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New York Times Bestselling Author
of books about the Secret Service, FBI, and CIA
Ronald Kessler is the New York Times bestselling author of 20 non-fiction books. Kessler began his career as a journalist in 1964 on the Worcester Telegram, followed by three years as an investigative reporter and editorial writer with the Boston Herald. In 1968, he joined the Wall Street Journal as a reporter in the New York bureau. He became an investigative reporter with the Washington Post in 1970 and continued in that position until 1985.
Kessler has won 18 journalism awards, including two George Polk awards—one for national reporting and one for community service. Kessler has also won the Robert Novak Journalist of the Year Award, the American Political Science Association's Public Affairs Reporting Award, the Associated Press' Sevellon Brown Memorial Award, and Washingtonian magazine's Washingtonian of the Year award. Franklin Pierce University awarded him the Marlin Fitzwater Medallion for excellence as a prolific author, journalist, and communicator. He is listed in Who's Who in America.
Kessler's first book was THE LIFE INSURANCE GAME, an exposé of the life insurance industry and its deceptive practices published in 1985. His second book, THE RICHEST MAN IN THE WORLD: The Story of Adnan Khashoggi, is the inside story of the world's preeminent arms dealer. Kessler's next book, SPY vs. SPY: Stalking Soviet Spies in America, is the only book on the FBI's secret counterintelligence program and contains the first interview with Karl Koecher, a Soviet bloc spy who became a mole in the CIA and attended sex parties with his gorgeous wife Hana.
Kessler's fourth book, MOSCOW STATION, is about the security breaches at the U.S. embassy in Moscow, the involvement of U.S. Marines, and the resulting investigations. Kessler's THE SPY IN THE RUSSIAN CLUB: How Glenn Souther Stole America's Nuclear War Plans and Escaped to Moscow is the bizarre tale of one of America's most damaging spies who defected to the Soviet Union and committed suicide there.
Kessler's sixth book, ESCAPE FROM THE CIA: How the CIA Won and Lost the Most Important KGB Spy Ever to Defect to the U.S., is about the defection and redefection of KGB officer Vitaly Yurchenko from a restaurant in Washington's Georgetown section. It contains the only interview with Yurchenko by a western journalist and portrays the CIA's disastrous mishandling of the case. Kessler's INSIDE THE CIA: Revealing the Secrets of the World's Most Powerful Spy Agency depicts what the CIA really does and was the only book about the agency written with the CIA's cooperation.
For Kessler's eighth book, THE FBI: Inside the World's Most Powerful Law Enforcement Agency, the FBI gave Kessler unprecedented access to the bureau. The book revealed for the first time the defection of Vasili Mitrokhin, whose notes from the KGB's archives disclosed the existence over the years of hundreds of spies in the U.S. The book is the authoritative work on the modern FBI. Its findings led to the dismissal of William Sessions as FBI director over his abuses.
Having probed the CIA and FBI, Kessler was prepared to take on the modern White House. INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE: The Hidden Lives of the Modern Presidents and the Secrets of the World's Most Powerful Institution depicts what the presidents and first families are really like and how the White House really operates, as seen by the Secret Service, Air Force One stewards, and White House aides and residence staff who know the true story.
Kessler's tenth book, THE SINS OF THE FATHER: Joseph P. Kennedy and the Dynasty He Founded, is the first major biography of Joe Kennedy in more than thirty years. Based in part on the only interview ever given by the surgeon who performed the lobotomy on her, the book reveals that for political reasons, Joe Kennedy covered up the fact that his daughter Rosemary was mentally ill rather than retarded, as the family has long claimed. The book includes an interview with Kennedy's New York secretary, who described how Theodore Sorenson wrote Jack Kennedy's Pulitzer Prize-winning-book Profiles in Courage based on research reports the office staff wrote and she typed up. The book documents Joe Kennedy's involvement with organized crime figures during Prohibition and payoffs he made to win the presidency for Jack. Based on on the record interviews with her, the book reveals an affair Joe Kennedy had with his shapely Hyannis Port secretary that lasted nine years—three times longer than his affair with movie star Gloria Swanson.
