Remembering 9/11: Tales of Heroes and Tough Lessons

September 11, 2014

9-11 Decade of Remembrance Twin Towers and Pentagon Logo designed by David McKenzie at the Government Printing OfficeIn remembrance of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Government Book Talk revisits blogger Michele Bartram’s post from September 11, 2013.

There are certain moments and events that are etched in our national consciousness. Ask any American who was alive in the 60’s where he or she was when John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King was assassinated and you will hear a stirring personal story. For our generation, it was September 11, 2001.

Image: September 11 Decade of Remembrance logo with World Trade Center Twin Towers surrounded by a figure representing the Pentagon. Created by David McKenzie with the Government Printing Office for the U.S. Government Bookstore.

I was right across from the Twin Towers twelve years ago today, getting ready to board a ferry for my daily commute from New Jersey across the Hudson River into Manhattan, when I saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center right across from me. So, too, I cried with a group of strangers as we stood on the ferry platform and watched in horror as the first tower fall, saw the dust cloud rise and felt the earth—and the world—tremble.

America and Americans have changed since that day… twelve years ago today. We have since heard stirring stories of heroes and sacrifice, and learned many grim lessons that are still affecting both policy and people today.

Many of these stories of heroism, missed opportunities, and resulting actions have been painstakingly and faithfully chronicled by a wide array of Federal agencies, ensuring the sacrifices and lessons are not forgotten.

Responding to the Tragedies

Both in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, DC, we saw how first responders and medical personnel rushed to save lives. These excellent publications tell the stories of the heroes from that day:

  • 008-000-01049-8Pentagon 9/11 (10th Anniversary Edition) (Paperback) includes a foreword by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and provides the most comprehensive account available of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon and aftermath, including unprecedented details on the impact on the Pentagon building and personnel and the scope of the rescue, recovery, and care-giving effort.
  • 008-000-01048-0Attack on the Pentagon: The Medical Response to 9/11 not only tells the personal stories from medical personnel responding to the attack on the Pentagon, but also provides insight from MEDCOM officers detailed to New York to support National Guard troops guarding ground zero’s perimeter. It also includes the Army’s involvement in the recovery of deceased attack victims at the Pentagon and the work of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in identifying human remains at Dover Air Force Base. In addition, the roles of military and civilian hospital staffs and of military environmental health and mental health specialists in taking care of attack victims and their families are also examined.

Tough Lessons

The single must-read for every American about September 11 is the official version of The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. This publication lists the findings of the National 9/11 Commission, listing all the painful errors made leading up to the terrorist attacks and outlining specific recommendations for international, national, state and local changes in policy and procedures that the panel of experts felt needed to be implemented to ensure a similar attack never happened again. This seminal publication has served to inform all subsequent policies and legislation since 9/11. It is available in print or as an eBook.

911-commission-report

Image: Launch of the 9/11 Commission Report. Courtesy: CSMonitor.com

The Senate, Select Committee on Intelligence, and House, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence examined the intelligence failures leading up to 9/11 and jointly published the results in United States Congressional Serial Set, Serial No. 14750: Joint Inquiry Into Intelligence Community Activity Before and After Terrorists Attacks of September 11, 2001 With Errata.

027-001-00097-1Additional insights into the causes of and responses to terrorism can be gleaned from Terrorism Research and Analysis Project (TRAP): A Collection of Research Ideas, Thoughts, and Perspectives, V. 1. This publication provides the findings from the post-9/11 FBI Terrorism Research and Analysis Project (TRAP) Symposium. TRAP is a leading research consortium made up of international/domestic academics and law enforcement officers, and is a working group sponsored by the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit. In it, these counter-terrorism experts provide a better understanding of the causes of terrorist activity and possible government response tactics to mitigate terrorist actions.

064-000-00029-2As we watch the new World Trade Center going up in New York, we can be assured that builders are incorporating architectural and construction lessons learned from the World Trade Center Building Performance Study: Data Collection, Preliminary Observations, and Recommendations.

