I have many problems with this book, beginning with its lurid title...Neither do I like the author’s sycophantic take on the CIA, nor her cavalier accounts of CIA targeted killings. I am uncomfortable with her casual approval of all things macho in the world of paramilitary warfare. Nor do I like the author’s pretense that she has written a biography when the hero of her narrative makes only fleeting appearances. I’m annoyed by the sloppy research and the breathless quality of her writing. And I hate the fact that the author, and evidently her publisher, thinks all this is okay because, well, it is an exciting story about a real-life Rambo character ... You may ask if Surprise, Kill, Vanish is really that bad. Yes, it is ... My real problem with this work is the author’s underlying themes. To this end, she uses Waugh’s career to lionize paramilitary operations and targeted killings. The Israelis do it so well, so why can’t we follow in the celebrated footsteps of the Mossad? ... Men like Waugh are not listeners, they’re just boys with dangerous toys. And when she’s not pretending to be a biographer, Jacobsen writes TV scripts for shows like Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan — which explains a lot about this unfortunate book.
This is a first rate book on the CIA, its paramilitary armies, operators, and assassins. In other words, meat for the ICC. It crosses the moral lines all the time. Surprise your target, torture or kill your enemy, vanish without a trace. Then deny it. That was and is its intent. That is what Annie Jacobsen describes in riveting, well-researched detail. The whole book should be read by prosecutors everywhere, not least those on the ICC. It should propel them into more regular prosecutions of Americans ... This is a book rich in detail. Its tone is neutral. It doesn’t give the impression that the author wishes to see the CIA abolished, merely controlled. By the end of the book readers will feel pushed to decide for themselves whether the CIA is a force for good or bad—or something somewhere in the middle.
A behind-the-scenes look at the most shadowy corners of the American intelligence community ... Assassination may be frowned on but it’s used more often than you might think. Well-sourced and well-paced, this book is full of surprises.