In many ways, Congress is even more powerful than the president. Only Capitol Police officers, doormen, elevator operators, pages, professional staffers, and members of Congress themselves know what goes on behind the scenes and how Congress really works. For Kessler's eleventh book, INSIDE CONGRESS: The Shocking Scandals, Corruption, and Abuse of Power Behind the Scenes on Capitol Hill, more than 350 such insiders talked for the first time. The book suggests how Americans can take back their government by electing decent, honorable people.
A 3.75-square-mile island, Palm Beach is known as the most wealthy, glamorous, opulent, sinful spot on earth. It is home to billionaires like Donald Trump, trust fund babies, women addicted to staying beautiful, and the sophisticated "walkers" who escort them. Kessler's THE SEASON: Inside Palm Beach and America's Richest Society follows four characters through the season: the reigning queen of Palm Beach society, the night manager of Palm Beach's trendiest bar and restaurant, a gay "walker" who escorts wealthy women to balls, and a knockout gorgeous blonde who says she "can't find a guy in Palm Beach." Bit parts are played by Trump, who flew with Kessler and his wife on his Boeing 727-100 to spend a weekend with them at his Mar-a-Lago estate and club in Palm Beach, and Gianna Lahainer, who is worth $300 million but put her husband on ice because he died inconveniently in the middle of the season.
After the White House, Congress, and the Supreme Court, no American institution is as powerful as the FBI. Yet until Kessler's THE BUREAU: The Secret History of the FBI, no book had presented the full story of the FBI from its beginnings in 1908 to the present. The book is the definitive account of the FBI, revealing its strengths and weaknesses, triumphs and blunders, methods and secrets. The book focuses on the directors who have run the bureau, from J. Edgar Hoover through Louis Freeh and Robert Mueller, and the agents who have made its cases. The Bureau reveals the dramatic inside story of the FBI's response to the attacks of September 11 and why the FBI was unprepared for those attacks. The book documents Freeh's colossal mismanagement of the FBI and how Mueller restored the bureau to its place as the world's preeminent law enforcement agency. The press has cited the book for having presented the first credible evidence that Bob Woodward's and Carl Bernstein's Watergate source dubbed Deep Throat was FBI official W. Mark Felt.
With the CIA at the core of the war on terror, no agency is as important to preserving America's freedom. Yet the CIA is a closed and secretive world—impenetrable to generations of journalists—and few Americans know what really goes on among the spy masters who plot America's worldwide campaign against terrorists. For Kessler's THE CIA AT WAR: Inside the Secret Campaign Against Terror, the author obtained unprecedented access to the CIA. The book explores whether the CIA can be trusted, whether its intelligence is politicized, and whether it is capable of winning the war on terror. In doing so, the book weaves in the history of the CIA and how it really works. It is the definitive account of the agency.
Kessler's next book, A MATTER OF CHARACTER: Inside the White House of George W. Bush, is a complete biography and inside look at how Bush and his secretive White House really operated. For the book, Kessler interviewed all the key players—Andy Card, Karl Rove, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld—supplemented by interviews with Bush's close personal friends, Secret Service sources, and other insiders. Based on extraordinary access approved by Bush himself, the book separates myth from reality about Bush and his presidency.
Kessler's sixteenth book, LAURA BUSH: An Intimate Portrait of the First Lady, is the first to penetrate the secret world of this famously reserved woman and reveals the tremendous influence she had on her husband and his administration. The only book to be written about Laura Bush with White House cooperation, it draws from interviews with lifelong friends, family members, and administration heavyweights like Condoleezza Rice and Andy Card, who talked about the first lady in-depth for the first time. The book reveals how Laura's opinions resulted in budget changes for a range of federal agencies and affected her husband's policies, appointments, and world view.
