500 Days: Decisions and Deceptions in the Shadow of 9/11

500 Days: Decisions and Deceptions in the Shadow of 9/11



10 thoughts on “500 Days: Decisions and Deceptions in the Shadow of 9/11

  1. Matt Matt says:

    Back in September 2001, I was still in college, and my societal consciousness was to put it kindly undeveloped Like most college students, I was most interested in my own existence And in getting drunk On September 11, and on the following days, I was glued to CNN along with the rest of humanity After awhile, though, I stopped paying attention, and went on about my life This is the luxury of tragedy s spectators Certainly, I often heard the news droning in the background, but I never s Back in September 2001, I was still in college, and my societal consciousness was to put it kindly undeveloped Like most college students, I was most interested in my own existence And in getting drunk On September 11, and on the following days, I was glued to CNN along with the rest of humanity After awhile, though, I stopped paying attention, and went on about my life This is the luxury of tragedy s spectators Certainly, I often heard the news droning in the background, but I never stopped to pay it much attention After all, there were beers to cram and exams to shotgun Or something like that Thus, Kurt Eichenwald s 500 Days Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars is like opening up a time capsule The worst time capsule ever Instead of old yearbooks and CDs, there are distant yet somehow familiar phrases like extraordinary rendition and enhanced interrogation that bring to mind the worst excesses of America s response to the worst terrorist attack in American history It brought me back to a period I lived through but never intellectually engaged.Eichenwald writes that he chose the 500 day timeline because in his estimation that is the time it took for the Bush administration to formulate its response to 9 11 With all due respect, it s still an arbitrary number of days, one that is never fully explained And arbitrary is as good way to describe this book It hops, skips, and jumps all over the place, providing a wide ranging yet inconsistent pathway through some turbulent events The globetrotting takes place at terrific speed, from the Oval Office to Canada, from a Federal Courthouse to torture chambers in Egypt and Syria All the big moments are there the transformation of Guantanamo Bay into a prison, the nightclub bombing in Bali, the run up to the Iraq War but are allocated seemingly random amounts of space For instance, the anthrax attacks, and the story of the alleged attacker, Dr Bruce Ivins, is sprinkled liberally throughout the text, despite being an ancillary affair On the other hand, the details behind the war in Iraq, and the nonexistent evidence used as a casus belli, are barely explored Eichenwald writes at a breathless pace There is a dramatis personae at the beginning of the book, but the urgency of the storytelling made me unwilling to keep flipping back and forth His style incorporates a seemingly impossible fly on the wall point of view, with entire pages filled with quotation marked dialogue Eichenwald certainly documents his sources, but the level of detail, and the precision of the dialogue, gives me pause and to be sure, certain people mentioned in 500 Days have already written letters to the New York Times to complain In every respect, this reads like early Tom Clancy, with multiple plot threads, shallow characterizations, fascination with technology, and utter readability Indeed, Eichenwald s description of the Bali bombings read a lot like Clancy s Super Bowl nuking in The Sum of All Fears A burst of current flowed through electrical wires in a nanosecond, simultaneously reaching multiple detonators The impulse vaporized thin wire filaments inside the blasting caps, setting off an explosive charge Each solid molecule of TNT was converted into fifteen molecules of hot gas and powdered carbon The blast expanded at a velocity ofthan twenty nine thousand feet per second, creating a percussive wave that could tear apart everything in a sixty foot radius In one key respect, the Clancy analogy fails To be precise Clancy was a master plotter It didn t matter how many dots he created along the way by the end, they d all be connected Obviously, this is real life, and things don t wrap as neatly as they do in Cold War thrillers But this downside of 500 Days is an unforced error Eichenwald creates the confusion by shifting courses faster anderratically than a tweaking rat In fact, confusion appears to be part of Eichenwald s intended aesthetic Unfortunately, this decision if it was a conscious choice limits the dramatic emotional impact of many of his storylines For example, Eichenwald follows the awful journey of an innocent Canadian of Middle Eastern descent as he is flagged by the U.S., transported to Syria, and tortured into giving a false confession The power of this tale is inherent however, Eichenwald chops it into so many thin slices, inserting them piecemeal into his frantic, dateline dizzy narrative, that it drains the scenes of their power The best and most valuable portions of 500 Days, and the closest thing to a narrative through line, is Eichenwald s description of how the Bush administration came to embrace torture These sections are shocking, frustrating, and proof positive that the leap without looking response to any seminal event is a poor choice In great detail, Eichenwald takes you into interrogation chambers, where inexperienced CIA questioners, utilizing the non credible work of a foolish psychologist, botch interview after interview, while simultaneously besmirching the reputation of an entire nation Meanwhile, experienced FBI agents, who had been getting good information using tried and true non torture techniques, were pushed to the sideline, and eventually withdrawn from the situation, lest they run afoul of the law Eichenwald could have done himself and his book a favor by concentrating on this story Of lawyers in Washington, sitting in plush chairs behind wide oak desks, deciding how long a man could be placed in a box before it became torture of men in cages in an American prison, tormented by Americans, with no value accruing to America and of the innocents swept up in the net, their lives and psyches destroyed to no end All the other stuff Eichenwald adds to the mix the anthrax, the Bali bombings, Bush quoting the Bible to Jacques Chirac only serves to blunt the impact of his A story 500 Days ends with a brief description of Osama Bin Laden s death Perhaps this is unsurprising, since Americans are an optimistic lot However, it is a bit jarring and discordant in a book devoted to intelligence failures Five hundred and nineteen pages are given over to mistakes, overreaction, and dead ends, while the last three pages leap to a smashing intelligence military success Obviously, something happened in the interim between the end of the 500 days and Bin Laden s 2011 death but that something isn t the focus of 500 Days Accordingly, that epilogue is a false happy ending That leads to a larger, ideological criticism Eichenwald tells his story like a novelist He doesn t quibble over evidence He doesn t analyze or judge decisions He just lays things out in a seamless way that is easy to read but entirely at odds with how life actually plays out Despite this authorial detachment, it is clear in the main body of the text that Eichenwald is extremely critical of the Bush lawyers who okayed torture with flimsy and tautological legal reasoning But then, in the end, Eichenwald pulls back all his punches He declares they were all good men doing the best they could and that all is fair in the confusion of war I must respectfully disagree This is not to say that torture memo author John Yoo is an inhumane sociopathic monster He probably is not Certainly, though, he never imagined what it s like to get waterboarded when he wrote his advisory opinions He fell victim to the classic lawyer s trap when you view all the world as a law school exam, forgetting that real people exist at the tail end of legal decisions I don t doubt that Yoo and the rest thought they were protecting America The problem is they were not Quite the opposite And there were plenty of people around telling them this Good intentions do not simply erase bad actions At the very least, there is an argument to be made that any man close to the President including the President himself has to pass Kipling s If test, and be able to K eep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you Eichenwald doesn t see it like this He lays out a forceful brief that points in one direction, and then comes to the oddest conclusion of all no conclusion whatsoever