Policy and Legislative Response

United States Congressional Serial Set, Serial No. 14924, House Report No. 724, 9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act, Pts. 1-6 outlines the specific legislative changes enacted by Congress, providing both background and justifications for them along with attribution.

A print copy of the law itself can be purchased here: Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, Public Law 110-53 along with the details of the various committee conferences contributing to it in Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, Conference Report to Accompany H.R. 1, July 25, 2007.

Defending the Homeland since 9/11

041-001-00657-5National Strategy for Homeland Security (October 2007) provides the common framework outlined by the George W. Bush Administration to guides, organize and unify the United States’ homeland security efforts.

008-000-01068-4A new publication from the Air Force Reserve called Turning Point 9.11: Air Force Reserve in the 21st Century, 2001-2011 tells the story of how the Air Force Reserve responded to 9/11 and have contributed to the security of the United States in a post-September 11 world.

050-012-00440-4In a similar vein, Rogue Wave: The U.S. Coast Guard on and After 9/11 chronicles the involvement of the U.S. Coast Guard on that fateful day and the evolving role in national and world security since.  Part of the Coast Guard 9/11 response is told in this touching video about the boatlift to evacuate people from lower Manhattan is told in a video narrated by Tom Hanks entitled: BOATLIFT, An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience.”

A touching video about the boatlift to evacuate people from lower Manhattan on 9/11 (September 11) is told in a video narrated by Tom Hanks entitled: BOATLIFT, An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience. Click on the image above or this link to view the “Boatlift” video.

The upcoming U.S. Army War College Guide to National Security Issues, Volume 2: National Security Policy and Strategy provides a summarized look at the national security curriculum now taught to our nation’s top military and civilian leaders by the U.S. Army War College. Revised with the lessons learned from the years since 9/11, this publication includes a chapter on ”Securing America From Attack: The Defense Department’s Evolving Role After 9/11.”

How can I obtain these Federal 9/11 publications?

  • Shop Online: Print Editions of these 9/11-related publications may be ordered from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore at http://bookstore.gpo.gov, by clicking on the links above in this blog post or shopping our Terrorism & 9/11 History collection under our US & Military History category.
  • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Visit our Retail Store: Buy copies of these publications at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.
  • Find them in a Library: Find these publications in a federal depository library.

About the author: Adapted by Trudy Hawkins, Writer and Marketing Specialist in GPO’s Publication & Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, from an original post by Michele Bartram, former Government Book Talk Editor in support of the U.S. Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov).


September 11 Tales of Heroes and Tough Lessons

September 11, 2013

9-11 Decade of Remembrance Twin Towers and Pentagon Logo designed by David McKenzie at the Government Printing OfficeThere are certain moments and events that are etched in our national consciousness. Ask any American who was alive in the 60’s where he or she was when John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King was assassinated and you will hear a stirring personal story. For our generation, it was September 11, 2001.

Image: September 11 Decade of Remembrance logo with World Trade Center Twin Towers surrounded by a figure representing the Pentagon. Created by David McKenzie with the Government Printing Office for the U.S. Government Bookstore.

I was right across from the Twin Towers twelve years ago today, getting ready to board a ferry for my daily commute from New Jersey across the Hudson River into Manhattan, when I saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center right across from me. So, too, I cried with a group of strangers as we stood on the ferry platform and watched in horror as the first tower fall, saw the dust cloud rise and felt the earth—and the world—tremble.

America and Americans have changed since that day… twelve years ago today. We have since heard stirring stories of heroes and sacrifice, and learned many grim lessons that are still affecting both policy and people today.

Many of these stories of heroism, missed opportunities, and resulting actions have been painstakingly and faithfully chronicled by a wide array of Federal agencies, ensuring the sacrifices and lessons are not forgotten.

