Charlie Savage is a Washington Correspondent for 
The New York Times. His latest book is Power Wars: The Relentless Rise of Presidential Authority and Secrecy.

 (February 2018)

Follow Charlie Savage on Twitter: @charlie_savage.


Controlling the Chief

President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis outside the White House on Inauguration Day, January 2017

The Pentagon’s Wars: The Military’s Undeclared War Against America’s Presidents

by Mark Perry
It was August 2004, and the Iraqi insurgency was raging in Anbar province. Major General James “Mad Dog” Mattis of the Marines, who is now the Trump administration’s defense secretary, called a meeting with a group of religious leaders outside Fallujah. His division was coming under daily fire from both local militants and foreign terrorists associated with al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, and he hoped to persuade the leaders that it was misguided of them to encourage local young men to pick up rifles and shoot at American forces rather than trying to throw out al-Qaeda, whose bombings and beheadings were transforming their province into a hellscape.

Was Snowden a Russian Agent?

How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft

by Edward Jay Epstein


a film directed by Oliver Stone
For Edward Jay Epstein’s book How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft to have value—for it to be worth reading, not just an object intelligence hard-liners might display on their shelves as a sign of their contempt for Snowden—the facts he selects to anchor and discipline his scenario-building cannot be flimsy or cherry-picked to fit his preexisting beliefs. This is important because he clearly decided early that everything pointed in the direction of the Snowden saga being a foreign espionage plot. It is unfortunate that Epstein builds his imagined scenarios upon allegations that may not be real facts.

General Hayden’s Offensive

Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror

by Michael V. Hayden
The title of Michael Hayden’s memoir, Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror, refers to one of his favorite metaphors: that in a dangerous world, intelligence agencies should aggressively play right up to the legal line dividing fair territory from foul—getting chalk dust on their cleats. He does not reflect on whether that axiom remains principled when the president hires referees who let him disregard the rulebook and redraw the foul lines wherever he wants.