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"A powerful and revelatory memoir from former CIA director John Brennan, spanning his more than thirty years in government. Friday, January 6, 2017: On that day, as always, John Brennan’s alarm clock was set to go off at 4:15 a.m. But nothing else about that day would be routine. That day marked his first and only security briefing with President-elect Donald Trump. And it "A powerful and revelatory memoir from former CIA director John Brennan, spanning his more than thirty years in government. Friday, January 6, 2017: On that day, as always, John Brennan’s alarm clock was set to go off at 4:15 a.m. But nothing else about that day would be routine. That day marked his first and only security briefing with President-elect Donald Trump. And it was also the day John Brennan said his final farewell to Owen Brennan, his father, the man who had taught him the lessons of goodness, integrity, and honor that had shaped the course of an unparalleled career serving his country from within the intelligence community. In this brutally honest memoir, Brennan, the son of an Irish immigrant who settled in New Jersey, describes the life that took him from being a young CIA recruit enamored with the mystique of spy work, secretly defiant enough to drive a motorcycle and sport a diamond earring, and invigorated by his travels in the Middle East to being the most powerful individual in American intelligence. He details his experiences with very different presidents and what it’s been like to bear responsibility for some of the nation’s most crucial and polarizing national security decisions. He pulls back the curtain on the inner workings of the Agency, describing the selfless, patriotic, and invisible work of the women and men involved in national security. He also examines the insularity, arrogance, and myopia that have, at times, undermined its reputation in the eyes of the American people and of members of other branches of government. Through topics ranging from George W. Bush’s intervention in Iraq to his thoughts on the CIA’s controversial use of enhanced interrogation techniques to his eye-opening account of the planning of the raid that resulted in Bin Ladin’s death to his realization that Russia had interfered with the 2016 election, Brennan brings the reader behind the scenes of some of the most crucial moments in recent U.S. history. He also candidly discusses the times he has failed to live up to his own high standards and the very public fallouts that have resulted. With its behind-the-scenes look at how major U.S. national security policies and actions unfolded during his long and distinguished career—especially during his eight years in the Obama administration—John Brennan’s memoir is a work of history with strong implications for the future of America and our country’s relationships with other world powers. Undaunted: My Fight Against America’s Enemies, at Home and Abroad offers a rare and insightful look at the often-obscured world of national security, the intelligence profession, and Washington’s chaotic political environment. But more than that, it is a portrait of a man striving for integrity; for himself, for the CIA, and for his country."


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"A powerful and revelatory memoir from former CIA director John Brennan, spanning his more than thirty years in government. Friday, January 6, 2017: On that day, as always, John Brennan’s alarm clock was set to go off at 4:15 a.m. But nothing else about that day would be routine. That day marked his first and only security briefing with President-elect Donald Trump. And it "A powerful and revelatory memoir from former CIA director John Brennan, spanning his more than thirty years in government. Friday, January 6, 2017: On that day, as always, John Brennan’s alarm clock was set to go off at 4:15 a.m. But nothing else about that day would be routine. That day marked his first and only security briefing with President-elect Donald Trump. And it was also the day John Brennan said his final farewell to Owen Brennan, his father, the man who had taught him the lessons of goodness, integrity, and honor that had shaped the course of an unparalleled career serving his country from within the intelligence community. In this brutally honest memoir, Brennan, the son of an Irish immigrant who settled in New Jersey, describes the life that took him from being a young CIA recruit enamored with the mystique of spy work, secretly defiant enough to drive a motorcycle and sport a diamond earring, and invigorated by his travels in the Middle East to being the most powerful individual in American intelligence. He details his experiences with very different presidents and what it’s been like to bear responsibility for some of the nation’s most crucial and polarizing national security decisions. He pulls back the curtain on the inner workings of the Agency, describing the selfless, patriotic, and invisible work of the women and men involved in national security. He also examines the insularity, arrogance, and myopia that have, at times, undermined its reputation in the eyes of the American people and of members of other branches of government. Through topics ranging from George W. Bush’s intervention in Iraq to his thoughts on the CIA’s controversial use of enhanced interrogation techniques to his eye-opening account of the planning of the raid that resulted in Bin Ladin’s death to his realization that Russia had interfered with the 2016 election, Brennan brings the reader behind the scenes of some of the most crucial moments in recent U.S. history. He also candidly discusses the times he has failed to live up to his own high standards and the very public fallouts that have resulted. With its behind-the-scenes look at how major U.S. national security policies and actions unfolded during his long and distinguished career—especially during his eight years in the Obama administration—John Brennan’s memoir is a work of history with strong implications for the future of America and our country’s relationships with other world powers. Undaunted: My Fight Against America’s Enemies, at Home and Abroad offers a rare and insightful look at the often-obscured world of national security, the intelligence profession, and Washington’s chaotic political environment. But more than that, it is a portrait of a man striving for integrity; for himself, for the CIA, and for his country."

