CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY

Overviews

2000s

A - J

 

Bearden, Milt, and James Risen. The Main Enemy: The Inside Story of the CIA's Final Showdown with the KGB. New York: Random House, 2003.

Clark comment: The authorship of this work rests with a 30-year CIA veteran whose assignments including running CIA operations in Afghanistan in the 1980s and Soviet operations in the 1990s (Bearden) and a New York Times reporter who covers intelligence matters (Risen).

Finding this "a most interesting and very readable account of the conflict waged between the intelligence agencies of the two powers," Friedman, CIRA Newsletter 28.3, concludes that the story "is guaranteed to hold the reader's attention." Similarly, Peake, Studies 48.4 (2004), states flatly that "[t]his is a splendid book by any measure."

Prados, Washington Post, 27 Aug. 2003, notes that Bearden's book "vividly demonstrates" that "his Cold War résumé covers the full gamut of clandestine operations.... Bearden provides a lively picture of how the officers at CIA headquarters reacted to the world of Soviet intelligence." One of the book's weaknesses that it "is preoccupied with its story and short on analysis or introspection.... In addition, Bearden is completely silent on some matters.... Yet these are small gaps in an arresting, large-canvas history." This "is a first-rate account from the front lines of the Cold War."

For Stein, NYTBR, 27 Jul. 2003, "[i]f there's a more revealing account of spies at work, it's classified." However, "[t]he revelations of 'The Main Enemy' are more in the details than the substance.... But the book unveils in astonishing detail a number of C.I.A. operations unreported or only rumored until now." Drew, New York Times, 4 May 2003, focuses on the book's assertion that "four of more than a dozen Russians caught spying for the West in the mid-1980's could not have been betrayed" by Ames, Hanssen, and Howard. This leads to a conclusion that there is "an as yet unidentified traitor" within the U.S. Intelligence Community.

Clark, J. Ransom. "CIA and Espionage." In Americans at War: Society, Culture, and the Homefront. Volume 4: 1946-Present, ed. John P. Resch, 26-28. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2005.

Diamond, John. The CIA and the Culture of Failure: U.S. Intelligence from the End of the Cold War to the Invasion of Iraq. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008.

Aftergood, Secrecy News, 1 Oct. 2008, finds that the author "writes without identifiable animus towards the CIA, and gives due weight to the agency's defenders and the critics of its critics. Even on well-rehearsed topics such as the CIA's failure to anticipate the collapse of the Soviet Union, he adds significant nuance and avoids cliche."

For George, Studies 53.1 (Mar. 2009), the title of this work "is off-putting and misleading," but the author is pointing to "a steady decline in CIA's status and performance." The focus is on analysis, and Diamond "says very little ... about collection and covert operaions.... [L]ike many books of the 'failure' genre, this one suffers from hindsight bias." Nonetheless, "the book makes an important contribution by highlighting the inherently inseparable nature of policy and the intelligence work behind it."

Jervis, I&NS 25.2 (Apr. 2010), notes that the author's concept of failure "refers to an atmosphere of declining confidence in the abilities of US intelligence to do its job." Despite Diamond's occasional conflating of the CIA and the wider intelligence community and being "surprisingly wordy" in his presentation, the work "is still a major achievement." It covers "a great deal of ground with care and thoroughness and develop[s] an important argument that ... differs from more conventional accounts."

Goodman, Melvin A. Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008.

Luria, Intelligencer 16.1 (Spring 2008), comments that "it is clear that most of [the author's] experience has been on the analytical and not operational side." While Goodman "very accurately captures the political winds that buffet America's intelligence output," he "has covered only a part of the territory."

For Peake, Studies 52.4 (Dec. 2008) and Intelligencer 17.1 (Winter-Spring 2009), the author's "litany of so-called failures ... is not new" and most of his suggestions for change "are familiar." However, "[i]f the reader is not fooled by outrageous, undocumentable charges ... and is willing to make the effort," this work is "a good summary of the problems facing the CIA and the Intelligence Community today, though that may have been an unintended consequence."

Gup, Ted. The Book of Honor: Covert Lives and Classified Deaths at the CIA. New York: Doubleday, 2000. The Book of Honor: The Secret Lives and Deaths of CIA Operatives. With a new Afterword by the author. New York: Anchor, 2001. [pb]

The Publisher's Weekly, 15 May 2000, reviewer notes that the author has revealed "the names -- and personal stories -- of some three dozen CIA agents [sic] who died in the line of duty and whose identities have been kept secret." Gup's efforts to uncover many of the Cold War's covert activities provides "extraordinary insight into the CIA's day-to-day operations."

According to Loeb, Washington Post, 14 May 2000, there are 77 stars on the Wall of Honor in the CIA's main headquarters building. Of these, "only 40 ... names are listed in the CIA's Book of Honor." Publication of Gup's book "bring[s] the total number identified, officially or unofficially, to 65."