Kessler's next book, THE TERRORIST WATCH: Inside the Desperate Race to Stop the Next Attack, presents the chilling story of terrorists' relentless efforts to mount another devastating attack on the United States and of the daily efforts being made to stop those plots. Drawing on unprecedented access, the book takes readers inside the war rooms of this battle for our survival—from the newly created National Counterterrorism Center to FBI headquarters, from the CIA to the National Security Agency, from the Pentagon to the Oval Office—to explain why we have gone so long since 9/11 without a successful foreign terrorist attack and to reveal the many close calls we never hear about.
The book includes an exclusive insider's account from George Piro, an FBI agent who spent seven months secretly debriefing Saddam Hussein after his capture. From Saddam's compulsive hand-washing and use of baby wipes to his strategy during the 2003 invasion, why no WMD were ever found, and his plans for developing a nuclear capability, the debriefings unravel mysteries and provide insights about one of the greatest mass murderers of our time. Kessler and the book were featured on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
Secret Service agents act as human surveillance cameras and observe everything that goes on behind the scenes in the president's inner circle. Kessler's book IN THE PRESIDENT'S SECRET SERVICE: Behind the Scenes With Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect reveals what they have seen, providing startling inside stories about presidents from John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, as well as about their vice presidents, families, Cabinet officers, and White House aides.
Never before has a journalist penetrated the wall of secrecy that surrounds the U.S. Secret Service, that elite corps of agents who pledge to take a bullet to protect the president and his family. The book portrays the dangers that agents face, how they carry out their mission, how they are trained, and how they spot and assess potential threats. It discloses assassination plots that have never before been revealed.
While Secret Service agents are brave and dedicated, the book exposes how Secret Service management in recent years has betrayed its mission by cutting corners, risking the assassination of President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and future presidential candidates. The book reveals that threats against President Obama became so disturbing that a secret Presidential Threat Task Force was established within the FBI's National Security Branch to gather, track, and evaluate assassination threats related to domestic or international terrorism. Since an assassination jeopardizes democracy itself, few agencies are as important as the Secret Service. Only Secret Service agents know the real story about our nation's leaders, and Ronald Kessler is the only journalist who has their trust.
Based on those sources, Kessler revealed that, along with Michaele and Tareq Salahi, the Secret Service allowed Carlos Allen to crash a state dinner at the White House. In April 2012, Kessler broke the story that Secret Service agents had been sent home after hiring prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia prior to President Obama's trip there.
USA Today described the Secret Service book as a "fascinating exposé...high-energy read...amusing, saucy, often disturbing anecdotes about the VIPs the Secret Service has protected and still protects.....[accounts come] directly from current and retired agents (most identified by name, to Kessler's credit)....Balancing the sordid tales are the kinder stories of presidential humanity...[Kessler is a] respected journalist and former Washington Post reporter....an insightful and entertaining story." FactCheck.org said the book "quotes both flattering and unflattering observations about presidents of both parties." Kessler and the book were featured on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
The FBI is involved in almost every aspect of American life. From Watergate to Waco, from congressional scandals to the takedown of Osama bin Laden, from Vince Foster's death and Marilyn Monroe’s suicide to the swap of Russian spies, Kessler’s next book THE SECRETS OF THE FBI presents headline-making disclosures about the most important figures and events of our time.
Based on his unparalleled access to hundreds of current and former FBI agents, Kessler reveals the FBI’s most closely guarded privileged information and the secrets of celebrities, politicians, and movie stars uncovered by agents during their investigations. Kessler goes behind the scenes at the FBI Laboratory and training center and presents an exclusive interview with FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III. For the first time, the book reveals how agents on secret TacOps teams break into homes, offices, and embassies to plant bugging devices without getting caught and shot as burglars. The narrative culminates with the inside story of the FBI's involvement in the raid on bin Laden's compound. In November 2012, Kessler broke the story that an FBI investigation led to the resignation of David H. Petraeus as CIA director.
Since publication of his New York Times bestselling book In the President’s Secret Service, Kessler has continued to penetrate the wall of secrecy that surrounds the U.S. Secret Service, breaking the story that Secret Service agents who were to protect President Obama hired prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia and revealing that the Secret Service allowed a third uninvited guest to crash a White House state dinner.
