View Full Version : Ghost: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent

06-01-2008, 04:14 PM
Ghost: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2008/06/ghost-confessions-of-a-counter/) - Small Wars Journal Book Review By Jon Custis.

Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Random House (June 3, 2008)

The Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), with its intermittent hiring freezes and exhaustive screening process, is a fairly well-known government security apparatus. With Ghost: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent, author Fred Burton pulls back the curtain on the formative years of the DSS's Counterterrorism (CT) Division, an element that began with three agents working in the bowels of the Harry S. Truman Building, behind a secure door and in the midst of the “dead bodies” files. In the process, Burton details his personal involvement in investigations into terrorist acts that occurred as far back as the Beirut Embassy and Marine Barracks bombings of 1983.

This memoir is all at once hard-hitting, well-researched, and an easy read. Organized into thirty-six chapters, with thoughtfully-placed transitions between each, Ghost becomes ones of those books that is easy to put down and return to in a few days. The book's appeal stemmed from the insight it provided on a multitude of state-sponsored and independent terrorist incidents, along with Burton's efforts to glean lessons in prevention. In today's counter-IED terminology, Burton could be considered to have been working towards "getting to the left of boom," as his team sought to determine the vulnerabilities that the Department of State faced abroad and at home. Burton also does an admirable job of delineating the division of labor between the various three-letter agencies that work against terrorism in the "Dark World." He sums it up well by stating: "In many ways, we're America's Dark World redheaded stepchild. We maneuver in the cracks and crevices between the other agencies. It is a tough place to operate." This may be news to the casual reader who previously assumed that the Central Intelligence Agency was the dominant actor in defeating terrorism abroad, and thus those chapters contribute to the book’s readability...