  2. Andrew Marti Andrew Marti says:

    The first 500 days after 9 11 2001 could have gone in multiple directions We could have leveraged the tragedy to reconsider how we engage with the Arab world We could have used 9 11 as an opportunity to re evaluate how we monitor and take on threats We could have used it as an opening to engage deeply into a mideast peace process.This book is about the path that was was taken instead, a path that was very different from the options above Instead, we invaded Iraq and instituted torture in int The first 500 days after 9 11 2001 could have gone in multiple directions We could have leveraged the tragedy to reconsider how we engage with the Arab world We could have used 9 11 as an opportunity to re evaluate how we monitor and take on threats We could have used it as an opening to engage deeply into a mideast peace process.This book is about the path that was was taken instead, a path that was very different from the options above Instead, we invaded Iraq and instituted torture in interrogration practices These two dark decisions become part of the lasting legacy of 9 11.500 Days by Kurt Eichenwald describes how these misguided approaches came to fruition Both with torture and with the Iraq invasion, government officials approach the new reality of 9 11 with preconceptions that didn t align to any current reality.Regarding torture FBI officials were participating in humane interrogations of detainees with CIA officers The CIA officers had received approval to use torture, to the continued astonishment of the FBI Again and again, the FBI team would gain valuable information by treating the detainees humanely and with respect The CIA team would leverage torture to gain lies, or worthless information In the CIA, and eventually in the Pentagon, officials were conviced that torture would work They felt that a new type of enemy required a new type of technique Decades of recognized interrogation techniques could be tossed And amazingly, the CIA started believing that torture scenes from TV shows like 24 could be adopted in real practice The result was a toxic stew at Guantanomo poorly trained interrogators, told to mistreat prisoners, with no limitations and no exposure to the law In the case of Iraq, Bush and Cheney were looking for any reason to invade Iraq September 11 was an opportune event in that it gave them an excuse to move forward Time and again, Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld provide reasons that were false linkages to al Queada, WMD.The team had a pre conception that Iraq was an imminent threat, despite any evidence.Unfortunately, no one in the government was able to objectively discern the situation and the facts No one was able to put aside pre conceptions and approach the problems with a fact based approach.The book is a challenge for the Obama administration to discern the world based on reality, not on preconceptions


  3. Mikey B. Mikey B. says:

    Page 342 my book Robert Douman judgeWe must protect the freedoms of even those who hate us and that we may find objectionable The warlords of Afghanistan may have been in the business of pillage and plunder We cannot descend to their standards without debasing ourselves I have read a few books on the Bush presidency and the aftermath of 9 11 This is quite possibly the best one It gives a broad view of events in the U.S., Europe, and to a lesser extent Afghanistan and Pakistan It also Page 342 my book Robert Douman judgeWe must protect the freedoms of even those who hate us and that we may find objectionable The warlords of Afghanistan may have been in the business of pillage and plunder We cannot descend to their standards without debasing ourselves I have read a few books on the Bush presidency and the aftermath of 9 11 This is quite possibly the best one It gives a broad view of events in the U.S., Europe, and to a lesser extent Afghanistan and Pakistan It also provides us with striking portraits of the many personalities involved along with their conversations.The structure is chronological which I initially found confusing, particularly as there are constant shifts throughout sometimes on the same page to diverse topics and characters But this also gives us a feeling of how several events during that time were intersecting and colliding with each other simultaneously In a sense it makes the book a real page turner as we experience this progression and constant movement.Obviously there are many disturbing situations throughout the first 500 days after 9 11 We vividly see the downgrading of the Bush administration where human rights are trodden over Several actions stand out I will provide just one why did Dick Cheney have so much power in influencing and making decisions he was a vice president who traditionally has no authority By contrast, Truman, when he took over after Roosevelt s death, did not even know of the developments on the atomic bomb.While the author does give Bush and his entourage latitude in that they were trying to protect their country from further attacks We also are provided with the details of a grab for power where the U.S constitution was over looked It was like in order to protect ourselves let s go it alone, overrule government regulations and international law and by the way we will do torture too The author shows how both the CIA and the U.S military took this slippery slope where torture became a modus operandi Its devastating when something unacceptable becomes acceptable.The author never lets us lose site of the enemies we are dealing with Islamic fundamentalists who are bent on destroying Western liberal democracy In their own country they blew apart the Bamiyan statues that were made in the sixth century because they were deemed an affront to Islam In Bali an awful event that we tend to forget they meticulously planned and bombed a nightclub area in 2002 that killed over 200 people and injured over 200 Obviously these terrorist groups must be stopped.The prelude to the Iraq war is brought up It is clear this had nothing to do with pursuing terrorism We are given a good view of the Orwellian doublespeak that led to this invasion In the U.S administration the war build up for Iraq was brought up within hours after 9 11.This book gives us a perspective on how the United States, Canadian and British governments coped after 9 11 Sadly, it is not ennobling The personalities and what they said and did, speak for themselves.Page 156 Bush proclaimed that he could set up a trial system on his own, then determine what constituted a crime and what rights would be afforded the defendantsHad anyone in the White House even read the Constitution


