Posner, Gerald L. 1954-
POSNER, Gerald L. 1954-
Born May 20, 1954, in San Francisco, CA; son of Gerald G. (a shipping executive) and Gloria (a homemaker) Posner; married; wife's name, Trisha (a writer and women's health advocate), April, 1984. Education: University of California—Berkeley, B.A. (summa cum laude), 1975; Hastings College of Law, J.D. (summa cum laude), 1978.
Office—1521 Alton Rd., Suite 442, Miami Beach, FL 33139. E-mail—[email protected]
National Writers Union (member of national advisory board), Authors Guild, PEN, Committee to Protect Journalists, Phi Beta Kappa.
Kennedy Medal, 1975; Miklejohn Award, 1975; Pulitzer Prize finalist, history category, 1993, for Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK; Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) Award for Motown: Music, Money, Sex, and Power.
(With John Ware) Mengele: The Complete Story, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1986, reprinted with new introduction, Cooper Square Press (New York, NY), 2000.
Warlords of Crime: Chinese Secret Societies—The New Mafia, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1988.
The Bio-Assassins (novel), McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1989.
Hitler's Children: Sons and Daughters of Leaders of the Third Reich Talk about Themselves and Their Fathers, Random House (New York, NY), 1991.
Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK, Random House (New York, NY), 1993, Anchor Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Citizen Perot: His Life and Times, Random House (New York, NY), 1998.
Killing the Dream: James Earl Ray and the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Random House (New York, NY), 1998.
Motown: Music, Money, Sex, and Power, Random House (New York, NY), 2002.
Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9/11, Random House (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor to periodicals, including New Yorker, New York Times, Esquire, Time, U.S. News & World Report, and Newsweek.
Work adapted for audio includes Killing the Dream (abridged; four cassettes), read by the author, Random Audio, 1998. Why America Slept is being made into a miniseries by Showtime.
Former Wall Street attorney Gerald L. Posner is the author of several books, including Mengele: The Complete Story, written with John Ware. The authors retell the story of the notorious Nazi war criminal, Josef Mengele, in order to debunk much of the legend that has surrounded him since his days as the "Angel of Death" at the Auschwitz death camp. Posner and Ware focus on the many failed attempts to capture Mengele and bring him to trial after World War II. To this end, they also examine the efforts of the Mossad, the Israeli agency charged with the capture of escaped war criminals, and of Simon Wiesenthal, the most famous Nazi hunter. New York Review of Books critic Neal Ascherson praised the authors for revealing the details surrounding Mengele's exile in Brazil from 1960 until his death in 1979, a piece of investigative journalism that no one accomplished during Mengele's lifetime. Ascherson commented that "Gerald Posner and John Ware have written a book on Mengele—well researched and wonderfully free of all the customary fantasy and exaggeration—that makes fascinating reading."
Posner's Warlords of Crime: Chinese Secret Societies—The New Mafia, is another nonfiction work that has been praised for its solid research and terrifying subject matter. Here the author presents an historical view of the Chinese secret societies known as triads, from their formation in the seventeenth century as legitimate political organizations, to their eventual corruption into bands of assassins, to their current control of the world heroin trade, with its hundreds of billions of dollars in annual income. Posner reports that with the transfer of Hong Kong, where the triads have their base, back to mainland China in 1997, the Chinese Mafia began to consider moving its new home base to the United States. Clarence Petersen declared in Chicago Tribune Books that Posner "does not dramatize; he doesn't have to. The chilling story he unearthed speaks for itself." Dorothy Uhnak concluded in the New York Times Book Review that " Warlords of Crime is powerful, frightening and, unfortunately, nonfiction."
Posner's novel, The Bio-Assassins, is a Cold War thriller that finds the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) conducting secret research into biological warfare. In this story, a deadly virus is captured by the KGB, which plans to use it against the United States. A Publishers Weekly reviewer remarked that "Posner… handles his material well," and praised the book's swift-moving and tightly constructed plot and apt characterizations.