Responding to the Tragedies

Both in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, DC, we saw how first responders and medical personnel rushed to save lives. These excellent publications tell the stories of the heroes from that day:

  • 008-000-01049-8Pentagon 9/11 (10th Anniversary Edition) (Paperback) includes a foreword by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and provides the most comprehensive account available of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon and aftermath, including unprecedented details on the impact on the Pentagon building and personnel and the scope of the rescue, recovery, and care-giving effort.
  • 008-000-01048-0Attack on the Pentagon: The Medical Response to 9/11 not only tells the personal stories from medical personnel responding to the attack on the Pentagon, but also provides insight from MEDCOM officers detailed to New York to support National Guard troops guarding ground zero’s perimeter. It also includes the Army’s involvement in the recovery of deceased attack victims at the Pentagon and the work of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in identifying human remains at Dover Air Force Base. In addition, the roles of military and civilian hospital staffs and of military environmental health and mental health specialists in taking care of attack victims and their families are also examined.

Tough Lessons

The single must-read for every American about September 11 is the official version of The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. This publication lists the findings of the National 9/11 Commission, listing all the painful errors made leading up to the terrorist attacks and outlining specific recommendations for international, national, state and local changes in policy and procedures that the panel of experts felt needed to be implemented to ensure a similar attack never happened again. This seminal publication has served to inform all subsequent policies and legislation since 9/11. It is available in print or as an eBook.

911-commission-report

Image: Launch of the 9/11 Commission Report. Courtesy: CSMonitor.com

The Senate, Select Committee on Intelligence, and House, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence examined the intelligence failures leading up to 9/11 and jointly published the results in United States Congressional Serial Set, Serial No. 14750: Joint Inquiry Into Intelligence Community Activity Before and After Terrorists Attacks of September 11, 2001 With Errata.

027-001-00097-1Additional insights into the causes of and responses to terrorism can be gleaned from Terrorism Research and Analysis Project (TRAP): A Collection of Research Ideas, Thoughts, and Perspectives, V. 1. This publication provides the findings from the post-9/11 FBI Terrorism Research and Analysis Project (TRAP) Symposium. TRAP is a leading research consortium made up of international/domestic academics and law enforcement officers, and is a working group sponsored by the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit. In it, these counter-terrorism experts provide a better understanding of the causes of terrorist activity and possible government response tactics to mitigate terrorist actions.

064-000-00029-2As we watch the new World Trade Center going up in New York, we can be assured that builders are incorporating architectural and construction lessons learned from the World Trade Center Building Performance Study: Data Collection, Preliminary Observations, and Recommendations.

Policy and Legislative Response

United States Congressional Serial Set, Serial No. 14924, House Report No. 724, 9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act, Pts. 1-6 outlines the specific legislative changes enacted by Congress, providing both background and justifications for them along with attribution.

A print copy of the law itself can be purchased here: Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, Public Law 110-53 along with the details of the various committee conferences contributing to it in Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, Conference Report to Accompany H.R. 1, July 25, 2007.

Defending the Homeland since 9/11

041-001-00657-5National Strategy for Homeland Security (October 2007) provides the common framework outlined by the George W. Bush Administration to guides, organize and unify the United States’ homeland security efforts.

008-000-01068-4A new publication from the Air Force Reserve called Turning Point 9.11: Air Force Reserve in the 21st Century, 2001-2011 tells the story of how the Air Force Reserve responded to 9/11 and have contributed to the security of the United States in a post-September 11 world.

050-012-00440-4In a similar vein, Rogue Wave: The U.S. Coast Guard on and After 9/11 chronicles the involvement of the U.S. Coast Guard on that fateful day and the evolving role in national and world security since.  Part of the Coast Guard 9/11 response is told in this touching video about the boatlift to evacuate people from lower Manhattan is told in a video narrated by Tom Hanks entitled: BOATLIFT, An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience.”