  4. Jason Jason says:

    As crazy and or sick as this may sound, I wish I could go back to the late summer early fall of 2001 I want to experience it now again knowing what time and history has shown us Since time travel is impossible this book is the closest we ll ever get to re experiencing the entire panorama of it all from that fateful sunny, clear Tuesday morn in September through the Anthrax attacks of that fall up to the Guantanamo Bay scandals even up to the precursor to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a war th As crazy and or sick as this may sound, I wish I could go back to the late summer early fall of 2001 I want to experience it now again knowing what time and history has shown us Since time travel is impossible this book is the closest we ll ever get to re experiencing the entire panorama of it all from that fateful sunny, clear Tuesday morn in September through the Anthrax attacks of that fall up to the Guantanamo Bay scandals even up to the precursor to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a war that myself and so many others still consider unwarranted and unfounded.Read this book it actually reads almost like a novel and be taken back to a time that was unprecedented in its history, its scope and its moralities I wonder how any of the actual players in this drama would react to how this story plays itself out You read it and then you can totally understand just why George W Bush is looked upon with such disdain This book reveals it, it is the beginning of it all I cannot recommend this book any .ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN 2012


  5. Jean-Paul Adriaansen Jean-Paul Adriaansen says:

    I wish this was fiction, so that I did not have to believe what I read The account of what happened in the 500 days after 09 11 is mind blowing, harrowing, even surreal, and so not according to what the USA stands for In spite of the honest, decent work of thousands of Americans in the war on terror, this is a story about incompetence, arrogance, and jealousy on the highest levels in American politics When the USA rejects universal agreements, when American jurists are searching for the legal I wish this was fiction, so that I did not have to believe what I read The account of what happened in the 500 days after 09 11 is mind blowing, harrowing, even surreal, and so not according to what the USA stands for In spite of the honest, decent work of thousands of Americans in the war on terror, this is a story about incompetence, arrogance, and jealousy on the highest levels in American politics When the USA rejects universal agreements, when American jurists are searching for the legal meaning of pain and the legality of torture, may God help America Well written, fast paced, and what a creepy reality


  6. Brian Brian says:

    I m halfway through this book and it is a page turner It is definitely on my list of books that I will read twice Only a very few books get that rating from me I will read it twice because in my first reading, done in record time, I am sure to have missed some nuances This is a great book for any reader that wants to understand how the top level leadership and mid level leadership got us to where we are today There are heroes and incompetents that formed the response to 9 11, but they are n I m halfway through this book and it is a page turner It is definitely on my list of books that I will read twice Only a very few books get that rating from me I will read it twice because in my first reading, done in record time, I am sure to have missed some nuances This is a great book for any reader that wants to understand how the top level leadership and mid level leadership got us to where we are today There are heroes and incompetents that formed the response to 9 11, but they are not who you might think I read Hank Crumpton s book about his time in Afghanistan, but after reading this book, Hank s book seems seems a little light and narrowly focused.I have read that we are in a scientific revolution in real time, to me this is history in real time It should be required reading for anyone that is elected or who is in high government office As a Canadian, I often feel like an outside observer to world events, however in this case there is a significant Canadian component, and I am a not proud of our conduct during this time Update I m now finished the book, it is everything that I thought it was going to be As to my feelings about the Canadian conduct, I am somewhat relieved, although the conduct of authorities at the mid management level was very disappointing, in the end the Canadian Government recognized the mistakes and negotiated restitution Unfortunately, the US is still trying to wiggle out of manning up


  7. Wanda Wanda says:

    A NYT review prompted me to read this fascinating and depressing book There were no specific jaw dropping revelations for me, as I have carefully read most of the legitimate news media accounts on the Bush administration and its near declaration of martial law in the post 9 11 years To say that this bunch used the Constitution as toilet paper is to be generous The NYT reviewer opined that these were the years that an inexorable psychosis took hold of the Bush administration and he is right T A NYT review prompted me to read this fascinating and depressing book There were no specific jaw dropping revelations for me, as I have carefully read most of the legitimate news media accounts on the Bush administration and its near declaration of martial law in the post 9 11 years To say that this bunch used the Constitution as toilet paper is to be generous The NYT reviewer opined that these were the years that an inexorable psychosis took hold of the Bush administration and he is right This book details that descent into panic, paranoia and madness Lies and unsubstantiated rumors fed a White House that was only too willing to act on them, much to the chagrin of the rest of the world But the administration s hubris and arrogance completely blocked out the sanity that other world powers tried to bring to the rush to war and torture, and the relinquishment of any vestige of a U.S moral compass.The administrations lack of self control resulted in their making baseless assertions to the American people about a purported plot to blow up the U.S Embassy in Bosnia and the presence of WMD in Iraq Their stupidity resulted in their looking foolish vis a vis other world leaders, in addition to the long suffering Tony Blair Apparently Bush told Jacques Chirac that biblical prophecies were being fulfilled and that Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East Oh my I could not believe my eyes when I read that Chirac, a sane person, decided that his country was not going to be dragged into a war on the basis of Bush s interpretation of the Bible The French paid for this economically when the administration sought revenge for their betrayal I could go on, but it truly is depressing to think that we have gone to war, squandered our resources, both human and capital, and wasted a decade making ourselves hatedthan we already were because of this bozo administration.The book is well researched and well written almost too well written for non fiction Bravo It is very detailed and some might find it overly detailed But it is must reading for those who are deluded and ignorant of what happened to this country and the danger of government run amok that were the Bush years But, I doubt that those who need to read this eye opener ever will


  8. Denise Denise says:

    Charting a variety of events and decisions taken during the first 500 days in the wake of 9 11 in the US and UK governments, various detention sites and lawyers offices, Guantanamo, and beyond this book weaves together the experiences of a number of both key and lesser players over that time There s not much here that was really new to me other than that tidbit about Bush quoting the Bible at Chirac to get him to go to war and coming off like a complete religious fanatic in the process , Charting a variety of events and decisions taken during the first 500 days in the wake of 9 11 in the US and UK governments, various detention sites and lawyers offices, Guantanamo, and beyond this book weaves together the experiences of a number of both key and lesser players over that time There s not much here that was really new to me other than that tidbit about Bush quoting the Bible at Chirac to get him to go to war and coming off like a complete religious fanatic in the process , and so, so much that just makes me angry beyond words the power plays, political backstabbing, power grabs, illogical and reprehensible justifications for all manner of awfulness including invading Iraq, imprisoning people without trial, kidnapping, torture seemingly endless successions of groups of lawyers evidently lacking anything resembling a functioning moral compass quibbling over legalese while signing off on violations of international laws and human rights I could go on What makes me evenangry is, still, after all these years, the lack of true accountability and consequences for all those who were involved The author strove for objectivity in recounting these events, but quite frankly, given what he s documenting, somewhatdecisive criticism seemed called for


