Read The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA's War on Terror by John Kiriakou Online


Long before the waterboarding controversy exploded in the media, one CIA agent had already gone public. In a groundbreaking 2007 interview with ABC News, John Kiriakou called waterboarding torture—but admitted that it probably worked. This book, at once a confessional, an adventure story, and a chronicle of Kiriakou’s life in the CIA, stands as an important, eloquent pieceLong before the waterboarding controversy exploded in the media, one CIA agent had already gone public. In a groundbreaking 2007 interview with ABC News, John Kiriakou called waterboarding torture—but admitted that it probably worked. This book, at once a confessional, an adventure story, and a chronicle of Kiriakou’s life in the CIA, stands as an important, eloquent piece of testimony from a committed American patriot.In February 2002 Kiriakou was the head of counterterrorism in Pakistan. Under his command, in a spectacular raid coordinated with Pakistani agents and the CIA’s best intelligence analyst, Kiriakou’s field officers took down the infamous terrorist Abu Zubaydah. For days, Kiriakou became the wounded terrorist’s personal “bodyguard.” In circumstances stranger than fiction, as al-Qaeda agents scoured the streets for their captured leader, the best trauma surgeon in America was flown to Pakistan to make sure that Zubaydah did not die. In The Reluctant Spy, Kiriakou takes us into the fight against an enemy fueled by fanaticism. He chillingly describes what it was like inside the CIA headquarters on the morning of 9/11, the agency leaders who stepped up and those who protected their careers. And in what may be the book’s most shocking revelation, he describes how the White House made plans to invade Iraq a full year before the CIA knew about it—or could attempt to stop it. Chronicling both mind-boggling mistakes and heroic acts of individual courage, The Reluctant Spy is essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand the inner workings of the U.S. intelligence apparatus, the truth behind the torture debate, and the incredible dedication of ordinary men and women doing one of the most extraordinary jobs on earth. From the Hardcover edition....

Title : The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA's War on Terror
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ISBN : 9780553907339
Format Type : ebook
Number of Pages : 0 Pages
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The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA's War on Terror Reviews

  • Seth
    2019-05-16 19:06

    The CIA is more than a job - it's a lifestyle choice, but one mired in secrecy and misunderstanding for decades. This book provides a window, intentionally or unintentionally, into the agency to show you how they operate, why the people that work there can get so passionate, and what failings can arise from such passion.John Kiriakou, who practically stumbled into the spy game (as the title suggests), shows, intentionally and occasionally unintentionally, the strains and stresses the job provides on people who work in that field, and an overview of the things about the agency he cares deeply about. He spends a little time talking in careful, delicate terms about the collapse of his own marriage, spends some time talking about the training agents go through, and talks through life in foreign lands and some of the details about human intelligence and tradecraft.Roughly the middle third then goes into the details of the CIA after 9/11 which I found fascinating, as well as some specific examples of missions he ran in Pakistan. The latter part of the book goes into his feelings about some of the controversies surrounding espionage, especially torture. Kiriakou cogently tears down some of the strongest arguments against torture and then turns around and builds more solid ones. The result is a more nuanced understanding - at least for me - about a particularly dark part of current US espionage, and finally ending on the rather inelegant and bureaucratic way he left the agency.My problems - this was too simple a read and too fast a read for a hardcover book. I might be more inclined to recommend it once it gets to a cheaper medium. Many of the issues Kiriakou brings up he does go into or devote his considerable analysis to - for example, he lingers a few times on the divorce rate of intelligence officers, but only to acknowledge it and move on. Lastly, Kiriakou is a victim of being successful in a clandestine organization, and that may be a problem with memoirs like these: Since there is a lot he can't talk about, the situations he describes are often vague and filled with details he can bring up but not talk about. This made it hard for me to get into those parts of the book. Real situations seemed abstract. And since it is a memoir, some of his events seem really one-sided...though that's probably more of an issue with memoirs than this one.I'd recommend this book for people who are really interested in current events and modern espionage and wants to get a fuller understanding of the challenges modern spies face today.

  • Linda
    2019-05-18 16:16

    Couldn't get past Kiriakou's enormous ego. He's like a used car salesman; slick and smarmy, and explosive at inappropriate times. I was interested in the operational and policy issues, but could have done without the custody battles and self-aggrandizement.

