CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY

Biographies

(by Name)

A - K

Ames, Robert

Bird, Kai. The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames. New York: Crown, 2014.

A Publishers Weekly reviewer, 2 Feb. 2014, says the author's "meticulous account of Ames's career amid an ongoing Mideast climate of caution and suspicion is one of the best books on American intelligence community."

To Mann, Washington Post, 23 May 2014, the author "has found in Ames a wonderful new subject." The book "has some flaws. There is a lot of repetition.... The writing is disjointed: The narrative loses some steam after Salameh's death, and much more as the book meanders on after Ames's death. Yet 'The Good Spy' succeeds on the basis of Bird's considerable research skills, his interviews with intelligence officials, his access to Ames's letters home and, above all, his ability to spot and put together an engrossing biography." Darlington, Intelligencer 20.3 (Spring-Summer 2014), says that "Bird's portrait of Ames is holistic, professional and personal."

Chapman, IJI&C 28.1 (Spring 2015), focuses on what he sees as the downside of Ames' way of doing business. "Although not stated as such, Ames committed a major intelligence mistake: he fell in love with his agent [Salameh]. Doing so was bad tradecraft, and certainly bad mangement for Headquarters to allow it to continue." The author "tells of bad intelligence practices as though they were good.... Ames was, in essence, a loose cannon."

Angleton, James Jesus - Click for access to biographic material on Angleton

Barnes, Tracey - Click for Evan Thomas, The Very Best Men -- Four Who Dared (1995)

Bissell, Richard - Click for Evan Thomas, The Very Best Men -- Four Who Dared (1995)

Casey, William J. - Click for biographic material on Casey

Coffin, William Sloane, Jr.

Goldstein, Warren. William Sloane Coffin Jr.: A Holy Impatience. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004.

Rossinow, H-1960s, H-Net Reviews (Jul. 2006) [http://www.h-net.org], notes that Coffin was employed by the CIA in its early years. "The particular uses ... made of him reflected both his language abilities and his remarkable social skills." He "developed extensive contacts with 'White Russian' communities in France and elsewhere, exiles from the Soviet regime, and as a CIA employee he trained anti-Soviet agents who were parachuted into the Soviet Union (it failed badly; the men were caught)."

Colby, William E. - Click for biographic material on Colby

Daniels, Jerry

Morrison, Gayle L. Hog's Exit: Jerry Daniels, the Hmong, and the CIA. Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech University Press, 2013.

Peake, Studies 58.1 (Mar. 2014), finds that the author's style "detracts from this extraordinary tribute to a gallant officer. While she considers her interviews primary source material, most are not dated or adequately identified, and she doesn't provide any connecting, contextual detail between interviews. Nor is there any transitional material from chapter to chapter. Each one discusses some aspect of Daniels's life and death, but there is no apparent reason why any chapter appears when it does. The result is an oral mosaic that leaves the reader trying to make sense of disjointed, sometimes imprecise data on an unfamiliar subject."

Dulles, Allen - Click for biographic material on Dulles

Esterline, Jake

Bohning, Don. "Jake Esterline: A Profile." Intelligencer 19, no. 2 (Summer-Fall 2012): 41-42.

A brief look at the OSS/CIA career of the project director for the Bay of Pigs.

FitzGerald, Desmond - Click for Evan Thomas, The Very Best Men -- Four Who Dared (1995)

Harvey, Bill

Stockton, Bayard. Flawed Patriot: The Rise and Fall of CIA Legend Bill Harvey. Dulles, VA: Potomac, 2006.

Clark comment: I wanted to enjoy this book, but was in the end disappointed. The author clearly worked hard to capture Bill Harvey and his work and life, and there is no question that doing so was an almost impossible task. However, it seems in some ways that Stockton gathered material in his research that he felt he had to use even if it was not central -- or even germane -- to his story. I almost quit the book when the author went into wildly speculative musings about the Kennedy assassination and, then again, when much space was wasted (to no conclusion) on Harvey's links with Marajen and Michael Chinigo. The Berlin part is interesting, and probably an accurate reflection of work and life in that place at that time. Just as things went downhill after Berlin for Harvey, so do they go downhill for this book after that time. There are just too many "it must have been...," "he was likely to...," and the like for me to feel comfortable that what is being conveyed is on the mark. Legends certainly deserve a legend teller, but we are unlikely to see another biography of Harvey. Therefore, we will have to make do with this book with all its flaws.

