Meier’s book compiles and synthesizes several stories about recent private intelligence misadventures. While a fair amount is aggregation—readers of Ronan Farrow’s groundbreaking reporting on Black Cube’s work for Harvey Weinstein, for example, may find portions of that part of the book to be familiar territory—Meier’s research and original interviews flesh out the stories and characters involved. Through his eyes, they are often unsavory people. The best part of his book, upstaging the other sagas, covers the Steele dossier ... The tragic arc of WikiLeaks is a warning that the lines between traditional journalists, private detectives, very-online activist-investigators, and nation-state intelligence operatives constantly threaten to blur. That inherent instability provides a backdrop to Meier’s fundamental point that people outside government performing intelligence-style work seem to be having a rising impact.
In Spooked, the former New York Times investigative reporter Barry Meier makes clear he has some big and important ambitions: to probe deeply into the murky world of private spies ... In what feels like a curt 278 pages of text — as an investigative reporter, I craved a deeper dive — Meier focuses much of his narrative on the now-notorious 'Steele dossier,' the elaborate handiwork of Christopher Steele, a former MI6 spy ... To paraphrase Anton Chekhov’s famous advice about storytelling: If you bring a gun to the first act, make sure it goes off by the last act ... With Spooked we are left, in the end, with a gun that doesn’t really go off.
He is right, and he deserves credit for documenting the duplicity of the people who gave us the Steele dossier. Mr. Meier neglects to mention that two columnists in these pages have chronicled the treachery of Fusion GPS and Steele in detail, but put that to one side. He has said what hardly anyone else in his circle of elite mainstream journalists has had the courage to say ... The problem is that Mr. Meier’s aptly profane phrase for the media’s handling of the dossier isn’t accompanied by any substantive criticisms of his industry. The few sentences of censure he does offer are so gentle as to be exculpatory, and they are immediately followed by formulaic harrumphs about Mr. Trump’s badness. It is precisely that need to signal opposition to the 45th president that keeps Mr. Meier from acknowledging the immense damage not only to journalism but to the country brought about by the dossier scam. Mr. Meier barely mentions the fact that the FBI used the dossier to justify surveillance warrants, fails to note that Mr. Steele’s source had once been investigated by the FBI as a suspected Russian agent, and seems to regret the whole collusion madness because it gave Mr. Trump a cudgel with which to beat his enemies.
The labyrinthine narrative reveals a slick, high-stakes dark side to the proliferation of private intelligence firms ... Throughout, Meier’s considerable journalistic chops help him maintain control of numerous subnarratives and a cast of ruthless eccentrics. An adroitly handled, disturbing exposé, clearly relevant to discussions of the tactics of Trump and company.
Journalist Meier (Pain Killer) delivers an intriguing yet overstuffed account of the modern-day private investigative industry and its role in the Harvey Weinstein case and other recent scandals ... Though Meier adds color and depth to the political saga, its connection to trends within corporate espionage slips out of focus. Still, this is an illuminating look at a shadowy industry.