COVERT ACTION

Generally

1990s

L - R

Lert, Frederic. Wings of the CIA. Paris: Histoire et Collections, 1998.

According to Hauver, CIRA Newsletter 23.2, "[c]overage begins with the B-26s of the Bay of Pigs and proceeds through the U-2, the SR-71 and drone aircraft. A unique portrait of Agency air ops from 1948." Leary, JMH 64.1, finds little of value to this work, calling it "poorly written..., episodic, disjointed, filled with invented conversations, and -- worst of all -- frequently inaccurate." The book has "no footnotes and only a sketchy bibliography"; it "should be treated with great suspicion."

Love, Terry. Wings of Air America. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 1998.

Hauver, CIRA Newsletter 23.2: "The largest of CIA's 'secret' airlines ... was also one of the world's most extraordinary companies. The book also covers CAT [Civil Air Transport] and SAT [Southern Air Transport]."

Morgan, Ted. A Covert Life: Jay Lovestone, Communist, Anti-Communist and Spymaster. New York: Random House, 1999.

According to Lehmann-Haupt, NYT, 25 Mar. 1999, this story of Lovestone's progress from 1920s and 1930s Communist to 1940s and onward anti-Communist makes for "an enlightening and lively book." Kupferberg, Parade Magazine, 2 May 1999, suggests that the author "may tell you more than you want to know about internecine labor warfare, but he does a masterful job of pulling together Jay Lovestone's worldwide conspiratorial activities and of spotlighting his innumerable companions, colleagues, adversaries, and even girlfriends."

Arch-CIA hater David Corn, Washington Post, 20 Jun. 1999, finds it impossible to get beyond that Lovestone actually worked with the CIA in his and its anti-Communist activities. Nevertheless, he concludes that "Morgan is reserved in his judgments of the man." For Sulc, IJI&C 13.4, it is clear that Lovestone "was the principal manager of many important clandestine assets during a crucial phase of the Cold War.... Through Ted Morgan's A Covert Life, his efforts are only now becoming widely recognized and appreciated."

Powers, NYRB (11 May 2000) and Intelligence Wars (2004), 103, says that "Morgan's is one of the most important and original books in many years about American politics, about the politics of communism in the middle decades of the century, and about the role of the CIA in the political struggles of the cold war. But Morgan's book does not simply get all that straight; it is also a delight to read, leavened by Lovestone's pungent character and the astonishing liveliness of some of his colleagues."

In a later review of Morgan's Reds (2003), Powers, NYRB (12 Feb. 2004) and Intelligence Wars (2004), 119, says that A Covert Life is "in my opinion the best book ever written about the ordeal of American communism."

Nutter, John Jacob. The CIA's Black Ops: Covert Action, Foreign Policy and Democracy. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1999. CIA's Black Ops: Covert Action and Foreign Policy, from the Cold War to the War on Terror. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2008. [pb]

According to Jonkers, AFIO WIN 2-00, 14 Jan. 2000, this book's basic perspective "is the notion that covert action is inimical to democracy, as indeed, in an ideal academic dream world, it unarguably is. This perspective inevitably leads to a focus on the 'numerous fiascoes' of covert action.... If one can accommodate to the author's perspective and consistent slant, the book can be interesting and educational in terms of the discussion beneath the message, addressing an intriguing topic that deserves to come under periodic critical scrutiny."

Weisler, I&NS 16.2, says that this "excellent resource ... contains an interesting and comprehensive overview of US covert actions during the Cold War." Although it "is not a rigorously researched historical work," it "is one of a very few books that examine covert action as a real policy option." Nevertheless, "readers should be cautious in accepting the validity of some of Nutter's assumptions, his evidence, and therefore many of his conclusions."

To Daugherty, IJI&C 17.1/fn. 22, the author, "while presenting a fairly wide range of legitimate issues about covert action, loses credibility for several reasons. First, he tends to draw broad, very general conclusions from single isolated events (which he may or may not have described accurately); second, he often does not provide any further sources of support or evidence for his conclusions; and finally, he simply repeats or elaborates on (without additional information) many ancient allegations of Agency behavior."

O'Brien, Kevin A. "Interfering with Civil Society: CIA and KGB Covert Political Action During the Cold War." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 8, no. 4 (Winter 1995): 431-456.

There are errors of fact and interpretation in this early article by the author. For example, the statement that "[m]edia outlets ... have been utilized ... by the CIA and, perhaps to a lesser extent, the KGB" grossly understates the role of the CPSU, of which the author acknowledges the KGB was the "sword," in relation to controlled media outlets around the world.

In another instance, O'Brien quotes Gregory Treverton for the view that "certain political parties (most often right-wing or centrist) were supported by the CIA." While the modifier "most often" provides an out, Treverton and the author are either choosing to ignore or are not knowledgeable about the instances where the CIA played a role in establishing more left-leaning opposition parties. This misdirectional approach is not rectified in the ensuing discussion of CIA activities in Europe after World War II. In addition, it would have been better for the author to have avoided reiterating Marchetti's now discredited claim that the Penkovsky Papers were a CIA fabrication.

Prados, John. The Presidents' Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations Since World War II. New York: Morrow, 1986. Presidents' Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations Since World War II Through Iranscam. New York: Morrow, 1988. [pb] Presidents' Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations from World War II Through the Persian Gulf War. Rev. ed. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1996.

Valcourt, IJI&C 1.3, says Prados has produced an "extremely well researched volume," but he "tarnishes his objectivity with the bias of some distorted criticism... which ... reduce[s] his work to a political tract under the guise of scholarship." Nevertheless, there is a "considerable amount of worthwhile information.... As a guide to the literature of the field, it is a gold mine." However, in his criticisms, he "fails to put the situation in perspective."

Although he finds the work somewhat numbing, Smith, I&NS 2.4, also believes The Presidents' Secret Wars "will be highly useful because Dr Prados has done serious archival work.... In one stroke this volume moves the study of covert operations to a higher and more sophisticated plane."

Reisman, W. Michael, and James E. Baker. Regulating Covert Action: Practices, Contexts, and Policies of Covert Coercion Abroad in International and American Law. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992.

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