A touching video about the boatlift to evacuate people from lower Manhattan on 9/11 (September 11) is told in a video narrated by Tom Hanks entitled: BOATLIFT, An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience. Click on the image above or this link to view the “Boatlift” video.

The upcoming U.S. Army War College Guide to National Security Issues, Volume 2: National Security Policy and Strategy provides a summarized look at the national security curriculum now taught to our nation’s top military and civilian leaders by the U.S. Army War College. Revised with the lessons learned from the years since 9/11, this publication includes a chapter on ”Securing America From Attack: The Defense Department’s Evolving Role After 9/11.”

How can I obtain these Federal 9/11 publications?

  • Shop Online: Print Editions of these 9/11-related publications may be ordered from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore at http://bookstore.gpo.gov, by clicking on the links above in this blog post or shopping our Terrorism & 9/11 History collection under our US & Military History category.
  • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Visit our Retail Store: Buy copies of these publications at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.
  • Find them in a Library: Find these publications in a federal depository library.

About the Author: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


War, Will and Warlords: An Interview, Part I

July 17, 2012

Government Book Talk editor Michele Bartram writes a two-part interview with author Col. Robert Cassidy about his new, critically acclaimed book, War, Will, and Warlords: Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001-2011, which covers the causes and consequences of counterinsurgency in that troubled region and recommendations for future American approaches there and in similar operations. Part I goes into the cause of the war there and explanations of the key concepts. Click here to read Part II of the interview.


Since World War II, the character of the wars America has fought has changed radically. Traditional methods of warfare, technology, training and strategies designed to counter national armed forces, are not suited for today’s counterinsurgency operations often where civilians mingle freely with enemy combatants in complex urban terrain or remote encampments, and which can be carried out by local warlord-led troops, small guerrilla groups or even individual insurgents. First in Iraq and now honed by the war in Afghanistan, American military (operations), tactics and technology have required reengineering to adapt to this new reality of war.

Soldier-scholar Col. Robert Cassidy, Ph.D., is a military professor at the U.S. Naval War College and a senior fellow with the Center for Advanced Defense Studies who served on operations in Grenada, Egypt, the Persian Gulf, Iraq, and most recently as the special assistant to the commander of ISAF Joint Command in Afghanistan from June 2010 to June 2011.

As an expert in strategy and irregular warfare, Cassidy has authored the recently published War, Will, and Warlords: Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001-2011 which is featured this month in our U.S. Government Bookstore’s special War in Afghanistan collection.

Foreign Policy magazine lauds War, Will, and Warlords as a “must read for all scholars, policymakers, diplomats, and military practitioners seeking to understand the Afghanistan-Pakistan nexus” which provides invaluable analysis “concerning uneven U.S. involvement in the region, the contradictions of Pakistan, and the counterinsurgency (COIN) approaches implemented on both sides of the porous region” between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Some refer to the War in Afghanistan as America’s longest war, but to Afghans, conflict has been going on there continuously for almost four decades. Today, July 17, 2012, actually marks the 39-year anniversary of when continual tumult and conflict began in Afghanistan. In July 1973 Afghanistan’s last King or Padishah, Mohammed Zahir Shah, was ousted in a coup d’état by his first cousin and former Prime Minister Mohammed Daoud Khan, who established a republican government. Years of conflict followed, including war with the Soviet Union, rise and fall of the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and today’s insurgency.

Image: (Left) Zahir Shah, King of Afghanistan, with his first cousin and Prime Minister Daoud Khan (right) who later deposed Zahir in 1973, beginning Afghanistan’s slide towards forty years of war. Source: CivFanatics Forum.

AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR

In this two-part special feature, Government Book Talk was pleased to be able to interview Col. Cassidy about the book, his personal observations about the conflict and the countries, and his recommendations for the future.

Government Book Talk: What inspired you to write this book?  