  9. Jerome Jerome says:

    The title made me think this would be just another political rant, but this book is admirably balanced and never gets polemic Eichenwald shows how the Bush administration struggled to find a proper balance between national security and legal rights While it is all too easy to portray the Bush team as evil dictators hellbent on breaking laws, it is important to consider the context of the time period After 9 11 NOBODY wanted to see another such terrorist attack happen without having done somet The title made me think this would be just another political rant, but this book is admirably balanced and never gets polemic Eichenwald shows how the Bush administration struggled to find a proper balance between national security and legal rights While it is all too easy to portray the Bush team as evil dictators hellbent on breaking laws, it is important to consider the context of the time period After 9 11 NOBODY wanted to see another such terrorist attack happen without having done something about it All this talk of conspiracies and curbing of civil liberties has nothing to do with some evil conspiracy Rather, it has everything to do with preventing another catastrophe like 9 11 from happening again We as citizens can, and should, debate whether these methods benefits outweighed their drawbacks But portraying it as some evil conspiracy completely misses the point In an ideal, perfect world, the Bush team would never have considered the things they considered after 9 11 But after 9 11, it was a different world, and the Bush team, or anyone in their position, for that matter, did what they felt was necessary If the typical pundit who criticizes the Bush team s decisions was in their place during and after 9 11, I find it hard to imagine how THEY would have steered policy into some sort of perfect, rosy, fantasyland where there is no human cost,no paranoia, no hard decisions and an abundance of perfect solutions.Eichenwald s book moves along at a crisp, smooth pace and never bogs down However, a big limitation of the fast paced style is that it precludes analysis and insights into why something happened For example, an extended analysis of the misconceptions about the Manchester Manual is consigned to the Notes and Sources appendix pp 545 552 Advice Read it it is a critical part of the story One of my biggest frustrations with the accounts this and others is that I haven t seen a remotely satisfying explanation of why the CIA didn t have qualified, experienced interrogators as part of its normal course of business Or why the military did not use experienced interrogators from the Reserves predominantly from civilian law enforcement despite the Reserves being explicitly structured to preserve and provide that capability.There are several themes that are developed in 500 Days One of the most important themes is how United States conducted the War on Terror The War on Terror was multifaceted It involves the military, the CIA, the FBI, the Justice Department, the State Department, the border patrol and the Department of the Treasury just to name a few of the departments that were involved This book discusses the decisions that were made in the immediate aftermath of 9 11 in order to try to prevent a second attack George Tenet, director of central intelligence, was convinced the 9 11 was the first in a series of attacks The FBI and the CIA were convinced that there were sleeper cells here in the United States and abroad These cells were ready to act Because of this, the Bush administration always felt like they were behind the eight ball The Bush administration felt that they needed to catch up in order to prevent the next attack.One of the sub themes in 500 Days was what to do with detainees and how to interrogate detainees An outsider, like me or you, would probably figure that there was a big meeting in the White House with the president, vice president and other principles sitting around then discussing how to take care of detainees and how to interrogate detainees, that never happened Instead, a series of lower level meetings occurred on the fly The complexity of this issue is well demonstrated in this book The central role of John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales, Dr Jim Mitchell, psychologist for the SERE program, David Addington and William Jim Haynes is painstakingly described The amount of detail on who did what, in my mind, is unprecedented And enhanced interrogation techniques were not illegal They were approved all the way up the line at the Justice Department The problem was no their legality but their ineffectiveness FBI rapport building techniques had been successful time and time again Harsh tactics simply caused weaker detainees to fabricate lies in order to get the torture to stop and tougher detainees who came from countries that employed torture on a regular basis to harden up As if this isn t stupid enough, when Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded, he had already spilled the beans on what he knew Before he was waterboarded How odd.One of the simplistic arguments that has been perpetuated in the mainstream media was the decision to torture or not torture a particular detainee The mainstream media has told us that no actionable intelligence has come from torturing detainees Kurt Eichenwald was thrown a wrench in this simplistic view of the world He has shown us that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who was tortured under US custody gave us a ton of actionable intelligence Al Qaeda in Southeast Asia was almost completely wrapped up, disabled, because of the information that came from KSM On the other hand, Abu Zubaydah who was initially interviewed by the FBI, gave them excellent intelligence before he was subjected to harsh interrogation torture The issue is not black or white The problem is extremely complex I tip my hat to Kurt Eichenwald for letting us see that these decisions aren t so black and white.The most glaring error is stating that each plane had four hijackers, except United 93, which had three Since there were 19 hijackers the math doesn t add up Of course there were five on the three four on United 93 to get to 19.Other than that,a great read


  10. Valerie Valerie says:

    Kurt is a writer with integrity both his non fiction investigative books and hispersonal memoirs require courage In my opinion, his willingness to risk has made him a national treasure.