Posner's next nonfiction work returns to the subject of Nazis. For Hitler's Children: Sons and Daughters of Leaders of the Third Reich Talk about Themselves and Their Fathers, the author interviewed the surviving children of known German Nazis, asking about their childhood relationships with their fathers and about their feelings once they learned of their fathers' crimes. The book was criticized by a Publishers Weekly writer for its lack of in-depth analysis into the various influences of each of the offsprings' responses. New York Times book critic Christopher Lehmann-Haupt admitted that the book "does have its fascinations," but he argued that Posner misses the point when he seeks from these offspring the answer to the question of how their fathers could have committed their crimes. Nonetheless, Karen Stabiner, in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, called Posner's work "a mesmerizing, blood-chilling book."
In 1993, Posner saw publication of his best-known, and most-controversial, nonfiction project to date, Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK. In writing this study, Posner reexamined the available data concerning the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. His research included constructing his own index of the twenty-six volumes of the official Warren Commission report and conducting some two hundred interviews of witnesses and others involved in the case before concluding that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing the president. Posner assesses various conspiracy theories and dismisses them, discrediting those whose testimonies support such theories, and in some cases, ridiculing those who continue to insist on the involvement of organized crime or others in a plot to kill the American leader.
Lehmann-Haupt praised Posner's inclusion of a detailed biography of Oswald, which "sharpens the focus on areas hitherto overlooked or left murky." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that "this is a painstaking and remarkably thorough presentation of what has become an utterly unfashionable approach" to popular historical reevaluation. Jeffrey A. Frank wrote in Washington Post Book World that "Posner organizes his argument well, and one can see why it could be persuasive," but Frank also contended that the author does not do justice to the real mysteries of the case, writing that "his response to what is most baffling is simply to belittle evidence that annoys him and find flaws in the messengers who bear it." Geoffrey C. Ward of the New York Times Book Review wrote that Posner's "is by far the most lucid and compelling account I have ever read of what probably did happen in Dallas—and what almost certainly did not. No serious historian who writes about the assassination in the future will be able to ignore it."
Although Case Closed was widely praised, the book engendered disagreement from some sources over Posner's methods and assertions. It also reinvigorated numerous conspiracy theorists, eager to disprove the findings of the Warren Commission report. One such source is the book Case Open: The Unanswered Questions by Harold Weisberg, which argues against Posner's assertions, addresses issues that Weisberg feels Posner did not sufficiently discuss, and which contends that there is a good possibility of a conspiracy. Despite such dissent, Case Closed earned the respect of many readers and registered notable sales. The book also led to significant new media coverage of the Kennedy assassination, was discussed on numerous television news programs, and served as the basis for network television specials.
Citizen Perot: His Life and Times is Posner's biography of Ross Perot, the wealthy Texan who garnered nineteen percent of the vote in the 1992 presidential election, the highest third-party showing since Theodore Roosevelt's Bull Moose campaign in 1912. The data-driven book is the story of the public Perot and says little about his personal life, one notable exception being that at one point Perot withdrew from the race, claiming that he had been presented with evidence that false but compromising photographs of his daughter, Carolyn, would be released if he did not. Perot came from humble roots and a loving family. His early entrepreneurial spirit is evident in that he delivered newspapers on horseback. His leadership caused him to be elected president of both his junior and senior classes at Annapolis, but he gained an early release from the Navy and began his rise as a powerful businessman. He started as a salesman for International Business Machines (IBM), and was soon making a fortune with his Electronic Data Systems (EDS), performing data processing for the federal government. New York Times Book Review contributor Jack Beatty noted that Posner "finds his narrative stride once Mr. Perot plunges into business."
Perot financed the rescue of two of his employees who had been imprisoned in Iran, and he was certain that the White House and the CIA were covering up the facts involving U.S. troops that were missing in action in Indochina. Posner shows Perot to be a man susceptible to paranoia and conspiracy theories, but also a man who never hesitated to pursue just causes. He was a vehement opponent of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and proved to be correct, according to some critics, in much of his evaluation of the future of trade and jobs. He was outspoken during his campaign and never hesitated to make his positions clear, and is remembered for boldly announcing on national television the 800 number for those who wanted to contribute to his campaign.
