Former CIA Agent/Author Bob Baer: "The Perfect Kill"

Let’s play a  little game of free association.

I say “Syriana” and you say?… Bet your answer is Telluride Film Fest 2011 tributee George Clooney, who starred in the 2005 geopolitical thriller about oil, the Middle East, corporate greed, oil, espionage, wealth, power, intrigue, oil, assassination, terrorism and – umm – oil.

Former CIA agent, author & Ophir local Bob Baer

Former CIA agent, author & Ophir local Bob Baer

“Syriana’s” head-snapping plot by screenwriter/director Stephen Gaghan (“Traffic’) was inspired by “See No Evil,” a book written by former CIA agent, Robert Booker “Bob” Baer. And it was Ophir local Baer who inspired Clooney’s character, Bob Barnes, who like Baer, has the distinction of being disowned by the CIA. Why? Allegations brought by the FBI about an attempt to assassinate Saddam Hussein.

And assassination just happens to be the subject of Baer’s latest book, “The Perfect Kill: 21 Laws for Assassins,” according to The Washington Post,

310 pages of cold calculations, intriguing ethical debates and eyebrow-raising scenes, with Middle East history sprinkled throughout…

“Baer takes us on a journey through his past, to a time when his motive was to kill Hezbollah leader Imad Mughniyah, who was also known as Hajj Radwan. As we learn early on, Baer never succeeded in this pursuit, so most of the “21 laws for assassins” don’t come from his attempts. They come from what he learned about the modus operandi of Mughniyah, whom Baer came to regard as a master of the hunt. In 2008, Baer’s prey was killed by a car bomb in Syria Baer says Mughniyah will go down in history as one of the world’s most deadly and effective assassins.”

Meet Bob Baer for a talk about “The Perfect Kill” and a book-signing in the Program Room of Telluride’s Wilkinson Public Library, Monday, February 9, 6 p.m.

What is the definition of assassination? Baer’s boss at the CIA once told him, “It’s a bullet with a man’s name on it.” Sometimes assassination is the senseless act of a psychotic, a bloodletting without social value. Other times, it can be the sanest and most humane way to change the course of conflict: one bullet, one death, case closed. Assassination has been dramatized by literature and politicized by infamous murders throughout history, and for Baer, one of the most accomplished agents to ever work for the CIA, it’s a source of endless fascination, speculation, and intrigue.

More about Bob Baer:

Bob Baer was born in Los Angeles, but raised in Aspen. He aspired to become a professional skier, but life took a left turn off the slopes. Educated at Indiana’s Culver Military Academy, Baer went on to graduate from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, where then-future CIA director George Tenet was a classmate. While a graduate student at U.C. Berkeley, he applied to the CIA’s directorate of operations. A year’s training, including a four-month paramilitary course followed, which include the study of several foreign languages.

Baer is fluent in Arabic, Persian, French, German and English. He is conversant in Russian, Tajik and Baluch.

During his 21-year career with the CIA, Baer served as an operative in Madras and New Delhi, India; Beirut, Lebanon; Dusanbe, Tajikistan,; Morocco; and Salah al-Din in Iraqi Kurdistan.

In December 2014, Bob Baer began broadcasting for CNN from Telluride TV’s new media center on subjects ranging from the U.S. Senate report on CIA torture during the George W. Bush administration; the failed Navy SEAL attempt to free photojournalist Luke Somers, a hostage held by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; and the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to Uruguay for resettlement as refugees.

Baer is currently TIME.com’s intelligence columnist. He has also contributed to Vanity FairThe Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.

As indicated, Baer is a frequent commentator and author about issues related to international relations, espionage and U.S. foreign policy

In The Perfect Kill, Bob Baer takes us on a serpentine adventure through the history of political murder; its connections to, and differences from, the ubiquitous use of drones in state-sponsored killing; his firsthand experience with political executions; and his decades-long cat-and-mouse hunt, across the Middle East and Europe, for the most effective and deadliest assassin of the modern age. A true maverick with an undeniably captivating personal story, Baer pulls back the curtain on the underbelly of world politics and the quiet murderers who operate on the fringe of our society.

Bob Baer’s books are all available at Between the Covers Bookstore.

To learn more about Bob Baer and his past work and present life in, ahem, retirement, click the “play” button and listen to our conversation.

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