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500 Days: Decisions and Deceptions in the Shadow of 9/11 ➶ [Read] ➲ 500 Days: Decisions and Deceptions in the Shadow of 9/11 By Kurt Eichenwald ➾ – Capitalsoftworks.co.uk Kurt Eichenwald New York Times bestselling author of Conspiracy of Fools and The Informant recounts the first days after in a comprehensive, fly on the wall, compelling page turner as gripping as a Kurt Eichenwald New York Times bestselling author of Decisions and eBook ✓ Conspiracy of Fools and The Informant recounts the firstdays after in a comprehensive, fly on the wall, compelling page turner as gripping as any thrillerInDays, master chronicler Kurt Eichenwald lays bare the harrowing decisions, deceptions, and delusions of the eighteen months that changed the world forever, as leaders raced to protect their citizens in the wake ofEichenwald s gripping, immediate style and true to life dialogue puts readers at the heart of these historic events, from the Oval Office to NumberDowning Street, from 500 Days: Epub / Guantanamo Bay to the depths of CIA headquarters, from the al Qaeda training camps to the torture chambers of Egypt and Syria He reveals previously undisclosed information from the terror wars, including never before reported details about warrantless wiretapping, the anthrax attacks, and investigations and conflicts among Washington, DC and LondonWith his signature fast paced narrative style, Eichenwald whose book, The Informant, was called one of the best nonfiction books of the decade by The New York Times Book Review exposes a world of secrets and lies that has remained hidden until Days: Decisions and Kindle × now.

10 thoughts on “500 Days: Decisions and Deceptions in the Shadow of 9/11

  1. Matt Matt says:

    Back in September 2001, I was still in college, and my societal consciousness was to put it kindly undeveloped Like most college students, I was most interested in my own existence And in getting drunk On September 11, and on the following days, I was glued to CNN along with the rest of humanity After awhile, though, I stopped paying attention, and went on about my life This is the luxury of tragedy s spectators Certainly, I often heard the news droning in the background, but I never s Back in September 2001, I was still in college, and my societal consciousness was to put it kindly undeveloped Like most college students, I was most interested in my own existence And in getting drunk On September 11, and on the following days, I was glued to CNN along with the rest of humanity After awhile, though, I stopped paying attention, and went on about my life This is the luxury of tragedy s spectators Certainly, I often heard the news droning in the background, but I never stopped to pay it much attention After all, there were beers to cram and exams to shotgun Or something like that Thus, Kurt Eichenwald s 500 Days Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars is like opening up a time capsule The worst time capsule ever Instead of old yearbooks and CDs, there are distant yet somehow familiar phrases like extraordinary rendition and enhanced interrogation that bring to mind the worst excesses of America s response to the worst terrorist attack in American history It brought me back to a period I lived through but never intellectually engaged.Eichenwald writes that he chose the 500 day timeline because in his estimation that is the time it took for the Bush administration to formulate its response to 9 11 With all due respect, it s still an arbitrary number of days, one that is never fully explained And arbitrary is as good way to describe this book It hops, skips, and jumps all over the place, providing a wide ranging yet inconsistent pathway through some turbulent events The globetrotting takes place at terrific speed, from the Oval Office to Canada, from a Federal Courthouse to torture chambers in Egypt and Syria All the big moments are there the transformation of Guantanamo Bay into a prison, the nightclub bombing in Bali, the run up to the Iraq War but are allocated seemingly random amounts of space For instance, the anthrax attacks, and the story of the alleged attacker, Dr Bruce Ivins, is sprinkled liberally throughout the text, despite being an ancillary affair On the other hand, the details behind the war in Iraq, and the nonexistent evidence used as a casus belli, are barely explored Eichenwald writes at a breathless pace There is a dramatis personae at the beginning of the book, but the urgency of the storytelling made me unwilling to keep flipping back and forth His style incorporates a seemingly impossible fly on the wall point of view, with entire pages filled with quotation marked dialogue Eichenwald certainly documents his sources, but the level of detail, and the precision of the dialogue, gives me pause and to be sure, certain people mentioned in 500 Days have already written letters to the New York Times to complain In every respect, this reads like early Tom Clancy, with multiple plot threads, shallow characterizations, fascination with technology, and utter readability Indeed, Eichenwald s description of the Bali bombings read a lot like Clancy s Super Bowl nuking in The Sum of All Fears A burst of current flowed through electrical wires in a nanosecond, simultaneously reaching multiple detonators The impulse vaporized thin wire filaments inside the blasting caps, setting off an explosive charge Each solid molecule of TNT was converted into fifteen molecules of hot gas and powdered carbon The blast expanded at a velocity ofthan twenty nine thousand feet per second, creating a percussive wave that could tear apart everything in a sixty foot radius In one key respect, the Clancy analogy fails To be precise Clancy was a master plotter It didn t matter how many dots he created along the way by the end, they d all be connected Obviously, this is real life, and things don t wrap as neatly as they do in Cold War thrillers But this downside of 500 Days is an unforced error Eichenwald creates the confusion by shifting courses faster anderratically than a tweaking rat In fact, confusion appears to be part of Eichenwald s intended aesthetic Unfortunately, this decision if it was a conscious choice limits the dramatic emotional impact of many of his storylines For example, Eichenwald follows the awful journey of an innocent Canadian of Middle Eastern descent as he is flagged by the U.S., transported to Syria, and tortured into giving a false confession The power of this tale is inherent however, Eichenwald chops it into so many thin slices, inserting them piecemeal into his frantic, dateline dizzy narrative, that it drains the scenes of their power The best and most valuable portions of 500 Days, and the closest thing to a narrative through line, is Eichenwald s description of how the Bush administration came to embrace torture These sections are shocking, frustrating, and proof positive that the leap without looking response to any seminal event is a poor choice In great detail, Eichenwald takes you into interrogation chambers, where inexperienced CIA questioners, utilizing the non credible work of a foolish psychologist, botch interview after interview, while simultaneously besmirching the reputation of an entire nation Meanwhile, experienced FBI agents, who had been getting good information using tried and true non torture techniques, were pushed to the sideline, and eventually withdrawn from the situation, lest they run afoul of the law Eichenwald could have done himself and his book a favor by concentrating on this story Of lawyers in Washington, sitting in plush chairs behind wide oak desks, deciding how long a man could be placed in a box before it became torture of men in cages in an American prison, tormented by Americans, with no value accruing to America and of the innocents swept up in the net, their lives and psyches destroyed to no end All the other stuff Eichenwald adds to the mix the anthrax, the Bali bombings, Bush quoting the Bible to Jacques Chirac only serves to blunt the impact of his A story 500 Days ends with a brief description of Osama Bin Laden s death Perhaps this is unsurprising, since Americans are an optimistic lot However, it is a bit jarring and discordant in a book devoted to intelligence failures Five hundred and nineteen pages are given over to mistakes, overreaction, and dead ends, while the last three pages leap to a smashing intelligence military success Obviously, something happened in the interim between the end of the 500 days and Bin Laden s 2011 death but that something isn t the focus of 500 Days Accordingly, that epilogue is a false happy ending That leads to a larger, ideological criticism Eichenwald tells his story like a novelist He doesn t quibble over evidence He doesn t analyze or judge decisions He just lays things out in a seamless way that is easy to read but entirely at odds with how life actually plays out Despite this authorial detachment, it is clear in the main body of the text that Eichenwald is extremely critical of the Bush lawyers who okayed torture with flimsy and tautological legal reasoning But then, in the end, Eichenwald pulls back all his punches He declares they were all good men doing the best they could and that all is fair in the confusion of war I must respectfully disagree This is not to say that torture memo author John Yoo is an inhumane sociopathic monster He probably is not Certainly, though, he never imagined what it s like to get waterboarded when he wrote his advisory opinions He fell victim to the classic lawyer s trap when you view all the world as a law school exam, forgetting that real people exist at the tail end of legal decisions I don t doubt that Yoo and the rest thought they were protecting America The problem is they were not Quite the opposite And there were plenty of people around telling them this Good intentions do not simply erase bad actions At the very least, there is an argument to be made that any man close to the President including the President himself has to pass Kipling s If test, and be able to K eep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you Eichenwald doesn t see it like this He lays out a forceful brief that points in one direction, and then comes to the oddest conclusion of all no conclusion whatsoever