Now in his latest book THE FIRST FAMILY DETAIL: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents, Kessler presents far bigger and more consequential stories that have made headlines about our nation’s leaders—Republicans and Democrats—and the agency sworn to protect them. Kessler widens his scope to include presidential candidates and former presidents after they leave the White House. In particular, he focuses on first ladies and their children and their relationships with the presidents.
From observing Vice President Joe Biden’s reckless behavior that jeopardizes the country’s safety, to escorting Bill Clinton’s blond mistress at Chappaqua, to overhearing First Lady Michelle Obama’s admonitions to the president, to witnessing President Nixon’s friends bring him a nude stripper, to seeing their own agency take risks that could result in an assassination, Secret Service agents know a secret world that Ronald Kessler exposes in breathtaking detail. The book is Kessler's seventh to reach the New York Times bestseller list.
The First Family Detail reveals:
• Vice President Joe Biden regularly orders the Secret Service to keep his military aide with the nuclear football a mile behind his motorcade, potentially leaving the country unable to retaliate in the event of a nuclear attack.
• Secret Service agents discovered that former president Bill Clinton has a blond mistress who lives near the Clintons’ home in Chappaqua, New York. Within minutes of Hillary Clinton’s leaving, the woman—codenamed Energizer by agents—shows up to be with Bill and stays every day while the likely future presidential candidate is away.
• The Secret Service covered up the fact that President Ronald Reagan’s White House staff overruled the Secret Service to let unscreened spectators get close to Reagan as he left the Washington Hilton, allowing John W. Hinckley Jr. to shoot the president.
• President Obama's decision to appoint veteran agent Joseph P. Clancy as the new Secret Service director guarantees that the agency's security lapses will continue.
• Secret Service agents have been dismayed to overhear Michelle Obama push her husband to be more aggressive in attacking Republicans and to side with blacks in racial controversies.
• Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan diverted agents from protecting President Obama and his family at the White House and ordered them instead to protect his assistant at her home and illegally retrieve confidential law enforcement records as a favor to her.
• Because Hillary Clinton is so nasty to agents, being assigned to her protective detail is considered a form of punishment and the worst assignment in the Secret Service.
• Secret Service agents were ordered to ignore security rules and allow the SUV carrying actor Bradley Cooper to drive unscreened into a secure restricted area when President Obama was about to deliver his speech at the White House Correspondents Dinner.
• Vice President Joe Biden has racked up costs to taxpayers of a million dollars to fly to and from his home in Delaware on Air Force Two. His office tried to cover up the costs of the personal trips.
• Because the Secret Service refused to provide enough magnetometers at his campaign events, Mitt Romney regularly left himself open to assassination by giving speeches to crowds that had not been screened.
• Vice President Joe Biden swims nude at the vice president’s residence in Washington and at his home in Delaware, offending female Secret Service agents.
Citing Kessler's two Secret Service books exposing the agency's laxness and corner cutting, SmartBlog on Leadership said, "One person [Ronald Kessler] was warning of the decline of the [Secret Service and its lapses and failures] well before the Salahis crashed a state dinner in 2009; well before the 2012 prostitute scandal in Colombia; before a knife-wielding man gained entrance to the White House last year; and before the recent episode in which drunk agents drove their car up to the White House and interrupted an active bomb investigation."
Kessler writes Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Time magazine, and Politico opinion pieces, including Surveillance: An American Success Story; The Real Joe McCarthy, which attacked efforts by some conservative writers to vindicate the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy; and The Secret Service Thinks We Are Fools and Reform the Secret Service after the 2014 intrusion at the White House. For more Ronald Kessler opinion pieces, go here. On Book TV's "In Depth," Kessler explained his journalistic philosophy.
Ron Kessler lives with his wife Pamela Kessler in Potomac, Maryland. Also an author and former Washington Post reporter, Pam Kessler wrote UNDERCOVER WASHINGTON: Where Famous Spies Lived, Worked and Loved, about spying in Washington. His daughter Rachel Kessler, an independent public relations consultant, and son Greg Kessler, an artist, live in New York. Kessler's web site is www.RonaldKessler.com.
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