Book Review: Still Broken by AJ Rossmiller

Monday, 16/03/2009 ≅22:39 ©brainycat

Book Review:
Still Broken: A Recruit's Inside Account of Intelligence Failures, from Baghdad to the Pentagon
AJ Rossmiller
MobiPocket ebook
ISBN-10: 0891419144
ISBN-13: 978-0891419143

I enjoyed reading this book. I felt it was a small glimmer into a world that I will never be a part of, but affects me everyday. AJ was hired out of college into the state department, and worked as an intelligence analyst. This book chronicles his rise from a young, idealistic junior adminstrator to young, idealistic junior intgelligence analyst, and his subsequent resignation from his post after explaining to his management exactlty what's wrong with them.

The tone of the book is somewhat cold, almost like he's reciting a report to a superior officer. He rarely covers any details about his internal life, except the most topical anecdotes that relate to what he's doing. What he does a great job of is provide insight into the bureacracy of the US government. From his vantage point on the bottom of the food chain, he explicitly shows how the departmental adminstrations are broken. Repeatedly we hear how amazed he is that such an important task (finding and neutralizing enemies) could be so poorly mismanaged. Frankly, I think that if he had spent any time in the private sector he would have the perspective to know that any large organization looks screwed up if you're at the bottom.

Occaisonally, he mentions his feelings about being in Iraq for 6 months, but these moments of introspection distract from the main thrust of his arguments, and are so few and far between throughout the book that I believe it would read better if they had removed them. His description of his time in Iraq was illuminating in the sense that he describes life in the Green Zone, where previously I had only heard or read descriptions from people posted out in the field.

His perspective on how the intelligence agencies work is what really carries the book for me. His descriptions of how information is processed, then later politicized, is what makes this book worthwhile. His description of how personal the business is; the turf wars and budget wars and crappy leadership will strike a cord with anyone who has ever had the misfortune of working for a large corporation. It's a worthwhile read for anyone interested in how the intelligence community functioned under the Bush regime. Though AJ doesn't really provide any kind of way forward for anyone not in the community, it's endearing to feel his hope that possibly things might get better someday.

The fact that is organization is paid by me and trying to protect me makes this exposition truly frightening rather than commiserative, but the high stakes involved for all parties definitely adds to the interest level.

Here's how the book ranks at brainycat, on the scale of 2-7 dead cats:
Readability 6 dead cats
Edification: 4 dead cats
Relevance 5 dead cats
Accuracy 5 dead cats
Human Interest 4 dead cats
Leftishness 3 dead cats

Be Provoking: