When Adm. Dennis Blair aired his growing concerns about the CIA's expanding secret military operations, Obama fired him.
"He was challenging one of the central pillars of President Obama's foreign policy: using the CIA as an instrument of secret war," Mazzetti writes.
Blair became Director of National Intelligence in 2009, then quickly roused tensions with both the CIA and the Pentagon when he questioned the growing number of covert-action operations.
During his presidency between 1974 and 1977, after Richard Nixon resigned because of the Watergate scandal, Republican Gerald Ford banned assassinations by government agents.
Today, Obama has given "America's secret agencies latitude to carry out extensive killing operations."
David Petraeus, Obama's CIA director for 14 months before he resigned when his affair with his biographer became public, bragged to Congress that the CIA was conducting more covert actions than at any time in its history.
John Brennan, a former top officer in the CIA, became Obama's senior counterterrorism adviser in the White House. For years, "The Way of the Knife" points out, Brennan supported the "brutal interrogation methods the CIA had used in secret prisons."
Mazzetti is not opposed to collecting key information and points to various shortcomings.
On Christmas Day 2009, for example, young Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab flew out of Amsterdam with a bomb sown into his underwear. As the plane descended toward the Detroit airport, he failed to ignite the bomb properly and fortunately ended up only burning one of his own legs.
National discussions about our continued involvement in Afghanistan and other countries typically ignore the critical negative impacts wars have on the future of increasingly troubled areas like the Middle East and northern Africa.
Many foreign policy leaders and analysts, Mazzetti writes, believe the growing use of drones has been "the most effective covert-action program in CIA history."
But others have become "deeply ambivalent" about the growing number of drone missions.
In "Why Drones Fail," an article in the July/August 2013 issue of "Foreign Affairs," George Mason University Professor Audrey Kurth Cronin writes, "Because the targets of such strikes are so loosely defined, it seems inevitable that they will kill some civilians."
By portraying our drone strikes "as indiscriminate violence against Muslims," Cronin writes, "Al Qaeda uses the strikes that result in civilian deaths, and even those that don't, to frame Americans as immoral bullies. ... The United States is losing the war of perceptions."
Ivan Eland, a foreign policy scholar at the libertarian Independent Institute in Berkley, Calif., recently wrote, "The U.S. government itself generates most of the anti-U.S. terrorism -- with its interventionist foreign policy -- and then rides to the rescue with excessive spending on defense and homeland security," including "snooping programs and other restrictions on civil liberties."
The modern world has become increasingly complex and dangerous -- promoting many to advocate an increased use of force and violence to protect our national interests.
Yet, if the world is to become a more-friendly place, people must consider questions raised in Mazzetti's new book.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.