In an op-ed piece in the Washington Times, 16 May 2000, Loch Johnson says there are 71 stars, 33 named and 38 unnamed. Gup's work is a "compassionate and well-written portrait of some of the men and women behind the stars." Johnson argues that "[n]ow the CIA should make public the rest of the facts and allow us to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of all these heroes."

Halpern, IJI&C 14.1, credits Gup with having done "extensive research"; but adds that "he has also made numerous errors," perhaps because "he seems to have done little checking of facts." Nonetheless, this "collection of separate accounts about unrelated CIA efforts" makes "a splendid human interest story of anonymous valor in the service of the United States."

For Wales, I&NS 17.1, the author's effort "to create an artificial distinction between the stories of the individual officers ... and the Agency they dedicated their lives to" results in portraying them "as victims of the CIA, rather than people who willingly lived according to the clandestine ethos Gup finds so abhorrant." Nonetheless, "his capsule biographies of the fallen officers are at once respectful, intimate and deeply affecting."

A review of this book by David Corn, Washington Post, 21 May 2000, was so unenlightening that I initially chose to ignore it. However, John Macartney ("Stuff May 23 [2000]") has characterized the review so succinctly that I cannot resist quoting him: "The main message of this review is to demonstrate that Corn didn't understand the author's thesis nor does he have a clue about how the US government works."

Troy, Studies, Winter-Spring 2001, found The Book of Honor "always interesting, sometimes provocative, and even awe-inspiring." In his criticisms of the CIA, the author "basically rehashes a lot of old, well-known stories and adds nothing new." The effort "to provide at least implicit criticism of CIA as an agency detracts" from this book.

Haruna Mikio. Himitsu no fairu: CIA no tainichi kosaku [Secret Files: The CIA's Operations against Japan] 2 vols. Tokyo: Shincho Bunko, 2003.

Mercado, IJI&C 18.1 (Spring 2005), calls this "an impressive history" of U.S. intelligence. The author "begins on the eve of Pearl Harbor" and continues through World War II and the U.S. occupation before turning to the Cold War era. In high praise, the reviewer comments: "As impressive as Haruna's thoroughness is his rational view of intelligence."

Jeffreys-Jones, Rhodri. The CIA and American Democracy. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989. 2d ed., rev. 1998. [pb] 3d ed., 2003.

Clark comment: This work covers the first 40 years of the CIA's history, ending with the Tower Commission and Inouye Committee reports on Iran-Contra. The second revised edition has a brief update that brings the overall material to 1997. The author's inability to understand the noncommunist left and, especially, liberal anticommunism is a serious weakness in his history of the years covered here.

According to Surveillant 1.5, the author "finds that the Agency has been manipulated by the White House, the Congress, and even the public. This politicization has damaged the CIA's standing, and as a result, its effectiveness in terms of intelligence collection and analysis as well as operations. The CIA has also become something of a scapegoat, being doubted, even when proven correct. A concise history for all audiences."

The reviewer in JAH 77.1 comments that this book "is a highly successful synthesis of what has been discovered about the CIA's activities.... Jeffreys-Jones' central contribution is ... to our knowledge of what other public officials thought and did about the results of the CIA's actions.... The treatment of the Truman administration's tentative attitude toward the CIA is the best in print.... The story of the mid-1970s investigations of CIA activities by [congressional] committees ... receives less detailed consideration than it deserves."

Rosati, APSR 84.4, sees this as "one of the most comprehensive and valuable treatments of the history of the CIA and its place within U.S. democracy." The book goes beyond description and "provides a very balanced and analytical account of the evolution of the CIA." Jeffreys-Jones "makes it clear that the CIA is a large and complex bureaucratic organization with multiple intelligence functions that have become increasingly professionalized over time."

For West, PSQ 106.2, Jeffreys-Jones "spends too much time on covert action and not enough time on the other elements of intelligence.... This is an enjoyable volume that will inform the general or novice reader but does not offer any fundamental insights about the Central Intelligence Agency or its operations." Smith, Presidential Studies Quarterly 21.1, notes that while Jeffreys-Jones ends his work with a call for reform, he "neglects to present any effective, long-term alternatives."

To Johnson, I&NS 5.3, this book "offers little new information," but "is well-written, balanced in its appraisals, and offers a provocative theme." He adds, however, that Jeffreys-Jones "seems to place excessive emphasis" on the relationship between the CIA's image and its effectiveness. Certainly, "standing can be important ... but it is just one of several variables that shape the opportunities ... for having influence in high circles."

Commenting on the second edition, Shryock, IJI&C 13.3, finds this "a fairly straightforward and prodigiously researched" work. It is, however, "by no means definitive, and in a number of respects is more than mildly disappointing." Because the author "relies too heavily on secondary sources and on his own ... political instincts and prejudices, he wanders off track from time to time, arriving at dubious, sometimes even strange, judgments." In addition, there is a "surprising neglect of one whole area of Agency activity, the acquisition of information"; that is, "he tends to play down the significance of espionage, advanced technical means of collection, and the exploitation of open sources."

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