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BLOND GHOST Hardcover – October 13, 1994


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Based on documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and more than 100 interviews with former CIA officers, this is an informative biography of a "company man" who ran secret wars against Cuba and Laos in the 1960s, managed intelligence operations in Vietnam and rose to the rank of associate deputy director of operations at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. Primarily a desk officer ("a spy in a grey flannel suit"), Ted Shackley contributed significantly to the de-emphasis within the agency on classic intelligence gathering in favor of covert operations. (During the Vietnam War, the CIA was often accused of running a separate war against the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese.) Portrayed in these pages as a colorless, coldly efficient workaholic, Shackley had such a low profile that Corn has trouble presenting him other than two-dimensionally. "People who hold the secrets," he argues somewhat defensively, "do not necessarily have to be deep or interesting." The book does, however, provide a glimpse into the inner workings of the secretive agency, throughout the 1960s and '70s. Corn is Washington editor of the Nation. Photos.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

To recount some of the main events of the Cold War, this book uses a biographical format, telling the life story of dedicated CIA employee Ted Shackley. The topics covered include the attempts to kill or overthrow Castro, the secret war in Southeast Asia, bureaucratic politics at home, and Shackley's involvement with gunrunner Ed Wilson. The author emphasizes that Shackley was very much a tactical management/detail man, at home in either espionage or covert operations. Corn, the Washington editor for The Nation, claims to have interviewed over 250 people in preparing this book (although Shackley only gave him a few hours). He supports the theory that the CIA ignored reports contrary to what they wanted to believe and that it hurt itself and the country by supporting so many covert operations that publicly failed. Still, it is important to remember the emotional and strategic context of the Cold War when trying to understand Shackley's actions, and the operational details alone make this an interesting book. Photos not seen; the inclusion of some maps would have aided readers. Recommended for informed readers and specialists.
Daniel K. Blewett, Loyola Univ. Lib., Ill.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First edition (October 13, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671695258
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671695255
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #160,952 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Although Ted Shackley was a line case officer, this book is placed within the paramilitary section because his entire career encompassed a series of wars where the CIA played a very tragic and unproductive role. As Shackley's deputy in Laos is quoted on page 163, speaking on Shakley's accomplishments in Laos, "We spent a lot of money and got a lot of people killed," Lair remembered, "and we didn't get much for it." For those seeking to understand the bureaucratization of the Directorate of Operations, both in the field and in Washington, this is essential reading.
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This book is more than a biography of "secret warrior" Theodore Shackley, and it really serves as a decent primer to what America, mostly the Central Intelligence Agency, did in Vietnam and Laos during the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War (which was really a war in Southeast Asia as it grew to encompass conflict in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and North and South Vietnam).
David Corn is an accomplished author and journalist, and his basic recounting of facts and history is interesting.
However, there is a creeping bias about Shackley and the people that ran the secret wars. In brief, Corn points a judging finger at Shackley's role in both setting up various covert programs in Laos and, later, what became the Iran-Contra affair.
The book covers Shackley's entire CIA career, including Shackley's ups and downs from the 1950s through the late 1980s, and, in many ways, that first three decades of the CIA sort of mirrors Shackley's major and minor victories and defeats. So, it is more than just a book on Ted Shackley the spy. The reader is taken from the "cowboy" days of operations in post war Berlin up through the excesses of building a "secret city" in Laos and the bizzare arms for hostage deals of the Iran-Contra affair.
I would suggest a reader have some background - read "Wilderness of Mirrors" about the early founding of the CIA, or any number of soldier memoirs on the Southeast Asia conflict of the 1960s and 1970s - before reading Shackley's book just to know some of the back story. Christopher Robbins books "Air America" and "The Ravens" are excellent works that keep the moral judgements to a minimum.
The reason I cannot give this book a five-star rating is that Corn slips in a lot of judgemental graphs about Shackley and his CIA cohorts.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Chris Gregory on February 22, 2015
Format: Hardcover
Although this book has some relevant research about the CIA, it is tainted by the very words of its author. Corn has proven time and again that he is bias and untrustworthy. Corn issues one hit piece after another, ultra-liberal tripe that he continues to defend even when called out and proven wrong.

Through his previous defenses of the indefensible actions of the Obama administration, Corn has lost all credibility as an objective reporter or author.

Corn's most recent attempt to besmirch O'Reilly is further proof that he isn't interested in uncovering the truth. He's all about distortion of the truth!
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