  • Amy Suto
    2019-05-10 21:08

    Read this review and other articles from me on www.TheNearbyFuture.comMany people don't know what they want to do in life. John Kiriakou never guessed he'd end up a spy after college.He was a man with a love of politics and world history. He would sneak into Consulate Dinner Parties with his friends to meet and take photos with the senators he'd read about. His dogged determination, quick thinking and strong feelings of patriotism would steer him towards a career in the CIA.But he never wanted to be a spy, just an analyst. His love of the middle east propelled him to learning Arabic. After learning this very difficult language, he was suddenly in demand for field work. And that's how he entered the deadly world of espionage.In his book The Reluctant Spy, John Kiriakou talks about his adventures and life in the CIA. This piece of nonfiction is more engaging than most fiction, and for anyone interested in learning more about the off-limits world of the CIA.

  • Nancy
    2019-05-08 23:34

    Totally not my type of thing, but I liked it anyway.. Interesting story from a "six degrees of separation" person I laid eyes on once and may even had said hello to which made it all the more interesting. I feel like I have a much better idea of what goes into protecting our country and the dedication (aka obsessions) of the people doing it. Also confirms how crazy Dick Chaney really is.. lol

  • John
    2019-04-22 20:36

    The title is a misnomer in my opinion. The author does not seem reluctant and the only reason I can see that he called it this was because he started as an analyst and moved into operations. Otherwise, he seemed like a very capable and ready case officer. John discusses his time in Greece, working in the Middle East and his time at headquarters. While all of this was good and included a nice overview of the issues of Greek terrorism, one of the things I really liked about this book was that he tied back his life/career to his two boys and his marriage which ended during his time in Greece and how he was able to continue his work while still being a part of his boys life. The book ends with his departure from the CIA, not because of anything truly inflammatory, which again makes me question the title of the book, but overall a solid book.

  • Michelle
    2019-05-13 22:27

    I really need to stop buying memoirs after reading reviews because the reviewers never accurately reflect the tone or theme of the book. I think anyone really interested in specific CIA initiatives would love this, but I was looking for more of a story, about the guy's work and the guy's personal life and how it all blended together. The review I read spoke a lot about how the rigors of his job caused the demise of his marriage and really affected his family. But in the book the marriage is basically reduced to three sentences. We got married. My son told me mommy kisses someone else. We got divorced. That's it. In the entire book. This was not a memoir at all but instead about the author's involvement in a few key operations. Again, a lot of people would probably enjoy this but it was not my cup of tea. Also, the writing was very clunky.

  • Natasha
    2019-04-25 00:09

    Interesting account from a Greek-American working for the CIA, with some bits relating to embassy action in Greece.

  • Zelda
    2019-04-30 21:34

    Sounds true to me in describing author's career in the CIA and his frustrations with the department.

  • Foxglove
    2019-05-08 00:15

    Very interesting, although very sad

  • Mark Isaak
    2019-05-04 17:35

    An account of life in the CIA, covering especially the period from 9/11 to the first years of the Iraq war, but it does not reveal much which is not by now widely known. On the whole, it is fair and moderate. If you want a history book, you can probably do better elsewhere. If your interest is a firsthand account of CIA culture, this book can help.

  • Robert
    2019-05-14 16:10

    Hilariously funny -- not in a good way. Kiriakou is a babe in screw-up land as he describes one disastrous operation after another. My favorite was taking the 100 pound overweight guy on the raid of the Taliban Embassy in Pakistan because it would make him feel good. A good role for John Candy.Whenever it starts to get interesting the author tells us that the CIA won't let me tell you about this. He does keep telling us how patriotic and well meaning his colleagues are. Unfortunately, they seem to be more James Boob rather than James Bond.The only person who comes off as an adult is Ambassador Nicholas Burns whom the author does not like. This book could be a great foundation for a comic spy movie but save your time unless you are looking for yet another reason to mourn the decline ad fall of the CIA.

  • Kelly
    2019-05-24 00:26

    I picked this book up from my brother-in-law's shelf one day when I needed something to read. It wasn't the type of thing I usually read so maybe that's why I wasn't crazy about it. The author comes across as very self-promoting and you can't blame him too much because he was/is involved in a lot of very important high level government stuff. The main disappointment for me was that the dust cover suggested that there would be a lot about what it was like at the CIA on September 11th and afterwards and that section was really only a couple of pages long. The most interesting part was his description of water-boarding and why it is torture. The details of his operations got a little mundane for me although I could see it being fascinating to someone else.