  2. Andrew Marti Andrew Marti says:

    The first 500 days after 9 11 2001 could have gone in multiple directions We could have leveraged the tragedy to reconsider how we engage with the Arab world We could have used 9 11 as an opportunity to re evaluate how we monitor and take on threats We could have used it as an opening to engage deeply into a mideast peace process.This book is about the path that was was taken instead, a path that was very different from the options above Instead, we invaded Iraq and instituted torture in int The first 500 days after 9 11 2001 could have gone in multiple directions We could have leveraged the tragedy to reconsider how we engage with the Arab world We could have used 9 11 as an opportunity to re evaluate how we monitor and take on threats We could have used it as an opening to engage deeply into a mideast peace process.This book is about the path that was was taken instead, a path that was very different from the options above Instead, we invaded Iraq and instituted torture in interrogration practices These two dark decisions become part of the lasting legacy of 9 11.500 Days by Kurt Eichenwald describes how these misguided approaches came to fruition Both with torture and with the Iraq invasion, government officials approach the new reality of 9 11 with preconceptions that didn t align to any current reality.Regarding torture FBI officials were participating in humane interrogations of detainees with CIA officers The CIA officers had received approval to use torture, to the continued astonishment of the FBI Again and again, the FBI team would gain valuable information by treating the detainees humanely and with respect The CIA team would leverage torture to gain lies, or worthless information In the CIA, and eventually in the Pentagon, officials were conviced that torture would work They felt that a new type of enemy required a new type of technique Decades of recognized interrogation techniques could be tossed And amazingly, the CIA started believing that torture scenes from TV shows like 24 could be adopted in real practice The result was a toxic stew at Guantanomo poorly trained interrogators, told to mistreat prisoners, with no limitations and no exposure to the law In the case of Iraq, Bush and Cheney were looking for any reason to invade Iraq September 11 was an opportune event in that it gave them an excuse to move forward Time and again, Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld provide reasons that were false linkages to al Queada, WMD.The team had a pre conception that Iraq was an imminent threat, despite any evidence.Unfortunately, no one in the government was able to objectively discern the situation and the facts No one was able to put aside pre conceptions and approach the problems with a fact based approach.The book is a challenge for the Obama administration to discern the world based on reality, not on preconceptions

  3. Mikey B. Mikey B. says:

    Page 342 my book Robert Douman judgeWe must protect the freedoms of even those who hate us and that we may find objectionable The warlords of Afghanistan may have been in the business of pillage and plunder We cannot descend to their standards without debasing ourselves I have read a few books on the Bush presidency and the aftermath of 9 11 This is quite possibly the best one It gives a broad view of events in the U.S., Europe, and to a lesser extent Afghanistan and Pakistan It also Page 342 my book Robert Douman judgeWe must protect the freedoms of even those who hate us and that we may find objectionable The warlords of Afghanistan may have been in the business of pillage and plunder We cannot descend to their standards without debasing ourselves I have read a few books on the Bush presidency and the aftermath of 9 11 This is quite possibly the best one It gives a broad view of events in the U.S., Europe, and to a lesser extent Afghanistan and Pakistan It also provides us with striking portraits of the many personalities involved along with their conversations.The structure is chronological which I initially found confusing, particularly as there are constant shifts throughout sometimes on the same page to diverse topics and characters But this also gives us a feeling of how several events during that time were intersecting and colliding with each other simultaneously In a sense it makes the book a real page turner as we experience this progression and constant movement.Obviously there are many disturbing situations throughout the first 500 days after 9 11 We vividly see the downgrading of the Bush administration where human rights are trodden over Several actions stand out I will provide just one why did Dick Cheney have so much power in influencing and making decisions he was a vice president who traditionally has no authority By contrast, Truman, when he took over after Roosevelt s death, did not even know of the developments on the atomic bomb.While the author does give Bush and his entourage latitude in that they were trying to protect their country from further attacks We also are provided with the details of a grab for power where the U.S constitution was over looked It was like in order to protect ourselves let s go it alone, overrule government regulations and international law and by the way we will do torture too The author shows how both the CIA and the U.S military took this slippery slope where torture became a modus operandi Its devastating when something unacceptable becomes acceptable.The author never lets us lose site of the enemies we are dealing with Islamic fundamentalists who are bent on destroying Western liberal democracy In their own country they blew apart the Bamiyan statues that were made in the sixth century because they were deemed an affront to Islam In Bali an awful event that we tend to forget they meticulously planned and bombed a nightclub area in 2002 that killed over 200 people and injured over 200 Obviously these terrorist groups must be stopped.The prelude to the Iraq war is brought up It is clear this had nothing to do with pursuing terrorism We are given a good view of the Orwellian doublespeak that led to this invasion In the U.S administration the war build up for Iraq was brought up within hours after 9 11.This book gives us a perspective on how the United States, Canadian and British governments coped after 9 11 Sadly, it is not ennobling The personalities and what they said and did, speak for themselves.Page 156 Bush proclaimed that he could set up a trial system on his own, then determine what constituted a crime and what rights would be afforded the defendantsHad anyone in the White House even read the Constitution