30 review for Undaunted: My Fight Against America’s Enemies, at Home and Abroad

  1. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Space here is limited, so if you'd like to see additional text and photos, go to my blog: https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot.... CIA director John O. Brennan When John O. Brennan was growing up in a blue-collar neighborhood of North Bergen, New Jersey he didn't dream he would some day be the director of the CIA. Brennan served as CIA director from March 2013 to January 2017, resigning on the day Donald Trump became president. Brennan hails from pure Irish stock, and is a first generation Irish Am Space here is limited, so if you'd like to see additional text and photos, go to my blog: https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot.... CIA director John O. Brennan When John O. Brennan was growing up in a blue-collar neighborhood of North Bergen, New Jersey he didn't dream he would some day be the director of the CIA. Brennan served as CIA director from March 2013 to January 2017, resigning on the day Donald Trump became president. Brennan hails from pure Irish stock, and is a first generation Irish American. As a boy Brennan contemplated entering the priesthood, with the objective of becoming the first American pope. On the way to that goal, young John was dedicated to schoolwork, practicing his Catholic faith, and playing sports. To get money for extras, John worked as a paper boy, pharmacy delivery boy, grocery stocker, and house painter, in accordance with the strong work ethic of the Brennan household. In high school John's intellectual curiosity was aroused by progressive teachers, and he became something of a doubting Thomas with respect to religion. Brennan observes, "From that point on I routinely would seek out empirical proof before accepting as immutable truth something I had read or had been told that I considered dubious or unfounded." This mental sea change helped prepare John for his future in the intelligence field. For college John attended Fordham University (one of my own alma maters 🙂). He then contemplated joining the Ph.D. program in Middle East Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. John also applied to the CIA, where the recruiter encouraged him to do the Middle East studies first - to boost his chances of joining the Agency. Before departing for school in Texas, John married his sweetheart Kathy Pokluda, who accompanied him to Austin and got a job teaching and coaching volleyball. At UT, John concentrated on international politics, national security issues, Middle East studies, and Arabic classes. Much was happening during that time in the 1970s, including "the Camp David Accords and the signing of a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt; the Iranian Revolution and the U.S. diplomats being held hostage in Tehran; the takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia by violent extremists and their bloody expulsion; and regional reaction to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan." Thus John decided to leave UT with a Master's Degree and re-apply to the CIA. After passing interviews and polygraph tests Brennan got a letter saying "Congratulations" with reference to a salary of "$17,340." The future CIA director was on his way! If you're familiar with the TV series "The Americans", about Soviet sleeper agents in the United States, you've seen some disguises employed by field agents (spies). Brennan himself got a lesson in disguise as a CIA novice. Assigned to escort an Arab military officer and his family for a few days, Brennan was outfitted with a dark brown wig with sideburns, tortoiseshell-rimmed tinted eyeglasses, and a lift in one shoe to change his gait. All went well until the final day of the visit, when John was in a rush to apply his disguise. Later, as he was escorting the Arab family through a mall, Brennan noticed people staring at him. A mirror showed John he'd put his disguise on wrong, and the sideburns were sticking almost straight out from the sides of his face. Brennan observes, "I'm on my first operational mission, and I wind up looking like Sally Field in 'The Flying Nun." 🙂 John also found he wasn't much good at clandestine surveillance, and he and his bosses decided he was a better match for the analytic - rather the field agent - side of the CIA. Citing some of his successes - in conjunction with other CIA agents and additional government departments - Brennan says they were able to "identify undercover Iraqi intelligence officers, forcing Baghdad to shelve terrorist plans" and "piece together fragmentary evidence from the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland that determined conclusively that Libya was the perpetrator." In 1993, Brennan was assigned to provide the Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) to President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, and numerous national security advisors. As an intelligence briefer, Brennan had to present reports on the Middle East and terrorism as well as Russia, China, the Balkans, and more. The job required Brennan to wake up at 2:30 A.M., go to his office, read all the items in the PDB, absorb all the underlying source material, and be ready to present the report first thing in the morning. In 1995 Brennan became the executive assistant to George Tenet, deputy director of central intelligence. This was Brennan's first extended stint among the senior ranks of the CIA. He writes, "My time as George's executive assistant was a learning experience like none other I ever had. The curtains that shrouded the most sensitive CIA programs were opened to me, as I accompanied George on his visits throughout the Agency and participated in most of his headquarters meetings. I also traveled with him frequently on his foreign trips, when he would meet not only with heads of intelligence and security services but also with foreign government leaders." Brennan was at a meeting in Tenet's conference room on September 11, 2001, when planes hit the North and South towers of the World Trade Center. Everyone at the CIA immediately concluded that al-Qa'ida was responsible, and the agency quickly reacted to the disaster. Brennan observes, "I am absolutely certain that al-Qa'ida would have succeeded in carrying out additional devastating attacks against the United States after 9/11, including the homeland, had it not been for the outstanding work of CIA officers around the world." These CIA successes bump up against the widely reviled Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation program (RDI), which gave the Agency "authority to capture, transfer, detain, and interrogate suspected significant terrorists." The 'enhanced interrogation' techniques used by the CIA under RDI were considered torture by many people, and the program severely blackened the Agency's long-term reputation. Brennan says he first learned the sordid details of RDI in August, 2002, when he read a report describing the interrogation and waterboarding of al-Qa'ida member Abu Zubaydah. Brennan was troubled by the document, but did not have the authority to make decisions about RDI. Still, Brennan empathizes with those who did, observing, "I am sure the prospect that tens if not hundreds of thousands of innocent people might die at the hands of al-Qa'ida weighed heavily on those who [implemented RDI]." Nevertheless, Brennan regrets his silence and says, "I consider my failure at the time to convey my concerns about the program in clear and unequivocal terms to George and to other senior officials at the CIA my most egregious." (This may be a case of hindsight is 20/20 in my opinion.) After 9/11 President George W. Bush and security officials decided a change in intelligence sharing was needed, to prevent another such attack. Thus, during the State of the Union address in January 2003, President Bush announced, "Tonight, I am instructing the leaders of the FBI, the CIA, Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense to develop a Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC), to merge and analyze all threat information in a single location." The CIA was tasked with creating TTIC, and Brennan was appointed director; TTIC later became the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). Brennan notes, "Playing a role in the creation of TTIC and NCTC was one of the most professionally rewarding and personally satisfying chapters of my career." When President Barack Obama took office in 2009, Brennan assumed the role of assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism. During Brennan's stretch as Obama's security assistant, a passenger on a Delta flight from Paris to Detroit set his pants on fire. It turns out the passenger, a twenty-three old Nigerian national named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, had tried to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear. The terrorist had obtained the bomb from al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which soon tried to bring down two more aircraft over the United States. Luckily they didn't succeed. During Obama's administration, the U.S. discovered the whereabouts of Usama Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Brennan describes the extensive planning that resulted in the May 2011 raid that killed Bin Laden. This part of the book has an exciting 'you are there' feel, and demonstrates the cooperation necessary to pull off a complex mission like this. Brennan also writes about the assault on the U.S diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya in September 2012, which resulted in the deaths of the U.S. ambassador and others. The reasons for the attack are something of a mystery, but - according to Brennan - may have been a violent reaction to the film 'Innocence of Muslims', which depicts the Prophet Muhammad in an unflattering light. After President Obama was re-elected in 2012, he nominated Brennan to be CIA director. Brennan took the oath of office with his hand on an original draft of the Constitution dating from 1787. Brennan's critics decried his swearing in on this old version of the constitution, which had no amendments. They claimed Brennan used it to show disdain for the right to due process and the right to trial by jury, and claimed he had converted to Islam when he was stationed in Saudi Arabia. To this Brennan says, "There's no accounting for knuckleheads when it comes to politics and partisanship in Washington." (Too true. 🙄) New CIA director Brennan was sensitive to inclusion issues, and notes, "It was not lost on me that I was the latest in an unbroken line of white males to become CIA director; the history of CIA deputy directors was no different. Since its birth in 1947, the CIA had only partially shed its reputation as a bastion of white male dominance." Brennan was determined to bring more women and minorities into the CIA, and to overhaul internal policies to ensure equal opportunities for all CIA employees. (About time. 😐) Brennan winds up the book with a hefty discussion of Russian interference in the 2016 election, which was (at least implicitly) endorsed by Donald Trump. Brennan disdains Trump, and is a worthy adversary to Trump in the Twitter wars. On Saint Patrick's Day in 2018 - when Brennan's Irish dander was ruffled by Trump's nasty comments about deputy director of the FBI Andy McCabe - Brennan tweeted about Trump, "When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption become known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America....America will triumph over you." Brennan said much more about Trump, who retaliated by trying to revoke Brennan's security clearance. The 'fighting' is quite salacious and intriguing, and it's worth reading the book to see more. In fact there are MANY more fascinating anecdotes in the narrative - about Brennan's family as well as his work. These include discussions of living and working in Saudi Arabia; the Arab Spring; the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; deadly drone strikes; the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi; the House Intelligence Committee's investigation of the RDI program; Brennan's conflicts with some senators and representatives; school shootings; famous people Brennan's met; and more. In addition, the book includes a glossary of acronyms and terms; a list of important characters; and an index. I enjoyed the book and was intrigued by the peek into the CIA and intelligence gathering. Many thanks to Celadon Books for a copy of the book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    This is a beautifully written memoir by John O. Brennan. Brennan’s conversational style of writing made me feel as if we were sitting down over a cup of tea talking about his life. The book covers his life from a boy in New Jersey to retirement as Director of the CIA. The small section at the end about his treatment by Trump after his retirement is most interesting. I felt that Brennan attempted to just present the facts. He admitted his mistakes and he also followed the rule: If you have nothin This is a beautifully written memoir by John O. Brennan. Brennan’s conversational style of writing made me feel as if we were sitting down over a cup of tea talking about his life. The book covers his life from a boy in New Jersey to retirement as Director of the CIA. The small section at the end about his treatment by Trump after his retirement is most interesting. I felt that Brennan attempted to just present the facts. He admitted his mistakes and he also followed the rule: If you have nothing good to say about someone, say nothing. I was most interested in the section about his interaction with Diane Feinstein, Joe Biden and Leon Panetta. I highly recommend this memoir. I read this as a hardback book. It contains 446 pages including photographs and was published in November of 2020. Disclaimer: I received this book from Celadon Books for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    HBalikov

