The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth
The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth. By Mark Mazzetti, The Penguin Press HC, 2013, 400 pp.
When Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asked a man who would go on to become his chief of special operations whether it was legal for the Pentagon to conduct operations in countries with which the United States was not actively at war, the man replied that it was, comparing it favorably to Richard Nixon’s secret bombing of Cambodia and Laos during the Indochina conflicts. Never mind that those strikes were among the most scandalous acts of Nixon’s scandal-laden tenure.
This idea that history repeats itself is a central theme of Mazzetti’s book. Back in the 1980s, before there was the infamous Blackwater organization, there was a little-known, off-the-books Pentagon spy unit known as Intelligence Support Activity. The unit’s secret budget and retired special operators became “the perfect ingredients for a toxic recipe,” Mazzetti writes. It was shut down within two years, after a blistering inspector general report complained that the government “should have learned the lesson of the 70s” about creating such units.