Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in IntelligenceFacts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence by James R. Clapper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

James Clapper is a lifelong public servant who has sacrificed his life for the safety and security of America. He is a lifelong public servant that has always been non-political and first was enticed with the intelligence business following his father who was an intelligence analyst for the military. As a young kid under the age of 12, he used his grandparents black and white television, was able to hack into the Philadelphia police department, and took meticulous notes on their operations and operating procedures. This man was destined to serve America and to serve her well. Each time as it seemed as if he was ready to retire, public service kept calling his name. This book takes us through the journey of Mr. Clapper from a young kid to him in the present day. This book does not focus on the Russian meddling into our 2016 election so much as it takes us on the journey of Mr. Clapper’s unusual sacrificial life. A life in which he exhibits a persona of moral dignity, moral character, intelligence, wit, self-effacement and being humble and a steady hand in situations and key pivotal moments. Pivotal moments, which these character traits were vital and important in his contribution to protecting America and American national security interests. As Mr. Clapper emphasizes repeatedly throughout the book, he has always been a person who has not been afraid to speak “truth to power” in whatever positions or capacities that he has served. Whether briefing the President or a 4-star general in South Korea, facts and reality matter.

Mr. Clapper is an individual who started out flying fighter jets but eventually settled down in the intelligence business as soon as his security clearance cleared after having joined the Marines. He took interested routes in his service hopping from branch to branch and agency to agency. He shares with us his experience in the DMZ between the North Korea and South Korea border and the time and effort he put into understanding the complex history and situation that has compromised this conflict. Humorously, he shares us his experience in which in a life-threatening situation when the military helicopter that crossed over to the DMZ unintentionally; and they had to make it back before it became disabled under the cover of darkness.

Director Clapper also shares with us his varied experiences throughout his life and how speaking about the facts and objective evidence has played such a vital role in the intel community and in the positions that he has occupied. As he says in reflecting on the times we are currently living in with the war on truth and the war on facts, “My fear is that many Americans are questioning if facts are even knowable, as foreign adversaries and our national leaders continue to deny objective reality while advancing their own alternative facts” (Clapper, 8). We live in a time in which the war on truth and basic shared facts and values are under assault from a President that history may very well record as illegitimate. A President that may very well be compromised by a foreign adversary.

In sharing his life experiences throughout the years, he also cites the moment in which at a military banquet that his family was in, his mother went over and spoke to an African American soldier and subsequently had him sit at the table with them. This took place in an age in which that sort of basic value of human equality was not widespread and cherished even within the ranks of the military. As General Clapper says, “When I was at a very impressionable age, my mother showed me that the color of someone’s skin doesn’t determine the human dignity they deserve.” He continues, “That lesson stayed with me and influenced decisions I’ve made in both my personal and professional lives” (Clapper, 16). He also shares with us the support and experiences he has had with the LGBQT community; and how one of the greatest prides that he has taken with him is how he helped reform the intelligence community so that intelligence analysts of all walks of life could live in the open as to who they are as people without having to hide behind the shadows. James Clapper also shares with his experience as to how the intelligence community along with himself got the intel wrong with Saddam’s “WMDs”. He is a man who is clearly self-reflexive, humble, and a patriot of the highest degree.

We are living in a perilous time in our nation’s history in which we may very well have a President that is compromised and in debt to a foreign adversary. This President has used demagogic tactics of the highest degree and has shown an adversarial attitude towards our allies while embracing our enemies. Many patriots like Mr. Clapper have retired from public service but remain in the public eye to make sure that the public does not fall asleep to the egregious actions of this “administration” and most importantly does not normalize the actions of this feckless administration. I truly believe that as time passes, history and our grandchildren will judge all of us accordingly as to where we stood and the actions that we took in this unique time in history that we are all currently living in. Mr. Clapper will definitely go down as a public servant who served America apolitically with the highest regard for facts and “truth to power”.

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