    Thanks to Celadon Books for providing a copy of Undaunted to me. This is a very timely read. John Brennan takes us on a circular journey from his last day at work (when he met President Trump for first time and when his father died) to his family roots, in Ireland and New Jersey and back again through his over 30 year career in government and national security to that same point. While many “memoirs” are self-serving, and less than candid, Brennan seems to take care to at least disclose a good dea Thanks to Celadon Books for providing a copy of Undaunted to me. This is a very timely read. John Brennan takes us on a circular journey from his last day at work (when he met President Trump for first time and when his father died) to his family roots, in Ireland and New Jersey and back again through his over 30 year career in government and national security to that same point. While many “memoirs” are self-serving, and less than candid, Brennan seems to take care to at least disclose a good deal of his “growing pains.” And, his presence at the center of history during the years 2009-2016 allows him to share with us some of the inner workings of the USA’s Executive Branch and its intelligence efforts. Others have and will write about this book at greater length since so much of the current political chatter in the USA is intimately tied to how many of the events covered in this book are viewed by their authors. I am, in the most part, grateful to Brennan, for his insights into those he worked with and those, around the world with whom he worked to limit conflicts and genocide. There is no doubt that Brennan has grave doubts about current leadership and how the President has, in the main, discarded or been uninterested in the intelligence reports concerning national security. The statements from others that have served both Republican and Democratic Presidents tend to back his assessment. Because the reports of Russian meddling in the 2016 election were central to much of the conflict with the Trump White House, it is a key part of this book. Brennan wants us to know that he and his counterparts were convinced of that meddling. Trump has been dismissive of it. Where Brennan takes us further is in his insights into why President Obama did not take further actions. Perhaps the strangest aspect of the Russia meddling story is why. “Obama feared that if he took tough countermeasures against Moscow’s cyberwarriors, it might “prompt the Russians to recoil or to step up their election interference campaign, making matters worse.” The result, says Brennan, would have been “the specter of an escalatory spiral of cyberattacks.” That decision will continue to be debated. There are places where I found myself less than completely persuaded by Brennan. Being proud and being stubborn are not always the most effective tools. But his dedication to the public good and his dismay at any denigration of his country’s democracy make it difficult to see him as anything but one of many who find life’s meaning in public service. I don't think that this is a "must read" but I am more knowledgeable and aware for having read it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Libby

    It's a bit of a surreal experience to be reading a book at the same time that the author is appearing on different news networks to talk about national security. But that's what happened right after the 2020 election, as President Trump was refusing to concede. On TV, the author appears a bit grim, but easily as knowledgeable as he comes across in his book. Of course, the subject matter is of a grim nature as news commentators and newspaper headlines ask, “Does Trump’s refusal to concede put nat It's a bit of a surreal experience to be reading a book at the same time that the author is appearing on different news networks to talk about national security. But that's what happened right after the 2020 election, as President Trump was refusing to concede. On TV, the author appears a bit grim, but easily as knowledgeable as he comes across in his book. Of course, the subject matter is of a grim nature as news commentators and newspaper headlines ask, “Does Trump’s refusal to concede put national security at risk?” John O. Brennan, as chief counterterrorism advisor to Barack Obama for the first four years of his term and then as CIA director for the next four is in a unique position to answer these questions. I found Brennan’s assessments in this book, in other articles, and on TV to be both revealing and forthright. Best of all, for readers, his prose is accessible and engaging. For those interested in politics, it could even be called compelling. The book begins with John O. Brennan’s first meeting with President Trump on January 6, 2017 to discuss Russian interference with the 2016 election. Brennan writes, “He (Trump) showed no intellectual curiosity about what Russia had done and how it had carried out its campaign to interfere in the election.” The accounts of Brennan’s perspective on Trump and other elected officials’ statements and behaviors are enlightening, very discouraging at times, but there are noteworthy men and women of integrity as well. In August of 2018, President Trump revokes Brennan’s security clearance, a move that Brennan learns about when a friend calls and tells him to turn on his television. I wonder what happened to Trump's twitter feed. Of course, James Comey also learned of his firing from a television news report. Trump forsook the norms of a credible allegation against Brennan and was bent on retaliation because of Brennan’s open criticism, a by now easily recognizable modus operandi. Layered within the pages of this memoir are critical stories of life in an intelligence agency. Answering a newspaper ad in the New York Times, Brennan began work at the CIA in 1980. Agreeing with a colleague’s assessment that he did not have the aptitude to become an operator, Brennan becomes an analyst. Having attended the American University in Cairo where he learned to read and speak Arabic, he became an expert on the Middle East. In his memoir, he addresses the use of enhanced interrogation techniques during the Bush era, everything we remember that had us properly aghast. He wishes he’d been more outspoken against it. Then there are the Obama era drones. Four Americans died due to drones, but only one of them, Anwar al-Awlaki, was a target. Brennan gives a very comprehensive view of the thought processes that were occurring at the White House during this time. While I find extrajudicial killings problematic, I appreciate the transparency of the Obama administration. Trump has continued the drone killings but without the transparency. (1) David Ignatius writes in The Washington Post that he feared John O. Brennan’s criticisms of Trump will further encourage conspiracy theories about a ‘deep state,’ and that in the process of writing this book he has damaged himself and the idea of separation between the intelligence community and politics. (2) While that may be true, I am glad to get this kind of an inside view into the world of the CIA. It doesn’t seem to me like John O. Brennan had much of a choice. If you’re going to get dragged into the world of politics, you might as well let people know where you stand, and Brennan does that in spades and with integrity. (1) https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/05/22/... (2) https://www.washingtonpost.com/outloo... Thank you to Celadon books for a copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lorna

    Undaunted: My Fight Against America's Enemies, at Home and Abroad by John Brennan was a wonderful memoir by one of America's long-term public servants going on to be one of America's experts in intelligence. John Brennan speaks lovingly of his Irish immigrant parents and the values that were instilled in him growing up in New Jersey. Brennan talks about his early fascination with espionage and his early career in the Central Intelligence Agency followed by his assignments in the Middle East. Wha Undaunted: My Fight Against America's Enemies, at Home and Abroad by John Brennan was a wonderful memoir by one of America's long-term public servants going on to be one of America's experts in intelligence. John Brennan speaks lovingly of his Irish immigrant parents and the values that were instilled in him growing up in New Jersey. Brennan talks about his early fascination with espionage and his early career in the Central Intelligence Agency followed by his assignments in the Middle East. What I loved the most is that the young John Brennan rode a motorcycle as well as sporting a diamond-studded earring in his ear. Brennan served as Barack Obama's counter-terrorism expert in his first term and then as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency during the President's last term. Sadly as the Obama administration was preparing to brief the incoming administration during the transfer of power, John Brennan was also preparing to say good-bye to his elderly father, Otto Brennan. Brennan was the first from the Obama administration to speak out against the tactics of Donald Trump and his administration, and he continues to do so. As a consequence, he was stripped of his security clearance. But I think John Brennan says it best in his own words: "I sorely wish that I had never felt compelled to speak out as vociferously as I have against a sitting president of the United States. It has given me no pleasure to do so. But, as long as Mr. Trump continues to trample on the tenets of our democracy, lie to the American people, denigrate the office of the presidency, endanger our national security, and sully our reputation around the world, I will not relent in my criticism of him." This was a well-written book. I have long been an admirer of John Brennan although he sometimes comes across as a curmudgeon but always as a patriot with values and loyalties that we all should aspire to. It should be noted that I received a copy of this book from Celadon Books. Thank you to Lauren Dooley and Celadon Books.

