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Publisher's Summary

In December 2003, after one of the largest, most aggressive manhunts in history, US military forces captured Iraqi president Saddam Hussein near his hometown of Tikrit. Beset by body-double rumors and false alarms during a nine-month search, the Bush administration needed positive identification of the prisoner before it could make the announcement that would rocket around the world.

At the time John Nixon was a senior CIA leadership analyst who had spent years studying the Iraqi dictator. Called upon to make the official ID, Nixon looked for telltale scars and tribal tattoos and asked Hussein a list of questions only he could answer. The man was indeed Saddam Hussein, but, as Nixon learned in the ensuing weeks, both he and America had greatly misunderstood just who Saddam Hussein really was.

Debriefing the President presents an astounding, candid portrait of one of our era's most notorious strongmen. Nixon, the first man to conduct a prolonged interrogation of Hussein after his capture, offers expert insight into the history and mind of America's most enigmatic enemy. After years of parsing Hussein's leadership from afar, Nixon faithfully recounts his debriefing sessions and subsequently strips away the mythology surrounding an equally brutal and complex man. His account is not an apology but a sobering examination of how preconceived ideas led Washington policymakers - and the Bush White House - astray. Unflinching and unprecedented, Debriefing the President exposes a fundamental misreading of one of the modern world's most central figures and presents a new narrative that boldly counters the received account.

©2016 John Nixon (P)2016 Penguin Audio

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Not What You Think It Is

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

Yeah, I guess so - it's under 6 hours ,,,

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

I bought this book to hear the story of Saddam Hussein's interrogation, and those parts I found interesting, Unfortunately, Nixon devotes the last 40% of the book to a description of the intelligence community in Washington and his dislike of many of its members. That would have been better used in a separate book.

What does John Nixon bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Not much - he's obviously not a professional narrator

Could you see Debriefing the President being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

The parts containing Hussein would be interesting. The rest, not so much

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Everything redacted

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Every other paragraph starts with "this was redacted" makes it impossible to get into a rhythm and leaves you more curious than before you bought yhe book

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Redactions Ruined the Audiobook

What was most disappointing about John Nixon’s story?

The constant " this statement has been redacted by the CIA" became annoying and ruined the listener experience.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Just as it's getting interesting ..... [redaction]

Overall, a decent and interesting story and insight in to this event.

Unfortunately, whenever it was just getting interesting large portions of content would be redacted. This in itself I found strange - instead of leaving huge chunks missing, why did the author not re-write those parts (omitting the specific details which caused the redaction)? It made it seem like they were either too lazy or, as an ego thing, wanted the redactions left in to prove how much sensitive info they knew.

As the book progressed, I found the jolting redactions quite annoying and off-putting.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Daniel
  • WI, WI, United States
  • 01-12-17

Petty and short sighted

One mans personal opinion. Petty and whining
Too much talk about his feelings about the agency.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good insights.. please read review

This production reflected... [ The following 16 lines has been redacted by the reviewer ] .. and that's the core value attained.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

An Engaged look at 2003-2009 in Iraq and America

I am greatly impressed with John Nixon's book. It shows an intimate look at Saddam Hussein, George W. Bush and the Administration from 2001-2009 and the first year of Barack Obama's Presidency and Administration, specifically on Iraq. For those whom protested or supported the 2003 Iraq war, this is the book we have been waiting for. A book with an honest and knowledgeable view of that war and the attitudes during that time.

Yes Saddam was evil, yet the Arab spring could have destroyed him or his successor. But whether then or earlier the best solution would have been for Iraq to overthrow him via another General after Saddam, or popular uprising. John Nixon was right in that even though we could have salvaged our fight in Iraq, we made no effort to save it out of Intellectual Laziness or crude ego over our pride (Our and We referring to Bush's Government) to have won the war.

I appreciated his honest approach in the book and explanation on how American leaders misunderstanding of the tools like the CIA and intelligence hurt our countries effort to be number one in the world (even gave dirt on Bill Clinton) which is a lesson I feel our Current Leader Donald Trump may repeat this mistake.

I highly recommend this book.

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The writer contradicts himself!

The writer keep talking about the good analytics and how they should only provide intelligence not conclusions but he does exactly the opposite in the book.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A Good listen

pros
great historical value and insight into the iraq war. The story is highly detailed so you learn allot about what transpires and how even with all the redactions.
Cons
The story does allot of bouncing around in the time line.

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Enlightening Story of Briefing the President

The interrogation of Saddam Hussein was interesting but the most enlightening part of this book took place in DC. After interrogating Saddam Hussein, the author returned to the US where he was asked to brief President GW Bush. He noted that he was excited to have the opportunity, and as he described it, the initial meeting went well. It was interesting to hear him describe the oval office, how the President took the briefing off track, and how others in the room would participate during the briefs. Being a Government employee myself who has interacted with the pentagon and routinely works on high level programs, I was particularly interested in the author's experience as he was a GS-14 during the briefs. Overall, the story was good and the narrator, who is also the author, spoke with a fairly flat tone throughout the book. I enjoyed the book and recommend it to others.