Colonel Robert Cassidy: I had written a study about the Soviet War in Afghanistan at the French École de Guerre in 2000-2001 and I continued to study our war in Afghanistan after September 2001.   The proximate reason was that I was at the Naval War College in 2009-2010 between tours in Afghanistan and I thought it would be helpful to capture and compare what happened for the first eight years to those years after the surge.  Also, I knew that researching and writing this book would make me more knowledgeable and useful as an adviser in Afghanistan during my tour in 2010-2011.

GovBookTalk: I understand that this was not the original title for the book. How did you arrive at the final choice?

Cassidy: Two initial titles were vetoed. First, I suggested “Malice in Wonderstan,” and my editor then suggested “Ten Years Gone,” which I liked because of its triple reference to the Afghan War’s length, the Led Zeppelin classic song, and the subject of that song, an ancient Greek war.  In the end, I picked “War, Will and Warlords” because these three things are so salient in terms of Afghanistan and what we have done or not done there since we supported the anti-Soviet insurgency in the 1980s.

In the excerpted piece of the preface below, I explain the meaning behind the title because “War, will, and warlords…are central to any understanding of what has transpired in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

WAR: First, the Afghan people have faced tumult, conflict, and war since July 1973… A corollary to this is the fact that the Pakistani state has helped foment insurgent proxy war and terrorism in Afghanistan since 1973. In fact, fomenting insurgencies in Afghanistan by proxy is in the metaphorical DNA of the Pakistani security apparatus.

WILL: Second, protracted irregular wars are a contest of will, as insurgents use the art of the ambush, armed propaganda in the form of spectacular violence, and cross-border sanctuaries to protract the war to erode the will of the counterinsurgents so they give up the fight. The insurgents can win if they can prolong the war while not exhausting their own will.

WARLORDS: Third, warlords, or feudal barons, run criminal patronage fiefs or insurgent-terrorist networks that operate across the borders and exist outside and inside the states as well as serve as state proxies in some cases. Patronage has long been a reality in South Asia. However, the growth and scope of warlord-led insurgent and criminal networks that began before the Soviet-Afghan War… have helped catalyze support for the insurgencies.

Image: Afghan warlords and power brokers. Source: WorldNews,

GovBookTalk: What is the overall message in the book that you want readers to grasp?  

Cassidy: To understand the catalysts for and the ineluctable links between security and insurgency in both Pakistan and Afghanistan; to know the grave consequences if we ultimately fail, and to fathom the odious role of Pakistan’s perfidy in its persistent support of terrorism and insurgency in Afghanistan.

GovBookTalk: You have been on multiple tours in Afghanistan. What surprised you most about either the people or the country itself? 

Cassidy: I would not use the word surprised, but what intrigued me and enthralled me were the country’s beautiful diversity and the Afghan people’s formidable resiliency.

GovBookTalk: What was the single most important “don’t miss” chapter and page in your book and why?

Cassidy: The most important chapter is Chapter 3 because it explains why and how the Taliban regenerated from sanctuary in Pakistan and what catalyzed the Pakistani Taliban’s insurgency within and against that state.

The most important single page is page 6 because it elucidates why and how the tribal areas in Pakistan along the Durand Line are the most dangerous places on earth in terms of the terrorist and militant machinations to support attacks on the U.S., other western states, and non-western states.

Image: [GovBookTalk] The Durand Line: Established in an 1893 treaty between Amir Abdul Rahman Khan of Afghanistan and Sir Mortimer Durand, the foreign secretary of the British Indian government, the Durand line set up the border between Afghanistan and then British India/now present-day Pakistan. Not recognized today by Afghanistan and a source of contention with Pakistan, this poorly marked buffer zone cuts through the Pashtun tribal areas, dividing ethnic Pashtuns (Afghans) on both sides of the border. It is considered to be one of the most dangerous places in the world. Source: IntelliBriefs and Wikipedia.

READ PART II: In PART II of this interview, Cassidy describes Pakistan’s role, hard lessons learned, useful resources and more…

HOW CAN YOU OBTAIN a copy of War, Will, and Warlords: Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001-2011?