  6. 5 out of 5

    David Eppenstein

    I generally avoid reading books about current events. I like my history to cook for awhile as I think in the hands of skillful and talented historians the flavor and meaning of these events will take on a more accurate and robust taste. After reading the reviews of a couple of GR friends I decided to make an exception for this book by John Brennan, former director of the CIA under President Obama. I have heard Brennan interviewed a couple of times and he impressed me as a gruff outspoken Irishma I generally avoid reading books about current events. I like my history to cook for awhile as I think in the hands of skillful and talented historians the flavor and meaning of these events will take on a more accurate and robust taste. After reading the reviews of a couple of GR friends I decided to make an exception for this book by John Brennan, former director of the CIA under President Obama. I have heard Brennan interviewed a couple of times and he impressed me as a gruff outspoken Irishman of the old school and his memoir would probably be something out of the ordinary. It might not have turned out as I hoped but it was definitely worth reading. As a memoir Brennan does start with his childhood and his family and then his education, his youth, his adventures, falling in love, marriage and career. All of this is useful information for understanding what kind of man John Brennan is and how he got that way. Of course what makes his life worth reading about are his experiences in the CIA. John's career in the CIA began in the 1970's and except for a brief retirement period it lasted until January 20, 2017, the day Trump became president. In the book the organization and structure of the CIA and the various intelligence agencies of the federal government are sketched out for the reader. I didn't realize there were 17 national intelligence agencies and their bureaucratic hierarchy is such that it had me wondering how they ever get anything accomplished. Nevertheless, the complexity of this establishment didn't seem to bother John or earn any criticism from him and John was very free with his criticism in this book. In fact if there is any reason to criticize this book it is John's glowing praise for the CIA and its members. John didn't hesitate to fault himself and others inside and outside the CIA when it was called for but his bottomline regard and love for the CIA was a bit much for me. After more than 3 decades in government service I suppose John could be forgiven for his effusive loyalty and praise but it had me questioning the objectivity of his opinions. My doubts were further increased by John's descriptions of all the unscrupulous behavior he encountered during his service in D.C. Some of this had rethinking the advisability of term limits for congressional members and I have never been in favor of that before but that's another subject for a different forum. Instead of wondering if John had ever become infected with this sort of political intriguing I was, instead, affected by the easy tone of his writing style which is very conversational which makes an otherwise dull subject more palatable. This book reads like you are sitting in a casual setting with this man enjoying a beer or a coffee and he is telling you stories about his very interesting and colorful career in government intelligence. The events John describes are all things we have lived through in the last few decades. The description of the hunt and assassination of Osama bin Ladin was fascinating because you were informed of how this occurred and carried out. Other events are also described in behind the scenes fashion and then John gives the reader a chapter about the people he has dealt with in his career. He has some interesting things to say about Lindsay Graham, Diane Feinstein, John McCain and many others but his contempt for Trump was earned by Trump's attachment to Russia and Putin and his post-inauguration antics while starting his presidency and it goes without saying, the lies and more lies. Without doubt this is a worthwhile read about a simple man from humble beginnings that rose to the top the nation's intelligence community and managed to remain human and humble and it is encouraging to think that there are such people protecting us and especially in such troubled times.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Donald Powell

    Thank you to Celadon books for providing this book for my review, I was honored to be asked. John Brennan is a clear and concise author. His prose is organized, precise, honest, humble (often self effacing), demonstrating a warm sense of humor but guided by an admirable respect and honor for the rule of law, fairness, truth, and due process. It was a very pleasant read. Mr. Brennan obviously starts all decisions with "What are the facts?" The book is very timely in its discussion of many issues o Thank you to Celadon books for providing this book for my review, I was honored to be asked. John Brennan is a clear and concise author. His prose is organized, precise, honest, humble (often self effacing), demonstrating a warm sense of humor but guided by an admirable respect and honor for the rule of law, fairness, truth, and due process. It was a very pleasant read. Mr. Brennan obviously starts all decisions with "What are the facts?" The book is very timely in its discussion of many issues of national politics. He does not hold back on revelations about many prominent Americans, including Joe Biden, Bob Mueller, and Presidents Obama and Trump. The book is a personal memoir of an American who through hard work, a driven eagerness to learn, and a determination to contribute to improving all our lives, rose to the highest level of governance. His personality was profoundly affected by his education infusing a firm moral compass in him. There is an enlightening discussion of the intelligence community, particularly the CIA. He explains Middle Eastern and some world politics clarifying many of my confusions left from popular media. Historians will rely on this book for some insight and confirmation of events Mr. Brennan witnessed and influenced. The discussion of the interplay of politics and the mission of the CIA was fascinating. His discussion reveals the importance of seeing issues from differing perspectives, a very timely and vital lesson for politics and day-to-day governance. John Brennan is a man of true family values. He is just a year older than I am and stands as a role model of a life well lived. There are factors on which we would disagree based upon our own life experiences but I am sure if I had a chance to know him personally I would be honored to be his friend. He comes off that well with his honest discussions.

  8. 5 out of 5

    junkyard

    JB goes into some depth on the organizational structures and hierarchies of the institutions he was involved in. His love of the Middle East and his travels there stood him in good stead for his future, especially picking up Arabic. You rarely get this type of person's auto-bio as well; it's normally on just the dramatic parts of their life. It was good to read of his upbringing and what made him what he was. He starts off with Trump winning the election and his only meeting with him in the trans JB goes into some depth on the organizational structures and hierarchies of the institutions he was involved in. His love of the Middle East and his travels there stood him in good stead for his future, especially picking up Arabic. You rarely get this type of person's auto-bio as well; it's normally on just the dramatic parts of their life. It was good to read of his upbringing and what made him what he was. He starts off with Trump winning the election and his only meeting with him in the transfer committee meeting. He realized that Trump wasn't interested in what the outgoing administration had to say and that Trump was extremely incurious about things. It was what he expected as he knew Trump well because JB was raised in New Jersey and Trump in New York. He states he'd seen his life for decades as a snake-oil salesman with no principles and only interested in himself. JB admits he was shocked and disappointed that his countrymen and women could elect such an obnoxious man as this. It's only towards the last part of the book does he talk about the Trump administration as it's written in a chronological fashion. The stresses and strains of the job of protecting the USA is very much a 24/7 job especially the higher up the food chain you go. He constantly remarks on how proud he is of the work and risks Americans in the intelligence agencies do on behalf of their countrymen. (I write this just as the security services save Governor Whitmar's life in Michigan). He is furious at how Trump ridicules the agencies and how he breaks every civilized norm. JB explains why people are good: Clapper, Warne, Biden, H Clinton, Finestein, McCabe, Tenet, Rice, Powell, Kerry, P Ryan, Fauci. Explains why he classifies the following as baddies: Pompeo, Haspel, Grenell, L Graham, D Nunes, McConnell. He states he voted for Bush senior but was extremely impressed working with Clinton and Gore. Much of the book deals with the Middle East as this is his specialist area and makes interesting comments on the leaders he got to know there. Speaking out against the nightmare of Trump opens him up for attacks from all sides but he's UNDAUNTED because of his love for his country and its people.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Read by the author, a memoir by the former CIA director's almost 40 years working in the CIA. It was a little surprising to me how vociferous he was/is about 45 and the how business is being conducted under the present administration. Read by the author, a memoir by the former CIA director's almost 40 years working in the CIA. It was a little surprising to me how vociferous he was/is about 45 and the how business is being conducted under the present administration.

