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."
Jones, Frank Leith. Blowtorch: Robert Komer, Vietnam, and American Cold War Strategy. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2013.
Freedman, FA 92.3 (May-Jun. 2013), notes that this is a "sympathetic biography." The author "makes a convincing argument that Komer was, in fact, a master strategist, able to put short-term issues in their wider context and think through the likely consequences of action." For Wirtz, IJI&C 27.4 (Winter 2014), this is a "finely crafted monograph." It "makes a convincing case that Komer was a gifted strategist who was able to devise politically sensitive policies that matched ends to means to achieve realistic objectives that furthered U.S. interests."
Peake, Studies 59.2 (Jun. 2015), says the author "adds particulars to a colorful though relatively unknown CIA analyst who became an advisor to four presidents." Komer's "passion for and contribution to strategic issues and national policy have received insufficient attention. Blowtorch adjusts the balance."
Currey, Cecil B. Edward Lansdale: The Unquiet American. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1988. Washington, DC: Brassey's, 1998.
According to a review in JAH 77.1, Currey has presented "a spirited defense of Lansdale's career." The problem is that neither Lansdale nor Currey's other informants were willing to talk about "what serious students of intelligence want to know most about -- what they did as intelligence operatives.... Because of the difficulty with sources, Currey's account is probably the most detailed that could be written of Lansdale's career."
Commenting on the 1998 edition, Jonkers, AFIO WIN (30-1998), notes that "this book provides both an important contribution to literature of the Vietnam war as well as a monument to a legend." Ahern, CIA and Rural Pacification in South Vietnam , 4/fn.10, suggests that "Currey's credulity regarding many of the claims for and by Lansdale makes the book frequently unreliable."
Nashel, Jonathan. Edward Lansdale's Cold War. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2005.
Pellegrin, H-War, H-Net Reviews, Dec. 2006 [http://www.h-net.org], calls this work "a compelling analysis of the life, adventures, and legend" of Edward Lansdale. This "is not a biography in the traditional sense.... Rather, the author uses Lansdale's career to explain American activities during the Cold War and emphasizes those events where Lansdale had a significant effect on such activities."
Laird, Thomas. Into Tibet: The CIA's First Atomic Spy and His Secret Expedition to Lhasa. New York: Grove, 2002.
According to Rupert, Washington Post, 15 Sep. 2002, the author "tells a gripping tale" of Douglas MacKiernan's operation in Sinkiang and his death at the hands of Tibetan border guards. To Goodman, I&NS 18.4, Laird has reconstructed his story in a "comprehensive and illustrative manner." It is "a very good read." For Haas, AFIO WIN 6-03 (11 Feb. 2003), the author's long-term residence in Nepal provides "a significant qualification for his wide-ranging and startling look into the activities of the agent behind the unnamed First Star on the CIA's Wall of Honor." This "[p]rodigiously researched" work provides "a thoroughly fascinating and informative read."
Hayford, Library Journal, 15 May 2002, says that the author "presents his story as a spy novel, complete with reconstructed dialog, bureaucratic infighting, cinematic pacing, and crackling action. Much of the information is reconstructed from interviews and archival research and is hard to authenticate; still, the overall story of this incredible expedition and its political consequences rings true." However, West, IJI&C 16.4, finds that the author's "tenuous evidence" fails "to show that Mackiernan had anything to do with tracking the Soviet bomb." Laird also suggests, "without much evidence, that the CIA had deployed Mackiernan to sabotage the Soviet uranium mines."
Bohning, Don. "Rafael Quintero, Cold War Warrior: From the Bay of Pigs to Iran-Contra." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 21, no. 4 (Winter 2008-2009): 726-747.
From the late 1950s through the mid-1980s, Quintero "worked in the shadows on contract, but never as an agent, with various U.S. intelligence services. His single-minded objective: ridding his native Cuba of Fidel Castro."
Morley, Jefferson. Our Man in Mexico: Winston Scott and the Hidden History of the CIA. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2008.
