Thomas Powers

I - R

Powers, Thomas. Intelligence Wars: American Secret History from Hitler to Al-Qaeda. New York: New York Review of Books, 2003. Rev. & exp. ed. New York: New York Review of Books, 2004.

According to Adams, Washington Post, 6 Apr. 2003, this book "collects 24 reviews ... of more than 60 intelligence books. These discerning essays span 25 years and provide a revealing history of the victories, defeats and ambiguities of Cold War and post-Cold War intelligence gathering."

Peake, Studies 47.3, notes that "[m]any of the important books on intelligence are reviewed with Powers' characteristic thoughtful eloquence.  In fact, one learns as much about his views on the intelligence matters of the day as about the books he reviews.  And while he is addicted to the theory that the 'government is addicted to secrecy,' he nevertheless manages to accomplish his intent to 'convey . . . what the intelligence business is like, and how the Americans have gone about it.'" Nevertheless, "Powers' ... judgments were not always right at the time, and unfortunately he has not updated the major errors in light of the new material available."

For Haines, Diplomatic History 28.3, some of Powers' essays by their very nature "are beginning to show their age"; nevertheless, "most remain fresh and relevant.... Powers concludes that the outcome of the Cold War depended heavily on the CIA's work,... NRO's satellites, and NSA's Sigint capabilities." Prados, I&NS 18.4, calls Intelligence Wars "a fascinating trip down memory lane, through a whole swath of memorable works of history, peppered with useful observations on the craft both yesterday and today."

[Overviews/U.S./00s; Reform/00s]

Powers, Thomas. "Last of the Cowboys." New York Review of Books, 19 Nov. 1987. Chapter 19 in Intelligence Wars: American Secret History from Hitler to Al-Qaeda, 283-294. Rev. & exp. ed. New York: New York Review of Books, 2004.

This is Powers' take on Woodward's Veil (1987) and on Bill Casey in general.

[CIA/DCIs/Casey]

Powers, Thomas. The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard Helms and the CIA. New York: Knopf, 1979. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1980. New York: Pocket Books, 1981. [pb]

Clark comment: This is one of the best books written about American intelligence by a non-intelligence-trained individual. It reads easily and amuses in the author's clear desire to denigrate his subject and his frustration in his failure to be able to do so. In one of the limited cases where we agree on something, NameBase notes that "[w]hen it first appeared in 1979, this book was widely regarded as one of the best ever written about the CIA."

Pforzheimer says The Man Who Kept the Secrets is simultaneously one of the most comprehensive books on the CIA and "seriously flawed with errors of fact and concept." A serious shortcoming is Powers' "failure to weave the world situation into his CIA tapestry.... The author does not understand Helms and is sometimes very unfair to him. This is a book ... which should be approached ... with a full recognition of its many errors, although it should be read by the professional."

Constantinides advises a careful reading of Powers' notes, which "often contain more revealing, comprehensive, and perceptive comments or explanations than the main text." Whatever Powers may have missed or misinterpreted -- and the list is long -- this book "can be classified as outstanding, especially for an intelligence outsider."

Also, see Kenneth L. Adelman, "A Clandestine Clan," International Security 5 (Summer 1980): 152-171. This is a review essay on The Man Who and Roosevelt's Countercoup. Adelman was Director of ACDA, 1984-1987.

An adaptation of Powers' work was published as: Thomas Powers, "Inside the Department of Dirty Tricks," Atlantic Monthly 244, no. 2 (Aug. 1979): 33-64. [http://www.theatlantic.com]

[CIA/60s/Gen; CIA/70s/Gen; CIA/DCIs/Helms; CIA/Overviews/To89][c]

Powers, Thomas. "No Laughing Matter." New York Review of Books, 10 Aug. 1995. Chapter 21 in Intelligence Wars: American Secret History from Hitler to Al-Qaeda, 321-332. Rev. & exp. ed. New York: New York Review of Books, 2004.

The focus here is the first four books dealing with the Aldrich Ames spy case: Adans, Sellout (1995); Maas, Killer Spy (1995); Weiner, Johnston, and Lewis, Betrayal (1995); and Wise, Nightmover (1995).

[SpyCases/U.S./Ames]

Powers, Thomas. "Notes from Underground." New York Review of Books, 21 Jun. 2001. Chapter 17 in Intelligence Wars: American Secret History from Hitler to Al-Qaeda, 257-273. Rev. & exp. ed. New York: New York Review of Books, 2004.

Primarily a review of Bamford's Body of Secrets (2001), this article also mentions Levy's Crypto (2001), which deals with the battle over public encryption.

[NSA/Overviews]

Powers, Thomas. "Phantom Spies at Los Alamos." New York Review of Books, 9 Jun. 1994. Chapter 4 in Intelligence Wars: American Secret History from Hitler to Al-Qaeda, 59-79. Rev. & exp. ed. New York: New York Review of Books, 2004.

The author rejects the charges in Sudoplatov's Special Tasks (1994) that Oppenheimer, Fermi. Szilard, and Bohr "served as spies for the Soviet Union during the Second World War.... [T]he charges against Oppenheimer in Sudoplatov's book tend to evaporate on scrutiny." There is a "complete lack of the establishing and supporting details[] that are the signature of genuine espionage cases.... [I]n the few cases where details are cited they are irrelevant, misleading, or blatantly wrong." In addition, "[i]t is impossible to distinguish Sudoplatov's real memories, however confused by age and years, from the Schectors' own research and general editorial tidying up."

[SpyCases/U.S./Bomb/Gen]

Powers, Thomas. "The Plot Thickens." New York Review of Books, 11 May 2000. Chapter 5 in Intelligence Wars: American Secret History from Hitler to Al-Qaeda, 81-108. Rev. & exp. ed. New York: New York Review of Books, 2004.

This is an essay on Communism in America, written around reviews of Weinstein and Vassiliev, The Haunted Wood; Haynes and Klehr, Venona; Andrew and Mitrokhin, The Sword and the Shield; Duff, A Time for Spies; West, The Crown Jewels; and Morgan, A Covert Life.

[SpyCases/U.S./Gen]

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