  10. 5 out of 5

    M. [storme reads a lot]

    I was super interested in this book when I saw it on Twitter. I blame years of watching shows about the government. I also started to get into political thrillers as well. I was super pleased to have the chance to read this. I do not know a lot about politics, but I thought this was a very thought provoking memoir. The tone is conversational. Brennan talks as if you are a friend and explains his life. I thought it was funny he was going to be a priest and ended up in the government. I cannot imag I was super interested in this book when I saw it on Twitter. I blame years of watching shows about the government. I also started to get into political thrillers as well. I was super pleased to have the chance to read this. I do not know a lot about politics, but I thought this was a very thought provoking memoir. The tone is conversational. Brennan talks as if you are a friend and explains his life. I thought it was funny he was going to be a priest and ended up in the government. I cannot imagine how two career choices could be more opposite. I am sure it would have been a much different memoir than he gone into the seminary, haha. Still, I enjoyed this book a lot even though it did seem slow at times. Read my full review here

  11. 4 out of 5

    Marion

    I loved this book written by an outstanding writer, and a marvelous American who has dedicated his life to Our America! His work in the CIA and as the Director of the CIA have been a great accomplishment and a marvelous protection for America! Our country is very, very fortunate to have a man like John Brennan, who loves our country! Hooray for this Undaunted American whom we must HONOR!!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Robert D

    Very well written in a conversational style that I enjoyed. While, there were no major revelations as I have read a great deal about the CIA during this an previous periods it was still very revealing in many respects. Well done!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    I feel honored to have been offered a copy of this book by the publisher to read and to honestly review. My very positive comments and five-star rating are provided in response to my genuine experiences reading this book. Interestingly, I read the final pages of this professional biography on the day when the 2020 presidential election was called for Joe Biden. Thus, I was able to finish reading without as much anguish as I might have felt had the election gone the other direction. Only the very I feel honored to have been offered a copy of this book by the publisher to read and to honestly review. My very positive comments and five-star rating are provided in response to my genuine experiences reading this book. Interestingly, I read the final pages of this professional biography on the day when the 2020 presidential election was called for Joe Biden. Thus, I was able to finish reading without as much anguish as I might have felt had the election gone the other direction. Only the very opening pages of the book and the final chapters, however, involve the 45th president of the United States. The rest of the book spans John O. Brennan's youth and interesting career with the CIA and at the White House under President Obama. He details, chronologically, his work as a CIA analyst, his interactions with colleagues across the intelligence community, his travels around the world on behalf of the United States on problem-solving and the pursuit of information, his leadership as Director of the CIA, and his experiences as President Obama's assistant for homeland security and counter-terrorism. I very much appreciate Brennan's willingness to be candid about his leadership challenges. While his retelling of his successes and failures as a leader of human beings handling extremely important tasks might not rise to the level of swashbuckling excitement one might anticipate in reading a book about the CIA, it reads as a real and a true chronicle of a man with integrity trying with his colleagues to do the right things in complex situations. As a retired bureaucrat myself--albeit not in any kind of role like Brennan's--I appreciated his sharing so honestly and with such soul his hind-sight reflections on life in government service. This is a book I will recommend to others--most likely to those whose own life-experiences have included "threading the needle" decision-making and public second-guessing by others with superficial knowledge of the circumstances. Bravo, John O. Brennan, for every time you took a stand when it would have been easier to go along to get along. Bravo for continuing to speak out in support of the United States Constitution even when people in power try to stifle your truth-speaking. Bravo for the effort you expended in writing this important book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    John Brennan has lived quite an interesting life. Before becoming Director of the CIA, Brennan received an education in Middle Eastern studies and Arabic in the ‘70s (which as you can imagine would become quite useful later on). Brennan recounts some funny anecdotes about voting for a candidate in the Communist party, blowing his cover while in disguise, and the sort of things that occur when raised in an Irish-American family. Brennan also discusses more sobering aspects of his job, including t John Brennan has lived quite an interesting life. Before becoming Director of the CIA, Brennan received an education in Middle Eastern studies and Arabic in the ‘70s (which as you can imagine would become quite useful later on). Brennan recounts some funny anecdotes about voting for a candidate in the Communist party, blowing his cover while in disguise, and the sort of things that occur when raised in an Irish-American family. Brennan also discusses more sobering aspects of his job, including the CIA’s decision to torture suspected terrorists following 9/11. Later, Brennan would also assist President Obama regarding homeland security and counterterrorism, perhaps most significantly the 2011 mission to remove Bin Laden. In 2012, Brennan became the Director of the CIA and made a personal effort to recruit more women (and other minority groups) to the department. The end of the book focuses on more recent events under the Trump administration, and the unprecedented actions taken to both remove Brennan’s security clearance and bar him from information that he could use to write this memoir. Brennan notes that the CIA would have had to review the information in his book before publication anyway, so the attempts to block him from writing it were both absurd and childish. Brennan recounts early intelligence briefings with Trump which are not surprising in that Trump could not pay attention and seemed only interested in uncovering the United State’s most closely guarded secrets on HOW we obtain intelligence, rather than the contents of the intelligence itself. Concerning behavior for many reasons. Thank you Celadon Books for reaching out and providing me with a copy of this book. I would highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in learning some behind-the-scenes stories around more recent events in US history. See more of my reviews: Instagram

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dan Graser

    It is frequently books and memoirs in particular on the intelligence community that are the most interesting of their genre. This is due not only to the mysterious nature that surrounds the profession but also because the work done in these institutions frequently spans several discrepant political movements, cultures, administrations, the most severe and globe-changing geopolitical events, and technological developments. While there have been a few works recently by retired intelligence profess It is frequently books and memoirs in particular on the intelligence community that are the most interesting of their genre. This is due not only to the mysterious nature that surrounds the profession but also because the work done in these institutions frequently spans several discrepant political movements, cultures, administrations, the most severe and globe-changing geopolitical events, and technological developments. While there have been a few works recently by retired intelligence professionals with a military background of some sort, it was quite interesting to read this account written by a veteran CIA analyst who rose through the ranks to eventually serve as CIA Director during Obama's second term. In this memoir which, given how the media responds to things these days, will likely only be known for the recognition of the author's strong disapproval of the current incumbent's dismissal of and micturition on the work of our intelligence services, what this is at its core is a personal tale of a set of values that are tested throughout several professional and eventually political relationships. You are taken from an upbringing in New Jersey and meandering academic pursuits, to the somewhat accidental interest and application to the CIA. The author's subsequent study of Middle East geopolitics, fluency in Arabic, and work up the ladder of intelligence administration is told with elegant prose and unvarnished honesty. Rather than attempting to have the work be an expiation of past sins, Brennan deals with the specific issues he was presented with and details his opinion of them in context and in light of the natural progression of attitudes towards CIA's work and specific techniques as well as actions undertaken by previous directors with which he has disagreement. The shift from analyst to administrator for the CIA is told with great detail and is particularly salient as many think it a natural progression to go from CIA analyst to higher-ranking administrative roles, not realizing how different the two positions function in a government organization with congressional oversight. Brennan's conflicts at times with various Senate committees while also working to change the public perception of the organization's purpose and functioning following the calamitous W. Bush years tarnishing of that image is again told with great feeling and honesty. When working in such a profession you cannot help but attract the ire and indignation of politicians on both sides of the aisle and Brennan certainly did! I can think of no better indicator of an intelligence professional's credibility than this. While some, by dint of Jungian enantiodromia become the very political machinator they despised during their entire time working up the ladder, Brennan certainly never did. The closing section details just why a former director of CIA would feel the need to openly criticize a sitting president and if you seriously can't see why someone who devoted their life to this profession would take umbrage at the president's nonstop lying about the intelligence community's work and blatant kowtowing to the whim of autocratic rulers he identifies as "strong" then there is little I can say here that will convince you. Best to go back to your twitter echosphere and continue to howl into the void. In short, this is a brilliant survey of Brennan's career and how it is that someone with a purely analytical background in intelligence can rise up the ladder to the very top of the intelligence community and, even in retirement, be a fierce advocate for the important work of these agencies and a bulwark against their blatant dismissal by the more unlettered among us. *Special thanks to Celadon books for providing this review copy.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Donna Hines