  • Jan
    2019-05-18 21:07

    Strange title, as he didn't seem very reluctant to me. I chose this primarily because Arthur Morey reads it - he's the best. Secondly because I was interested after reading all of Robert Baer's and Stephen Kinzer's books.I felt a bit put off by his ego, attitude, his 'smarts' & often his poor choices. Yes, it's a rather dirty game the US gov't. enters willingly. It seemed to me he was either very naive or frequently finding fault with others. Overall, an interesting type of tell all, none of which surprised me.

  • Jami Fultz
    2019-05-12 16:31

    Very interesting inside look (the good, the bad, and the ugly) at the CIA from the perspective of an analyst turned ops director who caught Abu Zubaida. I didn't realize that he is now in prison."Kiriakou is the sole CIA officer to face jail time for any action involving the federal government's torture program. Ironically, Kiriakou, the whistleblower on the program, will go to prison, while the agents who implemented it will not." (

  • Clarissa
    2019-05-21 17:17

    Really interesting, particularly where it gave insight into policy decisions and their impact in recent history. However, Kiriakou's strange angle on his family life (and lack of insight into moments where he seemingly unintentionally depicts himself as an enormous asshole but blames everyone else for the situations he finds himself in) sometimes made me wonder how much I should trust his insight generally.

  • Tiffany
    2019-05-06 16:06

    It takes a couple of chapters to get used to the writing style. It was clearly written for people even at the most basic reading level. But once you get past that, the story itself is quite compelling. One man's story of his time as a covert operative in the CIA, and how it touched his personal life as well. It's told with a directness and clarity that makes it an easy read and avoids self-aggrandizing melodrama. Extremely interesting look behind the scenes.

  • Eddie
    2019-05-21 21:17

    This is more of a 3.5 stars, really. Interesting look behind the scenes of the CIA and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Kiriakou definitely humanizes the people of the CIA and, without shying away from mistakes made, paints an overall positive picture of the people who put themselves at risk for their country. His personal story is also interesting to hear.

  • John Poen
    2019-05-04 19:15

    Actually I just didn't feel the book deserved 4 stars. I liked it well enough to finish it through, but that's about it. Much of the book is a rant from a unhappy, frustrated CIA operative doing some whisleblowing. I wouldn't waste your money on this one.

  • Shanon
    2019-05-11 00:14

    Seemed like an honest account however you can tell it is slightly jaded. If you enjoy learning about the inner works of intelligence agencies it's a decent book and worth finishing but it isn't the best book ever either.

  • Sharon Love
    2019-05-09 00:22

    Enjoyed this book, but it glazed the surface of what I was expecting. Did not go into much detail except to imply our government condones torture when it is to our benefit. This, we already new. It is not something I would recommend to others as a fact finding read, but it was easy to read.

  • Megan
    2019-04-23 20:26

    It's a quick read. An insider view of one CIA operative's involvement in the years surrounding 9/11.

  • Colleen
    2019-05-18 16:07

    Parts of it were interesting but I thought it became self-serving. I also didn't like the author's lashing out against his boss and ex-wife.

  • Randy Lee
    2019-05-16 23:20

    Good story, but could have been told in a far more compelling manner

  • Liz
    2019-05-11 18:12

    Not a big fan of this book. The author seems to be trashing the government for EVERYTHING that has effected this mans life.

  • Mrnoname
    2019-05-21 21:14

    It wasn't bad but it wasn't exciting either. He talks about how he became a CIA officer, his marriage, his retirement, and his contributions to capturing terror suspects.

  • Wade Brooks
    2019-05-08 18:33

    A moderately interesting book. The author, John Kiriakou, is a former CIA officer who captured Abu Zubaydah in Faisalabad, Pakistan in 2002.

  • Michael
    2019-05-14 22:10

    . Besides being a traitor to his country by disclosing secrets he has sworn not to. This is a very self-serving book

  • Christine
    2019-05-11 21:10

    John Kiriakou gives the inside dirt on working for the CIA. He tells lots of interesting stories that happened throughout his career and does lots of namedropping.

  • Don
    2019-05-20 23:27

    This is really a tragedy story. Good read especially on the heels of Charlie Wilson's War.

  • Mj Schmidt
    2019-05-07 23:10

    Written by a friend. Interesting look inside a life, the dramas not always related to the spying.