In Killing the Dream: James Earl Ray and the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Posner methodically studies every claim and theory that has arisen surrounding the murder of King. Richard Bernstein wrote in the New York Times that Posner concludes that "there is no evidence to support Mr. Ray's thirty-year-old contention that he was a patsy drawn into an assassination conspiracy, or that a mysterious figure named Raoul was actually the killer, or that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the CIA have worked to cover up the truth about Dr. King's murder." Ray, a career criminal, fabricated many stories about his complicity in King's murder, as did his several lawyers. Bernstein wrote that Posner "pokes so many holes in these claims that they vanish into the ether.…One finishes this book reassured that no dark secrets remain, that no unexplained details need bedevil the national composure."
Motown: Music, Money, Sex, and Power is a history of the Detroit-based record label founded by Berry Gordy in the 1950s. Gordy, born in segregated Georgia, moved north with his family in the 1920s. He owned a record store and was aware of the money to be made through a label that recorded black music that would be accessible to white listeners, as well as black. Early singers included Jackie Wilson and Smokey Robinson. Beginning in the 1960s, Gordy added the Temptations, Supremes, Jackson Five, Stevie Wonder, and Marvin Gaye. Gordy set the rules and acquired talent at a break-neck pace. As Posner notes, Gordy's economic interests came first. He retained copyrights to music written by his artists and exploited them in various ways. He paid modest salaries and billed for all expenses, and many lawsuits were eventually filed by artists claiming damages. Gordy moved Motown to Los Angeles in 1968, and the mismanagement of his personal and financial lives eventually led him to sell his business to MCA and other investors in 1988.
Posner relies heavily on existing research, and those people who were willing to speak to him did so on condition of anonymity. Janet Maslin noted in the New York Times that "Mr. Posner's most cogent witness testified to an elaborate scheme whereby full-price records were falsely described as discounted ones, thus cutting royalties substantially. Unfortunately, this witness died after testifying in court, and Mr. Posner has no one else to back up these charges.…In the end, Mr. Posner presents the best and the worst of this story with suitable glitter. And his book heightens a welcome new fascination with Motown's glory days."
A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that Posner's "clearly detailed account of this prototypical minority-owned business unearths many fascinating cultural touchstones, such as the pressure felt by Motown's artists to avoid alienating white audiences with political outbursts." Booklist's Mike Tribby commented that Posner "roasts Motown to a turn to feed pop culture fans' taste for destroying the idols they once worshipped."
Posner writes of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9/11. His theory, "saved for the provocative final chapter of this smart and evocatively written book," noted Eric Lichtblau in the New York Times Book Review, is that "the Saudis were in on it." A National Bestseller (reaching number two on the New York Times Bestseller List), Why America Slept was one of the most controversial books of 2003, and is now in production as a six-hour Showtime miniseries.
The central character of Posner's study is Abu Zubaydah, one of Osama bin Laden's key people and the man suspected of orchestrating the attacks of September 11, 2001, as well as the attack of the U.S.S. Cole in October 2000. He was captured in March 2002 in western Pakistan by Pakistani and American forces and interrogated. Posner says that the CIA used pain medication and truth serum to manipulate Zubaydah and then told him that he was in Saudi custody. This belief caused him to show relief, and he recited the telephone numbers of high-ranking Saudis. He also explained the Saudi-Pakistani-bin Laden connection. When the Saudis were provided with the names of these people, those on the list began dying under mysterious circumstances before they could be interrogated by the Americans. Posner claims to have been provided the details of the interrogation and revelations by Zubaydah from a U.S. official in the executive branch. Another source was a member of the CIA. Posner identifies neither.