    As we travel through this new norm I was hoping that someone of Mr. Brennan's stature could provide some new insight into not only the backward dealings of many of those in the highest offices of our country but also within our national intelligence and security. While I appreciate the personal details it seemed they were plentiful and overly abundant and led to a drag of the importance of why we must continue the good fight as our nation crumbles and our democracy is destroyed from within. This b As we travel through this new norm I was hoping that someone of Mr. Brennan's stature could provide some new insight into not only the backward dealings of many of those in the highest offices of our country but also within our national intelligence and security. While I appreciate the personal details it seemed they were plentiful and overly abundant and led to a drag of the importance of why we must continue the good fight as our nation crumbles and our democracy is destroyed from within. This book highlights many personal achievements, accolades, but the real hearty meaty substances concerning our current state of affairs which was the most important for me as I can't change or undue the past actions was null and void. In fact the section on our current presidency was barely discussed with only twitter rants and personal zingers and that did nothing to wet my appetite in understanding the craziness other than to note the security clearances still work (so I guess that's a plus) but for me this wasn't what I had hoped. Thank you to John O. Brennan, the pub, NetGalley, and Amazon Kindle for this ARC in exchange for this honest review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sage

    3.5 stars. I’m a political junkie, and I have really been looking forward to this book — especially after having the pleasure of hearing John Brennan speak last year. The breadth and scope of his government service over his decades-long career is truly remarkable. I especially enjoyed the sections about the beginnings of his career at the CIA, all of his various assignments, and overseas postings. I did, however, think this book was a little bit too long, and could have been 100 pages shorter. D 3.5 stars. I’m a political junkie, and I have really been looking forward to this book — especially after having the pleasure of hearing John Brennan speak last year. The breadth and scope of his government service over his decades-long career is truly remarkable. I especially enjoyed the sections about the beginnings of his career at the CIA, all of his various assignments, and overseas postings. I did, however, think this book was a little bit too long, and could have been 100 pages shorter. Definitely enjoyed some chapters more than others. I wasn’t bored by the end, but I was a little tired (although I am tired in general so maybe it was just me!)

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tonstant Weader

    Undaunted is the memoir of John O. Brennan, the CIA director for the last half of President Obama’s term. Since his retirement, he has been critical of Trump and the Republicans who refused to act to punish Russia for intervening in our election. Brennan began his memoir with his childhood when he thought he would grow up to be a priest before he became more skeptical in high school. He applied to the CIA in college. He writes about his training with self-deprecating stories of his mistakes such Undaunted is the memoir of John O. Brennan, the CIA director for the last half of President Obama’s term. Since his retirement, he has been critical of Trump and the Republicans who refused to act to punish Russia for intervening in our election. Brennan began his memoir with his childhood when he thought he would grow up to be a priest before he became more skeptical in high school. He applied to the CIA in college. He writes about his training with self-deprecating stories of his mistakes such as being the first person noticed in a shadowing exercise mainly because he was wearing clothes that stood out. He soon dropped Operations (the movie kind of CIA) for Analysis (the reading and writing kind of CIA.) He studied Arabic in college and spent time there early in his CIA career and returned mid-career as well. This was his area of expertise and the reason he was in counter-terrorism. He tells about his work during several administrations and his advancing career. I enjoyed Undaunted quite a bit. Brennan is a good writer, concise and organized, which is a natural reflection of his lifetime of preparing analyses and briefings. He can take the complex and distill it to the essentials in a few paragraphs. If you’re expecting secrets, though, you won’t get any. Not only did this go through the CIA review process, Brennan is not writing to share secrets, but to give folks an idea of the value of nonpartisan professional civil servants like him. He worked well with Republican and Democratic presidents. This is a necessary antidote in these days of “deep state” conspiracy-mongering. One of the strangely comforting things was his explanation of how hard they worked to develop a framework for drone strikes. When Obama took over, drone strikes happened, but there was no systematic checklist of requirements necessary to okay a strike. They put a lot of work into creating guidelines about the degree of certainty, the lack of other options, the safety of non-combatants, etc. So, perhaps this sounds weird. Drone strike assassination of suspected terrorists is a moral wrong, in my opinion, but there is comfort in knowing that the people doing it are uncomfortable enough with that power that they try to limit and circumscribe it. It doesn’t make it less wrong, but it does make it better than those ordering it also think it’s wrong enough they try to limit it. I received a copy of Undaunted from the publisher for review. Undaunted at Celadon Press James O. Brennan on Twitter https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpre...

  19. 5 out of 5

    Fred Klein

    This biography was sent to me by the publisher because I read similar books. Getting a free copy did not affect my review. I'm glad they sent me a copy because I probably would not have picked it up on my own, and I found it interesting. For those of you who are sick of Trump-bashing books, you should know that most of this book is not about Trump. You get a little at the beginning and the end, but, for the most part, Brennan talks about his life and career, and his dealings with Trump are only a This biography was sent to me by the publisher because I read similar books. Getting a free copy did not affect my review. I'm glad they sent me a copy because I probably would not have picked it up on my own, and I found it interesting. For those of you who are sick of Trump-bashing books, you should know that most of this book is not about Trump. You get a little at the beginning and the end, but, for the most part, Brennan talks about his life and career, and his dealings with Trump are only a small part of that. However, for those of you who thrive on Trump-bashing, it's clear that Brennan is no fan of Trump. I enjoyed getting Brennan's inside view. He lets us know when he can't tell us more details (piquing our curiosity). What I like is that Brennan admits that he made mistakes and says when he thinks he could have done better. Even when he criticizes others, he concedes that he's doing so with 20/20 hindsight, and the person he's criticizing, like James Comey, had to make decisions in real time. The book slowed down for me when Brennan described the bureaucratic machinations of the government. But it picked up when he described important events like the killing of bin Laden. He also gives his insights into Joe Biden. Keep in mind: This was written and released before Biden won the election. Overall, I recommend this one.

  20. 4 out of 5

    David

    Well, I read this a fair bit more slowly than I usually do, largely on account of this hellish year, and being a nurse during ta woefully mismanaged pandemic. That being out of the way, Brennan writes very well. I admit I was hoping for more on the Trump-era, but understandably there isn’t much in his memoir regarding his professional career from that time period. The last three chapters focus on the run-up to the election and the Trump time period and are like watching a slow-moving train wreck Well, I read this a fair bit more slowly than I usually do, largely on account of this hellish year, and being a nurse during ta woefully mismanaged pandemic. That being out of the way, Brennan writes very well. I admit I was hoping for more on the Trump-era, but understandably there isn’t much in his memoir regarding his professional career from that time period. The last three chapters focus on the run-up to the election and the Trump time period and are like watching a slow-moving train wreck, particularly with the benefit of hindsight. Even without the benefit of Brennan having access to his notes, it is clearly well-researched, and Brennan has an impressive ability to recall information. I can’t say I always agreed with his choices or points of view, particularly regarding so-called “enhanced interrogation,” but at least Brennan was a patriot and seemed to have a functional moral compass, which is more than can be said for the current administration and their political operators. I received a review copy in exchange for a review.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Shoshanna Ford

    This book was dry but incredibly interesting. I listened to the audible version. I always enjoy books read by their author. I feel the personal touch. I think it really does make a difference. I learned a lot about the internal workings of the intelligence agencies that I did not know before, and I feel this was part of Mr. Brennan's intent. I believe he wanted to demonstrate the worthiness of the intelligence services as a career, and I believe he achieved that goal. I also enjoyed his personal This book was dry but incredibly interesting. I listened to the audible version. I always enjoy books read by their author. I feel the personal touch. I think it really does make a difference. I learned a lot about the internal workings of the intelligence agencies that I did not know before, and I feel this was part of Mr. Brennan's intent. I believe he wanted to demonstrate the worthiness of the intelligence services as a career, and I believe he achieved that goal. I also enjoyed his personal stories of working within these agencies. It humanized them. This book was definitely worth the read. I enjoyed it immensely. I would love to grab a coffee or a beer with Mr. Brennan and pick his brain about his decades in service of this nation. I feel, after listening to him read for hours, that he would make a good professor.  Sssh! We are reading! Ssshwearereading.wordpress.com

  22. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    4.5actually, of course politically I agree with Brennan’s assessment of lack of integrity and destruction of democratic ideals in the now, thank heavens,outgoing administration. Actually really appreciated John Brennan’s acknowledgment of his non interest in politics initially with his own career and acknowledged he didn’t make either side particularly happy at times. Interesting book, intriguing and hope Brennan might be interested in reading his bio, worthy read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Chris Leach

    Excellent, entertaining, informative, balanced and interesting insight into both an honorable man's life and contribution to the country particularly the security side of the equation. Not a trace of vindictiveness and a fascinating view of Mr. Brennan's life and accomplishments. Excellent, entertaining, informative, balanced and interesting insight into both an honorable man's life and contribution to the country particularly the security side of the equation. Not a trace of vindictiveness and a fascinating view of Mr. Brennan's life and accomplishments.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cody

    *Special note: Celadon books sent me a free copy of Undaunted for review Rating: 4.5/5

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    I won this in a Goodreads giveaway. Honest and we'll written memoir. We need more people like him serving our country not being driven out of service by a petulant child man. I won this in a Goodreads giveaway. Honest and we'll written memoir. We need more people like him serving our country not being driven out of service by a petulant child man.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Joanne

    I feel like the subtitle was somewhat misleading. If you are interested in how one man became a member of the CIA, rose through the ranks and, after leaving the organization, ultimately became Director, you may enjoy this book. It is a detailed story of John Brennan's career. But if you are interested in how the organization fights America's enemies, go straight to chapter 16 and skip the rest. For me the story becomes most interesting when Brennan joins the Obama White House, events that occurr I feel like the subtitle was somewhat misleading. If you are interested in how one man became a member of the CIA, rose through the ranks and, after leaving the organization, ultimately became Director, you may enjoy this book. It is a detailed story of John Brennan's career. But if you are interested in how the organization fights America's enemies, go straight to chapter 16 and skip the rest. For me the story becomes most interesting when Brennan joins the Obama White House, events that occurred during Obama's Presidency, and Brennan's views of the Trump presidency.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    Brennan's account of his career at the CIA and within the intelligence community is very good. Unlike some memoirs of former military and intelligence officials that seek to separate themselves from politics Brennan clearly and directly confronts political issues that he disagrees with and finds inconsistent with American values. Some readers will find Brennans' criticism of the Bush-era torture program and of Trump generally to be either inappropriate for an intelligence official, or treasonous Brennan's account of his career at the CIA and within the intelligence community is very good. Unlike some memoirs of former military and intelligence officials that seek to separate themselves from politics Brennan clearly and directly confronts political issues that he disagrees with and finds inconsistent with American values. Some readers will find Brennans' criticism of the Bush-era torture program and of Trump generally to be either inappropriate for an intelligence official, or treasonous for the Trump loyalists. Other readers will applaud these aspects of Brennan's biography while condemning his support of the overseas drone program and the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American cleric in Yemen. While some of these criticisms are baseless, others are valid. However, Brennan does an exceptional job putting these tough decisions in context, highlighting how own failures, and making a strong case for a principled (versus a hard-power or lassez-faire) approach to national security. While Brennan's book is generally excellent, his chapter describing why he opposed a Senate investigation into the enhanced interrogation and extraordinary rendition programs falls far short of Brennan's leadership and analytic abilities. Brennan argues, as many others do, that it was inappropriate for the CIA to share with the Senate internal information regarding the programs. On its face this excuse to protect a program that was arguably unconstitutional and betrayed American values is invalid. If the US Senate cannot provide oversight of controversial programs, what is the point of having oversight power? That any report would represent political interests is a correct concern, but should not be offered as a justification for denying the Constitutional privileges of the Senate. This would be similar to a defendant in a criminal case asking for a judge of a certain political party. Although it is obvious that different judges are nominated for different political reasons, allowing a defendant to pick and choose which judge they saw would undermine the justice system. Brennan offers several attempts to rationalize the enhanced interrogation program that have been demonstrated to be inaccurate or wrong by other first-hand accounts and by simple logic. Brennan reminds the reader that the enhanced interrogation techniques were derived from techniques used to train US military members at SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) training. However, the irony that US military members were exposed to these techniques willingly in a controlled for a limited time and with limited exposure for the precise purpose of teaching them that they can develop strong personal defenses at resisting such techniques, and torture itself, is completely lost on Brennan, as it is lost on many others. If a US servicemember can be trained in a matter of days to resist enhanced interrogation techniques and it is assumed that they will be able to do so once they complete the training, is it really expected that it would work on terrorists? Brennan also ignores that part of SERE training is how to lie to interrogators during torture. Interrogators demand answers for the torture to be stopped and the assumption is that clearly false answers will be met with increased torture. For that reason, servicemembers who were held in Vietnam came up with techniques to resist providing substantive answers. They gave the names of professional sports players when asked to name members of their military units, they downplayed the importance of their individual roles and ranks, and they told plausible lies to protect intelligence. In some cases, they told the interrogators what they wanted to hear, knowing that that information was false. Why would any individual who can think logically assume that terrorists subject to such techniques would act any different than Americans under such pressure? Brennan also mischaracterizes the view of the Justice Department regarding the enhanced interrogations. Ali Soufan's book "The Black Banners" shows that from the very first enhanced interrogations the FBI felt they were inappropriate because standard interview and interrogation techniques were already effective at collecting intelligence that could also be used in criminal prosecutions. (Another oversight of Brennan is the suggestion that some of the enhanced interrogation techniques used came from an Army Field Manual, disregarding both the question of why the legitimate techniques in the manual weren't relied upon and the fact that battlefield interrogations, where individuals are not subject to prosecution and it is assumed that they will be released at the end of a declared war, are fundamentally different from those of terrorists that must be held up in court to achieve justice.) The FBI, reflecting DOJ policy, essentially withdrew from the CIA's interrogation program immediately because of moral, ethical, and legal concerns, not to mention that the enhanced interrogation techniques simply did not work and could not be considered evidence. If I remember correctly, James Comey's book covers the perspective of DOJ leadership on the enhanced interrogation program. Comey describes how DOJ assumed that the specific techniques would be used individually and for very short periods of time. The narrow legal opinion was that an individual enhanced technique could be used on particularly reluctant prisoners for a very short period of time if no other technique had worked. However, the CIA used cocktails of techniques for extended periods of time, which very possibly would have cleared DOJ's definition of torture. Brennan fails to examine the controversial role the White House's Office of Legal Council played in interpreting DOJ's guidance to justify a controversial program. Despite this serious shortfall, Brennan's book is worth reading for people interested in politics, national security, or the intelligence profession. I was pleasantly surprised to learn new details about different events that have already been well-covered in the public and historical narrative and Brennan, overall, does an excellent job arguing for a principled approach to intelligence collection that reflects American values. For those who disagree with him, the burden is to show how setting aside value, ethical, moral, and legal norms is appropriate when we know and expect that the actions of the US become the template for other countries, allies and adversaries alike.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kate TerHaar

