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Facts and Fears
Cover of Facts and Fears
Facts and Fears
Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence
New York Times bestseller
The former Director of National Intelligence's candid and compelling account of the intelligence community's successes—and failures—in facing some of the greatest threats to America

When he stepped down in January 2017 as the fourth United States director of national intelligence, James Clapper had been President Obama's senior intelligence adviser for six and a half years, longer than his three predecessors combined. He led the U.S. intelligence community through a period that included the raid on Osama bin Laden, the Benghazi attack, the leaks of Edward Snowden, and Russia's influence operation during the 2016 U.S. election campaign. In Facts and Fears, Clapper traces his career through the growing threat of cyberattacks, his relationships with presidents and Congress, and the truth about Russia's role in the presidential election. He describes, in the wake of Snowden and WikiLeaks, his efforts to make intelligence more transparent and to push back against the suspicion that Americans' private lives are subject to surveillance. Finally, it was living through Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and seeing how the foundations of American democracy were—and continue to be—undermined by a foreign power that led him to break with his instincts honed through more than five decades in the intelligence profession to share his inside experience.
Clapper considers such controversial questions as, Is intelligence ethical? Is it moral to intercept communications or to photograph closed societies from orbit? What are the limits of what we should be allowed to do? What protections should we give to the private citizens of the world, not to mention our fellow Americans? Are there times when intelligence officers can lose credibility as unbiased reporters of hard truths by inserting themselves into policy decisions?
Facts and Fears offers a privileged look inside the U.S. intelligence community and, with the frankness and professionalism for which James Clapper is known, addresses some of the most difficult challenges in our nation's history.
New York Times bestseller
The former Director of National Intelligence's candid and compelling account of the intelligence community's successes—and failures—in facing some of the greatest threats to America

When he stepped down in January 2017 as the fourth United States director of national intelligence, James Clapper had been President Obama's senior intelligence adviser for six and a half years, longer than his three predecessors combined. He led the U.S. intelligence community through a period that included the raid on Osama bin Laden, the Benghazi attack, the leaks of Edward Snowden, and Russia's influence operation during the 2016 U.S. election campaign. In Facts and Fears, Clapper traces his career through the growing threat of cyberattacks, his relationships with presidents and Congress, and the truth about Russia's role in the presidential election. He describes, in the wake of Snowden and WikiLeaks, his efforts to make intelligence more transparent and to push back against the suspicion that Americans' private lives are subject to surveillance. Finally, it was living through Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and seeing how the foundations of American democracy were—and continue to be—undermined by a foreign power that led him to break with his instincts honed through more than five decades in the intelligence profession to share his inside experience.
Clapper considers such controversial questions as, Is intelligence ethical? Is it moral to intercept communications or to photograph closed societies from orbit? What are the limits of what we should be allowed to do? What protections should we give to the private citizens of the world, not to mention our fellow Americans? Are there times when intelligence officers can lose credibility as unbiased reporters of hard truths by inserting themselves into policy decisions?
Facts and Fears offers a privileged look inside the U.S. intelligence community and, with the frankness and professionalism for which James Clapper is known, addresses some of the most difficult challenges in our nation's history.
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  • From the cover

    Chapter One

    Born into the Intelligence Business

    When I accepted President Obama's offer to be the director of national intelligence, I was pushing seventy years old. Today, of course, I'm dragging it closer and closer to eighty. One reason that's significant is that both the earliest notions of a US Intelligence Community and the menace of the Soviet threat to the West were born about the same time as I was. My father was drafted into the Army in 1944, when I was three years old. As a signals intelligence officer during the war, he supported intercepting Japanese and German communications used to help the Allies win the war. He became deeply committed to the mission and respected the people he worked with, and before the ink was dry on the Japanese instrument of unconditional surrender, he'd decided to stay in the Army while most everyone else was demobilizing and shedding the uniform. Growing up and moving around from one signals intelligence site to another, I learned from a very early age to never—never—talk about what my dad did. I think my parents would be shocked, and my mother also mildly amused, that after retiring from the intelligence profession in 2017, I'd try to publicly explain what the Intelligence Community—the "IC"—is, what it does, and what it should stand for.

    For me, this seven-decade-and-more journey started with a bang, and not a good one. My earliest vivid memory is of my mother and me entering the port of Leghorn (Livorno), Italy, in 1946, on our way to meet my dad in Eritrea, on the Horn of Africa. We were among the first US dependents to cross the Atlantic after the war, a trip my mother portrayed as a big adventure—I'm sure to calm her own apprehensions as much as mine. US forces had liberated the city of Leghorn from the Germans in 1944 and still occupied it and controlled the harbor, but postwar Italy wasn't precisely safe for US dependents, or really for anyone. As our troopship, the USS Fred T. Berry, entered the harbor, I heard and felt an explosion, and the ship went dead in the water. Its alarm bells started ringing, three rings and a pause, and then repeated—I can still hear the shrill sound—and we rushed topside. Huddling on the deck, I felt my mother gripping the back of my far-too-big life preserver and watched as lifeboats were lowered over the side. She told me years later that the crew had barely kept the ship from sinking. As we were towed into port, the mast tops of sunken ships slowly passed to either side, looking every bit like crosses in a graveyard for vessels not as fortunate as ours.

    We spent a couple of weeks in Leghorn while the rudder was repaired and then continued on our voyage to Africa. In Alexandria, my dad bribed the harbor pilot with a carton of cigarettes to take him out to meet us as our ship made its way into port. I don't recall arriving in Egypt, but my second vivid childhood memory is of leaving, my mother shaking me from sleep in a hotel in Cairo while my dad quickly packed our bags. She told me, calmly but urgently, that we had to go to Payne Field, Cairo's airport, and leave the country immediately. I was barely awake as we raced to board an airplane. The family legend is that King Farouk had met them that night in the hotel bar, which must have seemed like amazing luck, at least until the king made a pass at my mother, my dad tried to punch him, and we all had to depart in a hurry. It's not good to take a swing at the king.

    It took eight weeks for my mother and me to travel from Fort Wayne, Indiana, to the primitive but very pretty city of Asmara, Eritrea, which sat atop a 7,500-foot-high...

About the Author-
  • JAMES CLAPPER served as the fourth United States Director of National Intelligence—the United States' top intelligence officer and President Obama's senior intelligence advisor—from 2010 until 2017. Beginning his career as an enlisted Marine Corps reservist in 1961, Clapper eventually became a three-star Air Force lieutenant general and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, retiring from uniformed service in 1995. In 2007 he was appointed the Pentagon's top intelligence official, serving under both the Bush and Obama administrations.
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Facts and Fears
Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence
James R. Clapper
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