Elise Cooper for BLACKFIVE
Alex Berenson’s latest book, “The Midnight House,” explores the torture debate. Readers may or may not find this topic enjoyable, depending on their views regarding this topic. Besides the harsh interrogation debate he explores the psychological effects of those who participated in the war on terror.
In the last few chapters of the book he tries to achieve a balance regarding what is considered torture. Through the plot, the reader is asked to examine how harsh an interrogation should be in order to gain actionable intelligence. Blackfive.net thought Berenson made a good point when a character stated in Machiavellian fashion (the end justifies the means), “The connection is there. The greatest good for the greatest number.”
Another issue that Berenson discusses is the methods the intelligence community should use to gain actionable information. Berenson wrote that “the CIA‘s best and brightest were still stuck in the Cold War model. They rarely left the Diplomatic Enclave…the only senior operative who’d gotten outside the wire and put himself in harm’s way on regular basis.“ A former operative commented that this quote was a home run because “it’s been a complaint since September 11th. People need to do the hard work, trying to infiltrate terrorist groups by finding someone who will do it on our behalf.”
John Welles, Berenson’s CIA conflicted operative, is once again the main character. As in the earlier books, he is still the cynical, non political hero. Welles is likeable and realistic and readers can identify with his struggle to follow his convictions. The female lead of his past novels, Jennifer Exley, is MIA in this book. Although she is mentioned a few times, she is only seen through others’ eyes. She will not appear much in future books since according to Berenson she is “too strong willed for Welles.”
For those who want a fictional account of the harsh interrogation techniques, this book would make an interesting read. Berenson stated to blackfive.net that unlike this book, the harsh interrogation techniques that have been disclosed in news accounts “does not rise to the level of torture. It may be coercion and unpleasant. It worked but a price was paid.”