From publisher: Winston Mackinley Scott was chief of the CIA's Mexico City station from 1956 to 1969. The author "follows the quest of Win Scott's son Michael to confront the reality of his father's life as a spy." He also "reveals the previously unknown scope of the agency's interest in Oswald in late 1963, identifying for the first time the code names of Scott's surveillance programs that monitored Oswald's movements."
Peake, Studies 52.3 (Sep. 2008) and Intelligencer 16.2 (Fall 2008), notes "[i]t quickly becomes clear that Morley is something of a conspiracy theorist." Chapman, IJI&C 21.4 (Winter 2008-2009), also notes that there is an effort "to make a case that the CIA, Scott, and [David Atlee] Phillips were involved with Lee Harvey Oswald."
Shackley, Theodore (Ted) G.
Corn, David. Blond Ghost: Ted Shackley and the CIA's Crusades. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994.
Theodore (Ted) G. Shackley, retired CIA Associate Deputy Director for Operations, died on 9 December 2002 at the age of 75. He was a three-time recipient of the Distinguished Intelligence Medal. J.Y. Smith, "Theodore Shackley Dies; Celebrated CIA Agent," Washington Post, 13 Dec. 2002, B8.
Clark comment: The "discovery" that CIA officers respond and act according to bureaucratic behaviors well-established in the literature of public administration is somewhat labored. To suggest that the CIA should somehow be immune to such behavior patterns is to ask more of its people than an unrelenting critic has any right to expect.
Frank, WIR 13.2, notes that the author is "known for his decidedly left-of-center views ... [and] for many years shared sympathies with the Christic Institute." To Chambers, the book is "hostile and muddle-headed. It's strange that Shackley rose as high as he did if he screwed up as badly as Corn would have us believe." For Halpern, Periscope, Feb. 1995, the book "is a work that mixes fact and fiction.... More often than not he and his researchers have not understood and have rejected valid documentary evidence of the truth.... This reviewer believes the work is so biased ... and contains so many errors of fact that reading it is not worth the effort."
John Barron, WIR 13.3, writes: "I have never heard anyone refer to Shackley as the 'Blond Ghost.'" Corn has produced "turgid prose and puerile reportage." Worse than that, however, he "displays ignorance of elementary intelligence procedures and terminology." In essence, Corn represents "virtue as vice" and accuses "by innuendo without evidence." On the other hand, for NameBase, the book's "70 pages of end notes and chapters liberally sprinkled with unpublished CIA names" make it "a durable contribution to intelligence history." And McGehee, CIABASE Jan. 1995 Update Report, praises Blond Ghost as "one of the few excellent books on the CIA."
To Warner, WPNWE, 7-13 Nov. 1994, Shackley is "less interesting than the covert world of which he was a part." The image here is one of Shackley as "an organization man," but "the real subject is the CIA as a working bureaucracy." Corn's "writing style veers from the competent to the eloquent and back again." Overall, this is an "impressive feat of research." The author "appears to have a latent personal bias against Shackley that ... colors his judgments of Shackley's successes and failures." Nevertheless, the book "greatly enlarges our understanding of the CIA as an organization."
Easterbrook, Washington Monthly, Sep. 1994, calls the book "an amazing compendium of C.I.A. fact and lore.... But every so often you run across a well-researched, well-written book that some reason doesn't quite click. This is one.... Corn's book seems to have trouble coming to conclusions beyond straightforward ones, such as that intelligence operations should be lawful.... Blond Ghost needed more conclusions, and fewer accounts of whose names were on what memos."
Warren, Surveillant 4.1, comments that this is a "meticulously researched biography of a relatively obscure civil servant ... [which] neither interests nor informs the reader.... Corn's lack of understanding and his biases show.... But in the end, Corn's book fails because of a lack of consistent focus and because of a plethora of details to no apparent purpose."
Wisner, Frank - Click for Evan Thomas, The Very Best Men -- Four Who Dared (1995)
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