  4. Jason Jason says:

    As crazy and or sick as this may sound, I wish I could go back to the late summer early fall of 2001 I want to experience it now again knowing what time and history has shown us Since time travel is impossible this book is the closest we ll ever get to re experiencing the entire panorama of it all from that fateful sunny, clear Tuesday morn in September through the Anthrax attacks of that fall up to the Guantanamo Bay scandals even up to the precursor to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a war th As crazy and or sick as this may sound, I wish I could go back to the late summer early fall of 2001 I want to experience it now again knowing what time and history has shown us Since time travel is impossible this book is the closest we ll ever get to re experiencing the entire panorama of it all from that fateful sunny, clear Tuesday morn in September through the Anthrax attacks of that fall up to the Guantanamo Bay scandals even up to the precursor to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a war that myself and so many others still consider unwarranted and unfounded.Read this book it actually reads almost like a novel and be taken back to a time that was unprecedented in its history, its scope and its moralities I wonder how any of the actual players in this drama would react to how this story plays itself out You read it and then you can totally understand just why George W Bush is looked upon with such disdain This book reveals it, it is the beginning of it all I cannot recommend this book any .ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN 2012

  5. Jean-Paul Adriaansen Jean-Paul Adriaansen says:

    I wish this was fiction, so that I did not have to believe what I read The account of what happened in the 500 days after 09 11 is mind blowing, harrowing, even surreal, and so not according to what the USA stands for In spite of the honest, decent work of thousands of Americans in the war on terror, this is a story about incompetence, arrogance, and jealousy on the highest levels in American politics When the USA rejects universal agreements, when American jurists are searching for the legal I wish this was fiction, so that I did not have to believe what I read The account of what happened in the 500 days after 09 11 is mind blowing, harrowing, even surreal, and so not according to what the USA stands for In spite of the honest, decent work of thousands of Americans in the war on terror, this is a story about incompetence, arrogance, and jealousy on the highest levels in American politics When the USA rejects universal agreements, when American jurists are searching for the legal meaning of pain and the legality of torture, may God help America Well written, fast paced, and what a creepy reality

  6. Brian Brian says:

    I m halfway through this book and it is a page turner It is definitely on my list of books that I will read twice Only a very few books get that rating from me I will read it twice because in my first reading, done in record time, I am sure to have missed some nuances This is a great book for any reader that wants to understand how the top level leadership and mid level leadership got us to where we are today There are heroes and incompetents that formed the response to 9 11, but they are n I m halfway through this book and it is a page turner It is definitely on my list of books that I will read twice Only a very few books get that rating from me I will read it twice because in my first reading, done in record time, I am sure to have missed some nuances This is a great book for any reader that wants to understand how the top level leadership and mid level leadership got us to where we are today There are heroes and incompetents that formed the response to 9 11, but they are not who you might think I read Hank Crumpton s book about his time in Afghanistan, but after reading this book, Hank s book seems seems a little light and narrowly focused.I have read that we are in a scientific revolution in real time, to me this is history in real time It should be required reading for anyone that is elected or who is in high government office As a Canadian, I often feel like an outside observer to world events, however in this case there is a significant Canadian component, and I am a not proud of our conduct during this time Update I m now finished the book, it is everything that I thought it was going to be As to my feelings about the Canadian conduct, I am somewhat relieved, although the conduct of authorities at the mid management level was very disappointing, in the end the Canadian Government recognized the mistakes and negotiated restitution Unfortunately, the US is still trying to wiggle out of manning up

  7. Wanda Wanda says:

    A NYT review prompted me to read this fascinating and depressing book There were no specific jaw dropping revelations for me, as I have carefully read most of the legitimate news media accounts on the Bush administration and its near declaration of martial law in the post 9 11 years To say that this bunch used the Constitution as toilet paper is to be generous The NYT reviewer opined that these were the years that an inexorable psychosis took hold of the Bush administration and he is right T A NYT review prompted me to read this fascinating and depressing book There were no specific jaw dropping revelations for me, as I have carefully read most of the legitimate news media accounts on the Bush administration and its near declaration of martial law in the post 9 11 years To say that this bunch used the Constitution as toilet paper is to be generous The NYT reviewer opined that these were the years that an inexorable psychosis took hold of the Bush administration and he is right This book details that descent into panic, paranoia and madness Lies and unsubstantiated rumors fed a White House that was only too willing to act on them, much to the chagrin of the rest of the world But the administration s hubris and arrogance completely blocked out the sanity that other world powers tried to bring to the rush to war and torture, and the relinquishment of any vestige of a U.S moral compass.The administrations lack of self control resulted in their making baseless assertions to the American people about a purported plot to blow up the U.S Embassy in Bosnia and the presence of WMD in Iraq Their stupidity resulted in their looking foolish vis a vis other world leaders, in addition to the long suffering Tony Blair Apparently Bush told Jacques Chirac that biblical prophecies were being fulfilled and that Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East Oh my I could not believe my eyes when I read that Chirac, a sane person, decided that his country was not going to be dragged into a war on the basis of Bush s interpretation of the Bible The French paid for this economically when the administration sought revenge for their betrayal I could go on, but it truly is depressing to think that we have gone to war, squandered our resources, both human and capital, and wasted a decade making ourselves hatedthan we already were because of this bozo administration.The book is well researched and well written almost too well written for non fiction Bravo It is very detailed and some might find it overly detailed But it is must reading for those who are deluded and ignorant of what happened to this country and the danger of government run amok that were the Bush years But, I doubt that those who need to read this eye opener ever will

