This book is s pretty solid indictment of the FBI – especially J.Edgar Hoover and the presidents who somehow thought they and the Agency were above the law. There’s nothing really “new” here, but it’s worth reading for getting the whole story with the recurring threads running through it.
Sometimes it seemed like it was the same story over and over again but part of that is because it was Hoover, over and over again from the 1920s (pre-Agency assignment) and the 1930s (when the FBI was created) and up into the 1970s – until his death. J.Edgar was the FBi from its inception to his death and beyond. Presidents were scared of him, needed him, loathed him. Civilians who didn’t see the US in the same way he did had reason to fear him because he was likely after you – and he believed that his job was to keep America safe – no matter the tactics. This was from the days of anarchists, the Communists and the Ku Klux Klan, for these were the enemies of the state.
But the story goes on through the end of Nixon’s terms, Bush, Clinton, GW Bush and finally Obama. How have the presidents used or been used by the FBI. How much security do we need and what is the cost – not the financial cost but the cost to our privacy and safety from our “keepers.”
In some ways I enjoyed Wiener’s prior book, Legacy of Ashes, better because I didn’t know so much about the material – on the other hand, this is fascinating because it adds hits here and there to what I knew – (or discounts what I thought I knew). This fleshes it out, gives it an outline and substance.
Finally, Stefan Rodniki does an excellent job narrating – he read Legacy of Ashes too. These are a couple of very long books and a reader has to be worth listening to.