Review: Enemies

Tim Weiner’s Enemies scratched my itch for a well-researched and clear history of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI.  An unbiased history of such an inflammatory institution is unrealistic, but Weiner does a solid job maintaining a scholarly demeanor as he chronicles the evolution of the institution.

Depending on the context and the audience, the FBI may be a political spy agency, an elite law-enforcement and anti-terrorism unit, a bumbling group of copy trying to learn intelligence work, key federal support in important criminal cases, and a few more things.  Weiner wisely does not lock himself to a perspective or summation of the agency but has clearly dug into the time line of an institution that protects its secrets.  His scholarship includes interviews, documents and the usual broad bases that journalists use in prying these institutions open.

His even handed reportage does not mean he hides embarrassing information or that he makes excuses for the Bureau.  The illegal wiretaps and black bag jobs are all clearly on display and so are the remarkable successes at infiltration and enforcement. While one can guess at Weiner’s sympathies, this reader always had the impression that he was sticking to the facts as much as possible.  The effect is a bit like Jack Webb without the camp factor.

Overall, a remarkably well-executed and comprehensive history.  Strongly Recommended.

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