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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
• 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.
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
• 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
• 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.
President Joe Biden swims nude at the vice president’s residence in Washington
and at his home in Delaware, offending female Secret Service
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
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.