Enemies is like a character in a Greek tragedy. It’s well researched and well written. It describes in significant but accessible detail the devastating damage done to US intelligence efforts by the well known cases of Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, the lesser known cases of Katrina Leung and Chi Mak, and several others. These are important events, which more people should know about, but they probably won’t because of Gertz’s tragic flaw – he just can’t stick to reporting the facts without injecting large doses of right-wing bias. To his credit, Gertz does cover events that reflect poorly on both Democratic and Republican administrations, but there are some significant differences in how each gets presented. Here are some examples.

  • Bad decisions made between 1992 and 2000 are consistently identified as belonging to the Clinton administration, and Gertz hardly ever passes up a chance to mention how the Clintons received campaign contributions from China. By contrast, for bad decisions made after 2000 the identity of the sitting president is only mentioned once, and that president’s one-cozy relationship with KGB man Vladimir Putin is never mentioned at all.
  • Many mistakes are attributed to unnamed “leftist factions” within the CIA, or to “the most liberal court in the country” (the Ninth Circuit) without a moment’s consideration of the actual legal or policy issues involved. By contrast, the political leanings of David Szady – who seems to have played a role in almost every major screwup Gertz documents – are never mentioned but are readily apparent from the many times his attempts to blame liberals for everything are approvingly cited.
  • Clinton is roundly blamed for the decrease in the number of CIA agents involved in human intelligence, even though Gertz well documents how our efforts during that period between the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of al Qaeda were so marked by foreign subversion of our intelligence services that they actually harmed US interests. Why would more of that have been good? Simultaneously, the damaging departures from the intelligence community since 2000 – from the well known Clarke and Scheuer to the less known but more influential Kappes and Sulick – aren’t mentioned.
  • Gertz never even mentions the single biggest intelligence failure of our generation, in which our entire intelligence system was subverted and used by men like Chalabi and Ghorbanifar to advance their own interests. Why place moles in the existing intelligence agencies when you can get people like Feith and Ledeen to set up a new one that will effectively displace them?

If Gertz wants to take credit for sounding an alarm, he should also take blame for sounding it in an echo chamber where the majority of the population will never hear it. He had an opportunity to tell a compelling story that might have gotten the attention not only of regular of citizens but of people with their hands on the levers of power, but he chose not to do that. Despite the wealth of information he provides, his overwhelming bias distorts the whole picture of US counterintelligence beyond usefulness. Maybe his next book should be about how putting partisanship ahead of patriotism has harmed our security.