  • Buy it online 24/7 at GPO’s Online Bookstore.
  • Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday-Friday, 9am to 4pm, except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
  • Find it in a library.

To learn more about America’s involvement in Afghanistan, browse our new Afghanistan Collection of Federal publications:


Losing our Shared National Experience?

October 31, 2011

Our blog post last week talked about GPO’s 150-year history of keeping America informed. But what does this mean in today’s media-saturated world?

Has the proliferation of media eroded our shared national experience?

[Figure 1. U.S. History Collage. Image courtesy of Mrs. Rice’s American History II class, Lexington High School, Lexington, Ohio.

Two weeks ago in a social media seminar for Federal Government, David Kirkpatrick (technology writer for the Daily Beast and Fortune magazine and author of a new insider book on Facebook) gave some startling statistics: 50% of Facebook’s 800 million users worldwide visit Facebook daily and up to 500 million have accessed Facebook on a single day, with the average Facebook user having over 130 “friends.”

But even more surprising, he said that 50% of Americans today now get their news and analysis about important events— sometimes edited or changed as it is passed along— from friends and family, often via social networks, text or email rather than from traditional media sources.

Prior to the 21st century, when Americans had only a few national media choices and limited local media, we would all receive the same original message at the same time, thus creating a shared American experience.

Today, in the U.S. alone Americans can choose to receive information from any of an estimated 1,476 daily newspapers; 1,500 television stations; 10,322 radio stations; 71 million cable television subscribers with hundreds of TV channels each; and more than 12 billion web pages and social media.

Kirkpatrick and others say the combination of the “Facebook effect”, media proliferation, and message selectivity have contributed to the erosion of our common, shared national experience.

GPO’s role in preserving our common American experience

As we mentioned in our blog last week, GPO’s mission for over 150 years has been “Keeping America Informed” about the three branches of the Federal Government.  This mission drives us to ensure the original information produced by Federal Agencies on behalf of the American people can be found by all Americans now and in the future.

What’s involved in capturing and disseminating our common Governmental information? It starts with gathering the content from Federal Agencies and publishing it in a professional format, whether print or digital. It then continues with authenticating the information to ensure Americans are getting the “genuine” unaltered information; creating permanent records with our catalog teams for our own FDSys digital database and Catalog of Government Publications; distributing these records to libraries in our Federal Depository Library Program and to worldwide library databases like WorldCat; and sending physical copies and/or ebooks to libraries, bookstores and book etailers.

View this video for an inside look at how GPO assembles and prints the Congressional Record—the official record of the proceedings, debates, and activities of Congress.

To keep America informed digitally, we allow users to subscribe to email newsletters by topic and are also now on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Foursquare and Yelp.

GPO Publications about shared American experiences

Here are some of my favorite Federal publications GPO has published that document significant shared American experiences over the past century. Do you remember when and how you learned of these events?

What are some of the significant national experiences that you will never forget and how did you learn about them and share them with others?

We would love to hear from you!

 

About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division and is responsible for marketing the US Government Online Bookstore (Bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


A Closer Look at the FBI

April 7, 2011

Guest blogger Kelly Seifert has found a real page-turner of a Government book.

There’s something captivating about the inner workings and countless cases of the FBI. Who hasn’t thought about how interesting it must be to serve as an FBI agent? I think there’s something mysterious and fascinating about the professionals working around the globe to protect the Nation and its citizens.

In 2008, the FBI celebrated its 100 anniversary and, as part of that celebration, released, The FBI: A Centennial History, 1908-2008. This 130-page coffee table book features detailed accounts of more than 40 famous FBI cases; over 300 photographs, including many never before seen by the public; and abundant reference materials on fallen agents, FBI Directors, and more.

The book traces the FBI’s journey from fledgling startup to one of the most respected and recognized names in national security. It covers World War I and the early days of terrorism, the gangster era of the 1920s and 30s, World War II and the Cold War, the 60s and its civil rights movement, the Watergate years, the rise of global terror and crime, and the post 9/11 era.

