Mark Mazzetti

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There are many movies about evil CIA agents assassinating supposed enemies of the US. Those who saw the latest Captain America movie will have witnessed the plan by Hydra (a fascist faction within a secret agency presumably within the CIA) build floating gunships that can identify and eliminate those who pose a threat to national security. We are not there yet, but Mark Mazzetti‘s book The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth (Penguin, 2013)  should give us some anxiety about the current technology used for “extra-judicial killings”. Mazzetti gives us the history of the drone wars – a term hated by the Air Force who note that the drones are piloted aircraft  albeit from a remote location – and their ability to be used for the elimination of… well, enemies of the US and its allies. Having said that, this is not a diatribe of opposition but a balanced and careful examination of history and political process. At the core of the book is a discussion of how the CIA and the US military are running parallel drone operations with different criteria and standards of care and success. Mazzetti’s book presents us with, what I found to be, a frightening insight into operations that are so common that they rarely rate a mention in the media. I highly recommend the book and suggest that anyone running a course on military ethics include it in their reading list. There is more than enough ethical controversy raised in the book to fill a semester of discussion.


John DickieMafia Republic: Italy’s Criminal Curse. Cosa Nostra, ‘Ndrangheta and Camorra from 1946 to the Present

July 1, 2014

Mafia Republic: Italy’s Criminal Curse (Sceptre, 2013) is the second book by John Dickie on the history of the three organised crime groups from Southern Italy: the Sicilian Mafia or Cosa Nostra, the ‘Ndrangheta from Calabria and the Camorra from Naples. Dickie has an advantage over other researchers in organized crime by being able to read [...]

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Michael SalterOrganised Sexual Abuse

May 7, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Book in Sociology] Sometimes it’s hard to imagine how certain types of violence can occur, and organized multi-perpetrator abuse certainly fits into this category.  Ritual abuse, sadistic abuse and pedophilia rings are often things we see in episodes of “Law and Order,” without having to think of the reality of the victims that actually [...]

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Peter Maguire and Mike RitterThai Stick: Surfers, Scammers and the Untold Story of the Marijuana Trade

March 29, 2014

Reading Peter Maguire and Mike Ritter‘s book Thai Stick: Surfers, Scammers and the Untold Story of the Marijuana Trade (Columbia Press, 2013) is the most fun I have had doing this podcast. Maguire makes a point during the interview that police officers preferred to arrest marijuana smugglers because they were so laid back and safe to [...]

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Jarrod GilbertPatched: The History of Gangs in New Zealand

February 6, 2014

Jarrod Gilbert is very lucky that he comes from a country the size of New Zealand. With only 4 million people he could carry out a project that would be beyond the abilities of someone from a large nation and beyond the scope of a single book, namely, the history of all the gangs in a [...]

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Joseph Albini and Jeffrey S. McIllwainDeconstructing Organized Crime: An Historical and Theoretical Study

January 31, 2014

Joseph Albini and Jeffrey S. McIllwain, Deconstructing Organized Crime: An Historical and Theoretical Study (MacFarlane, 2012) is not, as some academics might think, a post-modern analysis of organized crime. It is however, an exercise of deconstructing by trying to look past the common assumptions and myths to explain the phenomenon we call organized crime. The book starts [...]

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Karrin HanshewTerror and Democracy in West Germany

November 16, 2013

[Cross-posted from New Books in History] In West Germany in September and October of 1977, a group of self-described urban guerrillas of the Red Army Faction (RAF) kidnapped industrialist Hanns Martin Schleyer. In exchange for Schleyer, the RAF demanded the release of its imprisoned leaders, Andreas Baader and Gudrun Ensslin. Those months in 1977 following the abduction [...]

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Benedetta BertiArmed Political Organizations: From Conflict to Integration

October 28, 2013

[Cross-posted from New Books in Political Science] Benedetta Berti is the author of Armed Political Organizations: from Conflict to Integration (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013). Berti is a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) and a lecturer at Tel Aviv University. The book investigates the inner workings of three organizations: Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Irish Republican [...]

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Eric Schmitt and Thom ShankerCounterstrike: The Untold Story of America’s Secret Campaign Against Al Qaeda

October 25, 2013

There are many books about the war against Al Qaeda. Most of these focus on counter-terrorism or counter insurgency military tactics or espionage operations. These books have become more frequent with the death of Osama Bin Laden. Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America’s Secret Campaign Against Al Qaeda (Times Books, 2011) is more than you can [...]

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Dick HobbsLush Life: Constructing Organized Crime in the UK

September 20, 2013

There is a fascinating area of study of how communities around the world realized there was such a concept as organized crime. This topic is driven by social attitudes and, to an increasing degree, by media images such as the Godfather movies. Some criminal groups actually model their movie icons, with generational differences for those [...]

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