  8. Denise Denise says:

    Charting a variety of events and decisions taken during the first 500 days in the wake of 9 11 in the US and UK governments, various detention sites and lawyers offices, Guantanamo, and beyond this book weaves together the experiences of a number of both key and lesser players over that time There s not much here that was really new to me other than that tidbit about Bush quoting the Bible at Chirac to get him to go to war and coming off like a complete religious fanatic in the process , Charting a variety of events and decisions taken during the first 500 days in the wake of 9 11 in the US and UK governments, various detention sites and lawyers offices, Guantanamo, and beyond this book weaves together the experiences of a number of both key and lesser players over that time There s not much here that was really new to me other than that tidbit about Bush quoting the Bible at Chirac to get him to go to war and coming off like a complete religious fanatic in the process , and so, so much that just makes me angry beyond words the power plays, political backstabbing, power grabs, illogical and reprehensible justifications for all manner of awfulness including invading Iraq, imprisoning people without trial, kidnapping, torture seemingly endless successions of groups of lawyers evidently lacking anything resembling a functioning moral compass quibbling over legalese while signing off on violations of international laws and human rights I could go on What makes me evenangry is, still, after all these years, the lack of true accountability and consequences for all those who were involved The author strove for objectivity in recounting these events, but quite frankly, given what he s documenting, somewhatdecisive criticism seemed called for

  9. Jerome Jerome says:

    The title made me think this would be just another political rant, but this book is admirably balanced and never gets polemic Eichenwald shows how the Bush administration struggled to find a proper balance between national security and legal rights While it is all too easy to portray the Bush team as evil dictators hellbent on breaking laws, it is important to consider the context of the time period After 9 11 NOBODY wanted to see another such terrorist attack happen without having done somet The title made me think this would be just another political rant, but this book is admirably balanced and never gets polemic Eichenwald shows how the Bush administration struggled to find a proper balance between national security and legal rights While it is all too easy to portray the Bush team as evil dictators hellbent on breaking laws, it is important to consider the context of the time period After 9 11 NOBODY wanted to see another such terrorist attack happen without having done something about it All this talk of conspiracies and curbing of civil liberties has nothing to do with some evil conspiracy Rather, it has everything to do with preventing another catastrophe like 9 11 from happening again We as citizens can, and should, debate whether these methods benefits outweighed their drawbacks But portraying it as some evil conspiracy completely misses the point In an ideal, perfect world, the Bush team would never have considered the things they considered after 9 11 But after 9 11, it was a different world, and the Bush team, or anyone in their position, for that matter, did what they felt was necessary If the typical pundit who criticizes the Bush team s decisions was in their place during and after 9 11, I find it hard to imagine how THEY would have steered policy into some sort of perfect, rosy, fantasyland where there is no human cost,no paranoia, no hard decisions and an abundance of perfect solutions.Eichenwald s book moves along at a crisp, smooth pace and never bogs down However, a big limitation of the fast paced style is that it precludes analysis and insights into why something happened For example, an extended analysis of the misconceptions about the Manchester Manual is consigned to the Notes and Sources appendix pp 545 552 Advice Read it it is a critical part of the story One of my biggest frustrations with the accounts this and others is that I haven t seen a remotely satisfying explanation of why the CIA didn t have qualified, experienced interrogators as part of its normal course of business Or why the military did not use experienced interrogators from the Reserves predominantly from civilian law enforcement despite the Reserves being explicitly structured to preserve and provide that capability.There are several themes that are developed in 500 Days One of the most important themes is how United States conducted the War on Terror The War on Terror was multifaceted It involves the military, the CIA, the FBI, the Justice Department, the State Department, the border patrol and the Department of the Treasury just to name a few of the departments that were involved This book discusses the decisions that were made in the immediate aftermath of 9 11 in order to try to prevent a second attack George Tenet, director of central intelligence, was convinced the 9 11 was the first in a series of attacks The FBI and the CIA were convinced that there were sleeper cells here in the United States and abroad These cells were ready to act Because of this, the Bush administration always felt like they were behind the eight ball The Bush administration felt that they needed to catch up in order to prevent the next attack.One of the sub themes in 500 Days was what to do with detainees and how to interrogate detainees An outsider, like me or you, would probably figure that there was a big meeting in the White House with the president, vice president and other principles sitting around then discussing how to take care of detainees and how to interrogate detainees, that never happened Instead, a series of lower level meetings occurred on the fly The complexity of this issue is well demonstrated in this book The central role of John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales, Dr Jim Mitchell, psychologist for the SERE program, David Addington and William Jim Haynes is painstakingly described The amount of detail on who did what, in my mind, is unprecedented And enhanced interrogation techniques were not illegal They were approved all the way up the line at the Justice Department The problem was no their legality but their ineffectiveness FBI rapport building techniques had been successful time and time again Harsh tactics simply caused weaker detainees to fabricate lies in order to get the torture to stop and tougher detainees who came from countries that employed torture on a regular basis to harden up As if this isn t stupid enough, when Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded, he had already spilled the beans on what he knew Before he was waterboarded How odd.One of the simplistic arguments that has been perpetuated in the mainstream media was the decision to torture or not torture a particular detainee The mainstream media has told us that no actionable intelligence has come from torturing detainees Kurt Eichenwald was thrown a wrench in this simplistic view of the world He has shown us that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who was tortured under US custody gave us a ton of actionable intelligence Al Qaeda in Southeast Asia was almost completely wrapped up, disabled, because of the information that came from KSM On the other hand, Abu Zubaydah who was initially interviewed by the FBI, gave them excellent intelligence before he was subjected to harsh interrogation torture The issue is not black or white The problem is extremely complex I tip my hat to Kurt Eichenwald for letting us see that these decisions aren t so black and white.The most glaring error is stating that each plane had four hijackers, except United 93, which had three Since there were 19 hijackers the math doesn t add up Of course there were five on the three four on United 93 to get to 19.Other than that,a great read

  10. Valerie Valerie says:

    Kurt is a writer with integrity both his non fiction investigative books and hispersonal memoirs require courage In my opinion, his willingness to risk has made him a national treasure.

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