    Undaunted is a very readable and informative memoir of a civil servant and patriot- John O Brennan. Written chronologically we follow John's life from child to the national security and intelligence expert he is today. I found it fascinating to read about his descriptions and involvement in events including; 911, Osama bin Laden, the shoe bomber, Sandy Hook, and the 2016 election interference and of course the Trump presidency. The life of a civil servant can be challenging and difficult. I admir Undaunted is a very readable and informative memoir of a civil servant and patriot- John O Brennan. Written chronologically we follow John's life from child to the national security and intelligence expert he is today. I found it fascinating to read about his descriptions and involvement in events including; 911, Osama bin Laden, the shoe bomber, Sandy Hook, and the 2016 election interference and of course the Trump presidency. The life of a civil servant can be challenging and difficult. I admire all you take up the calling. Thank you Mr. Brennan for speaking out.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Hill Krishnan

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Undaunted by John Brennan 1. Piqued my curiosity: When John worked in CIA after grad school he had the opportunity to be the PDB (Presidential Daily Briefing) briefer. He takes many pages with him in a locked suitcase with a Chauffeur driven car 3 times a week. Bill Clinton could consume all of the analysis, digest it and come to conclusions on the threats. The small threats or incidents were called “snowflakes.” But large strategic analysis were written in italics. By Obama administration the PD Undaunted by John Brennan 1. Piqued my curiosity: When John worked in CIA after grad school he had the opportunity to be the PDB (Presidential Daily Briefing) briefer. He takes many pages with him in a locked suitcase with a Chauffeur driven car 3 times a week. Bill Clinton could consume all of the analysis, digest it and come to conclusions on the threats. The small threats or incidents were called “snowflakes.” But large strategic analysis were written in italics. By Obama administration the PDB was all in a tablet. The POTUS approves who are the other people the briefer can share it with. Usually about 10 people (VP, joint chief, Secretary of State, treasury, etc). Briefer sits with them when they are reading the material and takes back with him once they are done. If they have questions briefer don’t know the answer for sure, CIA had a term “going dumb early.” You don’t give wrong answer. One time Bill Clinton asked about a trivial figure mentioned in the Balkan area whether he is the guy who had human rights violations. Clinton further said, I remember seeing his name in PDB few weeks ago. John nodded and came back to CIA Langley to verify and asked his fellow officer how did Clinton remember that so well when we don’t? Fellow officer said that’s why he is POTUS & not you! John as a briefer goes to bed at 8 pm and back in Langley at 2:30 am to prepare for hours reading the supporting documents of the analysis of PDB every day! 2. Parts of the book fall short in narrative details: bin laden raid (best book on it Peter Bergen’s Man Hunt); Obama’s Drone killing of Anwar Alwaki (best book is Objective Troy); ISIS (Black Flags); S. Arabia MBS (MBS by Hubbard). 3. Interesting parts: 1) As a retired officer John donated $2500 (maximum single donation) to Obama campaign. Later through George Tenet he helped out Obama campaign. POTUS elect Obama vetted him for cia Director by flying him to Chicago but opposition built in press because of his bush era cia work. He later was appointed as west wing czar in charge of counterterrorism. 2) during 2nd term When Brennan sworn in as a cia Director he sworn on an original draft of the US constitution rather than a bible. Critics were saying he used the draft of the constitution before bill of rights were added and hence neglecting 5th (due process) & 6th (trial by jury) amendments which are essential to prevent CIA drones killing US citizens like Alwaki. Sen. Rand Paul said John supports killing Americans using drones. Actually earlier in the book John stood against CIA torture techniques (EIT) under Bush administration as a cia officer. 3) VP Biden making peace between Feinstein and Brennan at his official home. Brennan apologizes to Feinstein but restated that CIA didn’t hack senate computers. 4. Inspirational part: Gay officers were dismissed in the past because the foreign countries could use that against them. But Brennan as Chief said our officers should reflect the diversity of America. 5. Sad part: 1) John says working in CIA I had all my childhood dreams of meeting famous people (including one on private conversations with s Arabia’s king) came true but none suited the heroic images I had of them as child! 2) While writing report on Russian intervention he was also seeing his dad pass away. 3) John’s security clearance revoked by Trump for just criticizing him (this made me think of Robert Oppenheimer’s clearance revoked due to politics).

  30. 5 out of 5

    Claudia

    3-1/2 stars bumped up. This man, John Brennan, had a seat at the table for many years. He saw decisions being made, within the CIA, and within the administration. He is at heart an analyst, so he approaches even his own life thru that lens. He has chosen to focus on his extraordinary public, professional life, and let us into the process policymakers use to keep everything moving forward. He's not a memoirist...a story teller. He is devoted to the facts, and the factual facts. He is an analyst. T 3-1/2 stars bumped up. This man, John Brennan, had a seat at the table for many years. He saw decisions being made, within the CIA, and within the administration. He is at heart an analyst, so he approaches even his own life thru that lens. He has chosen to focus on his extraordinary public, professional life, and let us into the process policymakers use to keep everything moving forward. He's not a memoirist...a story teller. He is devoted to the facts, and the factual facts. He is an analyst. That make for slow reading for many of us who read for pleasure, but if we stay the course, we will be rewarded by deep insights into our last two presidents...or at least President Obama. I just checked...took me 2-1/2 weeks to finish...partly because of his dry prose, and partly because who can concentrate at all right now?? Obviously, there is no love lost between Brennan and Trump. Trump used his power to seek revenge, pulling Brennan's top-secret clearances, and making sure he was not invited to any of the CIA Christmas parties...the first Director in history to be un-invited to a party he used to host. Brennan was not given any of his own un-classified papers to assist him in writing this book...he has been treated shabbily by this criminal administration, and they ignored his wisdom at their own peril. Brennan loves the CIA as his professional home. He feels a sense of responsibility to its agents, its mission. I can only think these years in exile have been tragic to watch, knowing what he knows. I was lucky enough to receive a complementary copy of Undaunted for an honest review. Policy wonks will love this one. So many insights.

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