Especially intriguing is the FBI’s transformation over time. The advances in technology and instruments the Bureau uses in protecting our national security, combined with its growth from 34 to 30,000 agents over the years, makes for an exciting and absorbing read. Find The FBI: A Centennial History, 1908-2008 online, get your own copy and settle in for a thrilling ride here, or investigate it at a library.


Terrorists as Armed Groups

November 1, 2010

I can’t think of too many Government publications that cover pirates, Vikings, the Teutonic Knights, the Italian Red Brigades, the Irish Republican Army, and the Taliban in one volume, but that’s what Armed Groups: Studies in National Security, Counterterrorism, and Counterinsurgency does. Published by the Naval War College, it’s a collection of essays by noted experts that expands our view of “terrorism” by using the term “armed groups,” which includes classic insurgents, terrorists, guerrillas, militias, police agencies, criminal organizations, mercenaries, pirates, drug cartels, apocalyptic religious extremists, orchestrated rioters and mobs, and tribal factions. Once you start reading, it’s hard to stop, although it’s certainly not light entertainment.

For me, the scariest essays were those dealing with domestic armed groups, like militias, white supremacist groups, and large organized street gangs. Although a lot of the examples mentioned were familiar to me, such as the post 9/11 anthrax scare and the arrest in subsequent years of several biological terrorist wannabes – seeing all of the examples assembled in one place convinced me of one author’s contention that domestic armed groups are no less menacing than the international organizations that get so much media exposure.

Armed Groups is a rich source for all kinds of background on the use of violence by the politically powerless and the broad array of organizations that practice it. It may not help you sleep better at night to know that such groups are so prevalent, but it’s indispensable information for anyone who wants to delve beneath the surface of an often-described but not always well-understood cultural, sociological, and political phenomenon. The book’s editor, Jeff Norwitz, has posted chapters on his own Web site. You also can browse Armed Groups here, get your own copy here, or find it in a library here.


Terrorism as Organized Crime

September 28, 2010

“Terrorist Networks Are Organized + Terrorism Is a Crime = Terrorism Is Organized Crime”

That’s the formula that Blue Planet: Informal International Police Networks and National Intelligence presents to the reader, and author Michael D. Bayer makes a good case for it. Bayer, a former chief of the Department of State’s transnational criminal investigative office, takes the view that police around the world are better positioned to know what’s going on in their local areas, no matter how remote they seem from the wider world. Through informal contacts with colleagues in their own countries and abroad, they can gather and disseminate vital intelligence to detect and suppress “worldwide manifestations of destabilizing violence, often indiscriminately labeled ‘terrorism.’”

I found Blue Planet to be an intriguing read for a number of reasons. It presents a reasonable and clearly written case for greater involvement of the police in fighting terrorism, argues forcefully against the post-9/11 militarization of U.S. anti-terrorism effort, and cites a number of fascinating case studies of how informal international police networks, even including such relatively closed societies as Cuba and China, have worked effectively to apprehend criminals. (Some of these stories could be the basis for your next suspense novel!)

Blue Planet also makes the interesting point that both international criminal operations and terrorist networks often use the same illegal methods (smuggling, money laundering, drug trafficking), and who better to learn about those links than those already tracking organized crime?  According to a recent RAND report cited in the book, “For terrorist groups that cannot or will not abandon terrorism, policing is likely to be the most effective strategy to destroy terrorist groups. The logic is straightforward: Police generally have better training and intelligence to penetrate and disrupt terrorist organizations. They are the primary arm of the government focused on internal security matters.”

Blue Planet is not just another policy report. It’s an insightful and intellectually stimulating book that also includes some terrific true crime stories. You can read it here on the National Defense Intelligence College Web site or track down your own copy here.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,359 other followers

%d bloggers like this: