Template:Infobox Book Wedge - The Secret War Between the FBI and CIA is a nonfiction book by American historian and policy analyst Mark Riebling. It is was originally published in hardcover in 1994 by Alfred A. Knopf, and then in paperback, in 2002, by Simon and Schuster.

Scope of the Work: From Pearl Harbor to 9/11 Edit

Wedge traces the conflict between U.S. law enforcement and intelligence, from World War II through the post-Cold War era. Riebling presents FBI-CIA rivalry through the prism of national traumas—the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the McCarthy-era loyalty investigations, the JFK assassination, Watergate, the Iran-Contra affair—that might have turned out differently had these agencies cooperated.[1]

Sources and Documentation: Interviews and Declassified Documents Edit

Riebling obtained declassified documents through the Freedom of Information Act and interviewed former intelligence officers and FBI agents. The former spooks to whom Riebling obtained sustained access included Samuel Papich, FBI liaison officer to the CIA from 1952 to 1970, and Newton S. Miler, former Chief of Operations in the Counterintelligence Staff under James Jesus Angleton.[2]

Riebling's Analysis: Conflicting Personalities, Missions, CulturesEdit

Riebling argues that relations have always been tense, dating back to the early years of WWII when William Donovan, head of the Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner of the CIA), built a network of agents against the wishes of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. Wedge traces many of the problems to differing personalities, missions, and corporate cultures: While the CIA evolved from freewheeling WWII foreign operations, the FBI focused on domestic security and the punishment of criminals.[3]

Important Personalities Profiled in Wedge Edit


CIA Counterintelligence Chief James Jesus Angleton Edit

Scott Ladd wrote in Newsday, "If a heroic figure emerges from Wedge it is the late James Jesus Angleton, the CIA's controversial director of counterintelligence for more than 20 years. Riebling partially rehabilitates Angleton from the drubbing he's taken in recent books such as David Wise's Molehunt, in which he is depicted as disrupting his own agency in a futile, paranoid search for a nonexistent mole."[4] A Namebase reviewer finds that "Riebling explains the Angleton view so competently that it finally makes sense on its own terms."[5]

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover Edit

Ladd asserts that Riebling "avoided tarring the late FBI boss with the kind of sensationalist touches common to recent biographies. ... [Riebling] is respectful of those he believes played the both wisely and well."[4]

KGB Defector Anatoliy Golitsyn Edit

In his 1984 book New Lies For Old, Soviet KGB defector Anatoliy Golitsyn predicted the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet empire, and the rise of a democratic regime in Russia.[6] Riebling calculated that of Golitysn's 194 original predictions, 139 were fulfilled by 1994, while 9 seemed 'clearly wrong', and the other 46 were "not soon falsifiable" -- an accuracy rate of 94%.[7] Riebling suggested that this predictive record justified a "long look" at Golitysn's "background theory," which posited a KGB role in "top-down" liberalization and reform. Golitysn quoted Riebling's assessment in a January 1995 memo to the Director of the CIA.[8]

Intelligence Operations and Controversies Spotlighted Edit

Probe of the John F. Kennedy Assassination Edit

Riebling devotes considerable attention to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. His take is that "liaison problems" between the FBI and the CIA "contributed" to the Dallas tragedy, impeded the investigation and led to a "fight that precluded the truth from being inarguably known." The author says that when the Warren Commission issued its conclusions on the murder in 1964, it concealed "indications of a Communist role" because of an interagency conflict over the bona fides of the Soviet defector Yuri Nosenko, who insisted that Moscow had nothing to do with the crime. The FBI thought Nosenko was telling the truth; the CIA was sure he was lying to protect Moscow. Riebling writes that the Warren Commission's "obvious delinquencies and cover-ups would later lead conspiracy theorists to suspect Government complicity in the assassination."[9]

Dispute over KGB Defector Yuri Nosenko Edit

Wedge describes the divisiveness caused by the FBI's championship of Nosenko, versus the C.I.A.'s support for the Soviet defector Golitsyn, who accused Mr. Nosenko of being a Kremlin plant. In 1970 the Nosenko-Golitsyn conflict "reached a point of crisis." Calling on Richard Nixon in Florida, J. Edgar Hoover asked the President how he liked the reports obtained by the FBI from Oleg Lyalin, a KGB man in London. Nixon said he had never received them. Furious, Hoover learned that Angleton acting on advice from Golitsyn, had withheld them from the President as disinformation. "If Lyalin had been the first such source to be knocked down by Golitsin," Riebling writes, "Hoover might have been able to tolerate Angleton's skepticism. But coming at the end of a decade which had seen CIA disparage a whole series of FBI sources, the Lyalin affair turned Hoover irrevocably against Angleton and Golitsyn."[9]

File:Richard Nixon 09 Jul 1972.png

Watergate and the Crisis in Domestic Surveillance under Richard Nixon Edit

Emboldened by the knowledge that his personal relationship with Nixon was far warmer than that of Richard Helms, the Lyndon Johnson-appointed Director of Central Intelligence, Hoover proceeded to break off direct contact with the CIA Later, when the agency sent him requests for information, he would curse the CIA and say, "Let them do their own work!"[9]

Yet despite his ties to Hoover, Nixon privately felt, in the words of his chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, that "the FBI was a failure; it hadn't found Communist backing for the antiwar organizations, which he was sure was there." As Riebling writes, the Nixon White House quietly encouraged the two agencies to encroach on each other's territory, and it established the notorious rump group known as the Plumbers, whose key operatives came from both the FBI and the CIA.[9]

Nixon's conspiratorial mind-set, combined with his wont to exploit the two agencies for his own political purposes, led naturally to the President's effort to enlist both in the Watergate cover-up, which was strenuously opposed by Helms. Hoover had died in 1972, but Riebling believes that had he been alive, the FBI Director would have responded the same way as Helms. Riebling writes that "no one ever doubted" that Hoover "would have refused to let CIA or the White House, tell the bureau how to conduct a criminal investigation. The Watergate cover-up, even his most severe detractors would admit, could not have happened on Hoover's watch."[9]

Riebling's Analysis of 9/11 Intelligence Failures Edit

In the epilogue to the paperback edition, Riebling argues that the Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen spy cases further soured relations, resulting in liaison problems that contributed to the intelligence failures of 9/11. Riebling's account of interagency counter-terrorism efforts before September 11, 2001 highlights ten instances in which he believes the national-security establishment failed along the faultline of law enforcement and intelligence. [10]

Unshared Indicators Edit

Beginning in 1998, Riebling writes, the senior management of the CIA and FBI met three times a week—and sometimes daily—to discuss terrorist threats. During this period, CIA received many reports reiterating a consistent theme: Osama Bin Ladin intended to launch attacks inside the United States. Very few of these reports were shared with the FBI. Among the items Riebling reports that the CIA did not relay to the Bureau:

  • A September 1998 memo, containing information that Bin Ladin's next operation could involve flying an aircraft loaded with explosives into a U.S. airport and detonating it.
  • An October 1998 memo, reportng that al Qaeda was trying to establish an operative cell within the United States, and suggesting there might be an effort underway to recruit U.S. Islamists and U.S.-based expatriates from the Middle East and North Africa.
  • A fall 1988 report about a bin Ladin plot involving aircraft in the New York and Washington, DC areas.
  • A November 1998 memo, reporting that a Bin Ladin cell was attempting to recruit five to seven young men from the United States to travel to the Middle East for training to strike U.S. domestic targets.
  • A classified December 1998 document, which read in part: "The intelligence community has strong indications that Bin Ladin intends to conduct or sponsor attacks inside the United States.”
  • A December 1, 1998 assessment, which read in part: "UBL [Usama Bin Ladin] is actively planning against U.S. targets... Multiple reports indicate UBL is keenly interested in striking the U.S. on its own soil... al- Qa'ida is recruiting operatives for attacks in the U.S.”[11]

The Oklahoma City Pilot’s Report Edit

In 1998, analysts in the FBI’s Intelligence Services Division received a report from an FBI pilot, recording his suspicions about Middle Eastern flight-school students in Oklahoma City. The FBI did not consider the report in its predictive assessments and did not share the report with CIA analysts.[11]

File:George Tenet portrait headshot.jpg

George Tenet’s Declaration of War Edit

On December 4, 1998, CIA Director George Tenet wrote in a memorandum to his deputies: “We must now enter a new phase in our effort against Bin Laden...We are at war ...I want no resources or people spared in this effort; either inside CIA or the Community." But because interagency communication was so poor, few FBI agents were made aware of CIA’s declaration of war. FBI field offices in Minnesota, Phoenix, and Oklahoma City – the crucial front lines of the fight against bin Laden’s network – had no idea of the magnitude of the threat CIA analysts believed was posed by bin Laden. Even at FBI headquarters in Washington, the international terrorism analytic unit had in place only one analyst to address al Qaeda on September 11, 2001.[11]

The National Intelligence Council Warning Edit

In September 1999, Tenet’s analysts received a warning from the National Intelligence Council, a CIA-affiliated think tank. The Council suggested that "[s]uicide bomber(s) belonging to al-Qaeda’s Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives (C-4 and Semtex) into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), or the White House." The report was not relayed to the Bureau.[11]

The Malaysia Suspects Edit

In January 2000, CIA analysts identified two attendees at an Islamic conference in Malaysia as suspected Al Qaeda terrorists Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi. By March 2000, CIA knew that the two men had entered the United States. Yet a CIA cable about Almihdhar that month was marked, "Action required: None." By the Agency’s own account, it waited nineteen months, until August 2001, to inform the Bureau that Almihdhar and Alhazmi were in the country. By then, they had disappeared. Their names would appear on the passenger manifests for America Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon.[11]

The Khallad Connection Edit

By December, 2000, FBI agents had identified Attash Khallad, a fanatical one-legged Qaeda operative, as mastermind of the attack on the U.S.S. Cole. When CIA officers pulled the file on Khallad, they discovered surveillance photos of him taken at the January meeting in Malaysia. In one of the images, he stood by Khalid Almihdhar; it also seemed that he had met with Nawaf Alhazmi. But for reasons which have never become clear, the Agency the failed to inform the Bureau, as the Cole probe progressed, that the two men were linked to Khallad. "No one picked up on that," a CIA officer would later admit.[11]

The Phoenix Memo Edit

On July 10, 2001 Phoenix FBI agent Larry Williams sent a memo to the Osama bin Laden unit and the radical fundamentalist unit at FBI headquarters, requesting that an investigation be opened into foreign terrorist training at flight schools in the U.S. At least two persons listed in Williams’ memo had been independently identified by the CIA as having links to al Qaeda. But the Agency did not know they were attending the Prescott flight school, because the memo was not shared with them until May 2002.[11]

The Crawford Brief Edit

On August 6, 2001, at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, President Bush received a top-secret Daily Brief from CIA, headlined, BIN LADEN DETERMINED TO STRIKE IN UNITED STATES. The brief failed to incorporate two important FBI reports: Williams’ July 10 memo, and a 1995 document detailing plans by Ramzi Youssef, architect of the 1993 World Trade Center attack, to nosedive a plane into CIA headquarters. Nor was the FBI given the chance to add its own analyses: The brief was not shown to the Bureau.[11]

The Moussaoui File Edit

On August 16, 2001, Riebling writes, the FBI detained a French-African Muslim, Zacharias Moussaoui, who was behaving suspiciously at a Minneapolis flight school. Hoping to search Moussaoui’s notebooks and his laptop computer, FBI agents applied for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant. Washington declined the request: Under the strict standards of FISA, lawyers at headquarters argued, the Bureau lacked probable cause. When the agents sought background on Moussaoui from the CIA, in support of their FISA filing, headquarters reprimanded them. What really seemed to bother the brass, one FBI man later lamented, was that “agents [might] cooperate with the CIA in ways headquarters might not be able to control.”[11]

The Almidhar E-mail Edit

On August 23, 2001, CIA cabled the Customs Service, State Department, FBI, and Immigration and Naturalization Service, requesting that four "bin Laden related individuals," including Almidhar and Alhazmi, be put on a watch list. Six days later, an FBI field agent in New York asked headquarters to allow his office to use its “full criminal investigative resources” to find Almihdhar. Lawyers in the FBI's National Security Law Unit refused, citing the “wall” between intelligence and law enforcement: information obtained from CIA could not be used to launch a criminal probe. The New York agent typed back irately:

Someday someone will die -- and [legal] wall or not -- the public will not understand why we were not more effective….
On Sept. 11, after the New York FBI agent and his colleagues received the passenger manifests from the four fatal flights, he yelled: "This is the same Almihdhar we've been talking about for three months!" His supervisor, trying to reassure him and the others, cited restrictions on the sharing of information between the CIA and FBI, saying:
"We did everything by the book."[11]

Critical Reception Edit

  • Reviewing the hardcover edition in The New York Times Book Review, presidential historian Michael R. Besschloss wrote: "Wedge compellingly re-creates the life-or-death atmosphere of the half-century of American confrontation with the Soviet Union. Mr. Riebling succeeds brilliantly as well in persuading the reader that the FBI-CIA conflict was a more important piece of the cold war mosaic than heretofore noted by historians." To Besschloss, however, the relevance of the work remained somewhat elusive: "Vital controversies over Soviet moles and counterintelligence, which seemed so dramatic just a few years ago, have a vaguely antique quality now that the Soviet Union is dead, recalling Norma Desmond's lament in Sunset Boulevard that she remained big, it was merely the pictures that had got small."[1]
  • Reviewing Wedge on the front page of the Washington Post Book World, Richard Gid Powers, found Wedge "a lively and engaging narrative of interagency bungling, infighting, malfeasance and nonfeasance, providing fresh and well-rounded portraits of well-known (and ought-to-be-well-known) agents, based on scores of original and rewarding interviews."[12]
  • John Fialka wrote in the Wall Street Journal: "The fact that [Riebling] has taken great pains to avoid using anonymous sources is just one of a number of reasons why serious students of this nation's haywire-rigged counterintelligence effort should read Wedge.... [T]he cumulative effect of his tales is staggering."[13]
  • Maureen Dowd discussed Wedge, and the problem of FBI-CIA rivalry, in "Wedge on the Potomac" a June 5, 2002 column in The New York Times.[14]
  • In October 2002, Vernon Loeb wrote in The Washington Post, "If Riebling's thesis -- that the FBI-CIA rivalry had “damaged the national security and, to that extent, imperiled the Republic” -- was provocative at the time, [but] seems prescient now, with missed communications between the two agencies looming as the principal cause of intelligence failures related to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.[15]

Influence of the Book on U.S. Policy Reform and in National-Security Studies Edit

On U.S. Policy Reform during the George W. Bush Years Edit

Riebling's analysis of U.S. security failures in Wedge influenced intelligence-community reform during the George W. Bush years. Andrew C. McCarthy, the deputy U.S. attorney who prosecuted the first World Trade Center bombers in 1993, wrote in The Wall Street Journal in 2006 that "Riebling’s analysis has now become conventional wisdom, accepted on all sides. Such, indeed, is the reasoning behind virtually all of the proposals now under consideration by no fewer than seven assorted congressional committees, internal evaluators, and blue-ribbon panels charged with remedying the intelligence situation."[16] In his January 28, 2003 State of the Union Address, President George W. Bush announced an initiative to close what he termed the "seam" between FBI and CIA coverage of foreign threats, as Riebling recommended in Wedge.[17]

In National-Security Studies Edit

  • Glenn P. Hastedt writes in Espionage: A Reference Handbook that “Riebling’s concern for the rivalry and competitive nature of the relationship between the intelligence community is frequently commented upon in studies of intelligence estimates.”[18]
  • In Remaking Domestic Intelligence, Judge Richard A. Posner develops Riebling's proposal, first advanced in Wedge, for a new domestic intelligence service based on the model of Britain's MI5.[19]

External links Edit

Editions Edit

Hardcover Edit

Paperback Edit

Reviews and Discussions of Wedge: By Michael R. Besschloss, Maureen Dowd, Others Edit

See also Edit


  1. 1.0 1.1 Michael R. Beschloss, "Such Bad Friends," The New York Times Book Review, November 6, 1994.
  2. Wedge: The Secret War between the FBI and CIA. Alfred A. Knopf, 1994 (hardcover)
  3. Wedge: From Pearl Harbor to 9/11--How the Secret War between the FBI and CIA Has Endangered National Security. Simon and Schuster, 2002 (paperback)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Scott Ladd, review of Wedge in Newsday, quoted on homepage for Wedge
  5. "Riebling, Mark. Wedge: The Secret War Between the FBI and CIA."
  6. Anatoliy Golitsyn, New Lies For Old (Dodd, Mead, 1984)
  7. Riebling, Wedge (1994), 407-8
  8. Golitsyn, Anatoliy. "Destruction through KGB Penetration of the Central Intelligence Agency." Memorandum to Admiral William O. Studeman, Acting Director, Central Intelligence Agency, February 1, 1995, reprinted in Golitsyn, The Perestroika Deception, Pelican Books, 1998, pp. 221ff
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Wedge (1994)
  10. Mark Riebling, "Epilogue," in Wedge: How the Secret War Between the CIA and FBI Has Damaged National Security from Pearl Harbor to 9/11(paperback edition, Simon and Schuster, 2002).
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 11.7 11.8 11.9 "Epilogue," Wedge (2002).
  12. Richard Gid Powers, "Undercover Rivalries," Washington Post Book World, November 7-13, 1994, quoted on home page for Wedge
  13. John Fialka, review of Wedge in the Wall Street Journal, quoted on homepage for Wedge
  15. Vernon Loeb, "From the 'Hanssen Effect' to Sept. 11," The Washington Post, October 21, 2002.
  16. Andrew C. McCarthy, "The Intelligence Mess," The Wall Street Journal, September 20, 2006.
  17. President George W. Bush, Address on the State of the Nation, January 28, 2003.
  18. Glenn P. Hastedt, Espionage: A Reference Handbook.
  19. Richard A. Posner, Remaking Domestic Intelligence, Hoover Institution Press, 2005

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