Walter Russell Mead wrote in the New York Times that "the FBI and the CIA come under heavy criticism; both agencies emerge looking more like the Keystone Kops than elite organizations, but on balance Mr. Posner seems to blame the FBI more." He writes that both agencies overlooked clues, engaged in turf battles by concealing information for each other, and failed to see danger signs. He recounts the warnings, for the most part ignored, of counterterrorism expert Richard Clarke, CIA director (under President Bill Clinton) James Woolsey, and Neil Herman, the FBI agent who led the investigation of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Posner states that Clinton, George W. Bush, and their senior advisors let opportunities to capture bin Laden slip through their fingers and failed to give terrorism the attention it deserved. He notes that Bush ignored warnings that came in the form of reports, one released by former Senators Warren Rudman and Gary Hart days after Bush took office in 2001, and another just a month before 9/11, which speculated that commercial airliners might be hijacked. "Posner calls his book infuriating, and he is right," said Mead. "The level of sheer incompetence repeatedly demonstrated by everyone from senior officials to operatives on the ground makes a dismal story."
Time writer Johanna McGeary noted that Posner's detailing of the facts surrounding Zubaydah's confession "might bring on charges that the United States is using torture on terrorism suspects. According to Posner, the administration decided shortly after 9/11 to permit the use of Sodium Pentothal on prisoners. The administration, he writes, 'privately believes that the Supreme Court has implicitly approved using such drugs in matters where public safety is at risk,' citing a 1963 opinion. For those who still wonder how the attacks… could have happened, Posner's book provides a tidy set of answers. But it opens up more troubling questions about crucial U.S. allies that someone will have to address."
Lichtblau wrote that Posner's narrative "takes on the frenetic pace of a spy thriller as it recounts two decades' worth of terrorist activity, clandestine plots, government malaise, and fumbled opportunities that led up to the September 11 attacks.… Why America Slept should go down as one of the best."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, December 15, 2002, Mike Tribby, review of Motown: Music, Money, Sex, and Power, p. 706.
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2002, review of Motown, p. 1755.
Library Journal, February 1, 2003, Lloyd Jansen, review of Motown, p. 92.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, May 5, 1991, Karen Stabiner, review of Hitler's Children: Sons and Daughters of Leaders of the Third Reich Talk about Themselves and Their Fathers, p. 6.
Nation, January 13, 2003, Gene Santoro, review of Motown, p. 33.
New Republic, September 1, 2003, David Hajdu, review of Motown, p. 31.
New York Review of Books, May 28, 1987, Neal Ascherson, review of Mengele: The Complete Story, pp. 32-34.
New York Times, June 24, 1991, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, review of Hitler's Children, p. C13; September 9, 1993, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, review of Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK, p. C18; August 7, 1996, Richard Bernstein, review of Citizen Perot: His Life and Times, p. C14; April 22, 1998, Richard Bernstein, review of Killing the Dream: James Earl Ray and the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., p. E9; January 2, 2003, Janet Maslin, review of Motown, p. E15; October 29, 2003, Walter Russell Mead, review of Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9/11, p. E9.
New York Times Book Review, October 9, 1988, Dorothy Uhnak, review of Warlords of Crime: Chinese Secret Societies—The New Mafia, p. 35; November 21, 1993, Geoffrey C. Ward, review of Case Closed, p. 15; August 25, 1996, Jack Beatty, review of Citizen Perot, p. 10; April 26, 1998, Anthony Lewis, review of Killing the Dream, p. 7; January 12, 2003, Nick Salvatore, review of Motown, p. 21; October 12, 2003, Eric Lichtblau, review of Why America Slept, p. 26.
Publishers Weekly, August 12, 1988, review of The Warlords of Crime, p. 435; June 9, 1989, review of The Bio-Assassins, p. 52; March 15, 1991, review of Hitler's Children, p. 51; July 26, 1993, review of Case Closed, p. 54; December 16, 2002, review of Motown, p. 60; September 15, 2003, Daisy Maryles, review of Why America Slept, p. 17.
Time, September 8, 2003, Johanna McGeary, review of Why America Slept, p. 36.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), February 4, 1990, Clarence Petersen, review of Warlords of Crime, p. 8.
Washington Post Book World, October 31, 1993, Jeffrey A. Frank, review of Case Closed, p. 4.
Gerald Posner Home Page,http://www.posner.com (May 22, 2004).