For Goulden, Intelligencer 15.2 (Fall-Winter 2006-2007), "some -- but by no means all -- of [Harvey's] career" is covered in this work. Since "much of Harvey's work was done in the darkest of shadows, one is not going to learn much about the specifics of how he earned his reputation." The reviewer's "one major criticism" of the book concerns Stockton's dragging "David Atlee Phillips into ill-grounded speculation about the assassination of President Kennedy."

Peake, Studies 51.2 (2007), reminds us that "Richard Helms characterized Bill Harvey as aggressive, demanding, and conscientious, with a good knowledge of operations. Flawed Patriot adds meat to these bones while tempering the contrary Angletonian view found in David Martin's Wilderness of Mirrors and the image of Harvey as the 'weird eccentric' portrayed by Norman Mailer in his novel Harlot's Ghost. The story of Harvey's often controversial career has lessons for all readers interested in intelligence."

A review by Chapman, IJI&C 20.4 (Winter 2007), deals more with evaluating Harvey's career as presented by Stockton than with evaluating the author's effort. The reviewer does note, however, that "Stockton builds the cornerstone of the Harvey legend on the Berlin Tunnel.... By Stockton's account, the tunnel was Harvey's brainchild, with him as planner, architect, and engineer, but that is gravely in dispute."

Hickman, I&NS 23.6 (Dec. 2008), comments that "readers who expect a biographical work to get at larger questions will find some disappoitment" with this book. In addition, it "is organized awkwardly (at times, even poorly)"; and Stockton's "incorporation of interviews and primary source material is substandard." This reviewer is also bothered by the author's failure to use more thoroughly Harvey's 1975 testimony to the Church Committee. Bohning, Intelligencer 16.2/67/fn3 (Fall 2008), calls Failed Patriot "[a]n excellent account of the ZRRIFLE program."

Helms, Richard M. - Click for biographic material on Helms

Hunt, E. Howard

Szulc, Tad. Compulsive Spy: The Strange Career of E. Howard Hunt. New York: Viking, 1974.

Constantinides notes that "Szulc managed to pull together much material that had reached the public domain, but questions have arisen about ... the book.... [T]here is no documentation. Certain items on CIA and its organization are quite wrong."

Kisevalter, George

Ashley, Clarence. CIA SpyMaster. Gretna, LA: Pelican, 2004.

Clark comment: This is a biography of CIA case officer George Kisevalter. Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, Kisevalter's language skills and personality placed him at the center of some of the CIA's most significant spy cases. His resume including working with Pyotr Popov, Oleg Penkovsky, and Yuri Nosenko. Ashley's presentation is both more and less than a biography. Because of the author's use of taped conversations with Kisevalter, the book has some of the flavor of an autobiography. This comes complete with possible hyberbole on the part of the speaker, who enjoyed telling his stories. On the other hand, Ashley has clearly sought to fill some of the gaps and to validate the details by additional research and interviews with some of the people who had worked with or near Kisevalter. However, this is not the standard academic biography, with substantial accompanying documentation (nor does the author claim it to be such). Some level of fact checking and/or comparison with other accounts is needed. Nevertheless, since he was so close to the Popov and Penkovsky cases, just hearing Kisevalter's take on two of this country's most significant spies is worth the price of admission.

According to Peake, Studies 49.1 (2005), this "is a sympathetic biography of a unique CIA intelligence officer who served his adopted country with honor and dedication." Goulden, Intelligencer 14.2 (Winter-Spring 2005), comments that "the book provides keen insight into what a CIA case officer actually does in the field." Although the author's "prose takes the reader down some rabbit trails that would have best been left unexplored[,]... 'hearing' Kisevalter's story in his own voice is a remarkable memento of a remarkable man."

For Bath, NIPQ 21.2 (Jun. 2005), this work "is more than the record of a skilled intelligence officer, it also offers a rare picture of the case officer's day-to-day activities and challenges." Schecter, I&NS 20.4 (Dec. 2005), notes that Ashley based this work "on a month long series of interviews" with Kisevalter, "his business friend." Kisevalter's "insights in Popov's character, why he defected and stayed on as an agent in place until exposed and executed go far beyond any previous public accounts of the case." His memories of the Penkovsky case add "important details on the tradecraft used and his own role."

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