. There are few errors and typos here and there in my advance copy: at one point JFK is called a “lieutenant colonel” during World War II, and the Army’s Robert Marasco is called a CIA officer, and she mentions RPGs with “green tracers.” Elsewhere she claims that Ali Salameh became a CIA asset as a result of a deal between Kissinger and Arafat (huh?), and that the US was willing to use nuclear weapons in Vietnam (really?) She also writes of “F-47” planes. Bill Buckley is called “Bill Casey” at one point. For some reason there is no coverage of the Phoenix program. Also, it seems like she tries too hard to make Billy Waugh central to the story, even though he only pops up a few times. The writing can also get a bit breathless at times (Jacobsen happens to be a screenwriter, which might explain it)

    A good work overall, strong and thoughtful at times, sometimes not so much.

  • Katie

    Interesting read, but not really anything new or surprising.

  • Erik Graff

    This is hardly the definitive story of CIA special operations. Rather, it discusses the activities of regular military special forces as well as comparable activities by agents of foreign powers. What seems to have occurred is that Jacobsen became close to a couple of guys who did work for the CIA and who served as her primary informants for some accounts ranging from WWII until the ongoing 'war on terror'. It is, in my opinion, a rather lazy, but still engrossing, book.

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