PERSONAL: Born in Aspen, CO; Education: Earned degree from Georgetown University School of Foreign Services, 1976.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Crown Publishers, 280 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017.
CAREER: Central Intelligence Agency, Washington DC, case agent and later Director of Operations, 1976-1997.
AWARDS, HONORS: Career Intelligence Medal, CIA; Merit Unit Citation, CIA, 1995.
See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism, Crown Publishers (New York, NY), 2002.
Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold OurSoul for Saudi Crude, Crown Publishers (New York, NY), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: Robert Baer grew up in Aspen, Colorado, where he enjoyed skiing and hoped to become a professional ski racer. His grades were low and his mother sent him to military school in hopes of improving his academic performance. Later, he attended Georgetown University's School of Foreign Services. After graduating in 1976 he made a phone call to the Central Intelligence Agency inquiring about a job. He refers to the phone call as a prank, but it was responsible for landing him the position of case officer for the CIA's Director of Operations. After receiving training, Baer was sent to a number of overseas locations, mostly in the Middle East and including Northern Iraq, Dushanbe, Rabat, Paris, Beirut, Khartoum, and New Delhi. He is fluent in Arabic, Farsi, French, and German. He worked for the CIA for twenty-one years and as a case officer he recruited foreign agents, gathered information from them and then used that information to attempt various operations. He received the coveted Career Intelligence Medal and a Merit Unit Citation from the CIA for his work in Iraq during 1995. He retired from the CIA in 1997 due to his dissatisfaction with the way the organization was being run. He now divides his time between Washington D.C. and France.
Baer's first book, See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism, was published in 2002. It is in some ways a memoir of his time spent working for the CIA. He chronicles many of his experiences and explains the problems existing within the organization, which in his view have led to the inability of the CIA to effectively prevent terrorism. Baer believes that it is a mixture of bureaucracy, political correctness, and depending too much on technological espionage and not relying enough on agents and informants who bring first-hand information that has been the downfall of the organization. Ewa Wasilewska of the World and I described the book, "See No Evil is a compelling personal account of the not-so-slow disintegration of U.S. intelligence operations abroad, an honest presentation of the complex reality of foreign cultures, and a powerful call to restore the CIA to what it was meant to be: the protector and preserver of the nation, freedom, democracy and our lives." Evan Thomas of the New York Times Book Review stated, "Though See No Evil is breezy and blustery and presents a one-sided view, it is entertaining and at times revealing." Barton Gellman of the Washington Post was impressed with Baer's skills as an agent and found that the book "makes a persuasive case, with much amusing evidence that the CIA lost interest in the skills Baer had to offer." Chris Patsilelis of the Houston Chronicle wrote, "Baer has written a valuable, illuminating book."
Baer's next book is Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude. In this book Baer uses his first-hand experience from his time spent in the Middle East to critique the United States' relationship with Saudi Arabia. He believes that as a country we have become too dependent on Saudi Arabia for oil, and that it is unwise to be so heavily allied with a country that he believes is unstable and improperly run. Baer believes that our financial ties to Saudi Arabia have hampered our ability to fight terrorism, in that we have been too lenient with them, ignoring the actions of their citizens and keeping their involvement in terrorist acts out of the media. Baer is certain that Saudi Arabia as a country will fall in the near future and that it is unsafe for us to be so economically tied to them. Baer closes his book with the idea that invading Saudi Arabia may be our only option for survival, in that we cannot continue the relationship now formed and remain dependent on their oil. Elizabeth Shelburne of the Atlantic described Baer's stance, "Baer maintains that we must look at Saudi Arabia with a more objective lens and examine the foundations of that country, since they are, in some sense, the foundations of our own." A reviewer for the Economist found fault in Baer's writing, "His rat-a-tat prose suggests a book that belongs more comfortably in an airport bookshop rather than on the desk of a serious analyst, and his discussion of the petroleum industry is amateurish." He does however find that "his main point deserves to be remembered."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Commentary, April, 2002, Kenneth R. Timmerman, review of See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism, p. 70.
Economist, August 9, 2003, review of Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude, p. 69.
Library Journal, August, 2003, Daniel K. Blewett, review of Sleeping with the Devil, 99.
New York Times Book Review, February 3, 2002, Evan Thomas, "Bring Back the Exploding Cigars," p. 11.
Publishers Weekly, May 12, 2003, review of Sleeping with the Devil, p. 58.
Time, July 21, 2003, Adam Zagorin, "An Arabian Nightmare: The Saudi Kingdom Is Corrupt and Doomed and Cannot Be Trusted, Says a Former CIA Agent," p. 62.
USA Today, May, 2002, Gerald F. Kreyche, review of See No Evil, p. 81.
Washington Post, March 17-23, 2002, Barton Gellman, "Failure to Communicate," p. 7.
World and I, July, 2002, Ewa Wasilewska, "Seeing Evil but Blinking," p. 236.
Atlantic Online,http://www.theatlantic.com/ (October 22, 2003), Elizabeth Shelburne, "Addicted to Oil."
Buzz Flash,http://www.buzzflash.com/ (October 22, 2003), interview with Robert Baer.
Guardian,http://www.books.guardian.co.uk/ (October 22, 2003), excerpt and synopsis of See No Evil.
Houston Chronicle Online,http://www.Chron.com/ (October 22, 2003), Lawrence Kaplan, "Joined at the Hip"; Chris Patsilelis, "What's Wrong with the CIA?"*