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Burn Before Reading: Presidents, CIA Directors, and Secret Intelligence Paperback – October 11, 2006
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Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
In this book he reviews the relationship between the agency and the president that they served. Sometimes the relationship has been cordial, sometimes you would use other words. Over the years there have been successes and failures, with the failures getting a lot more press.
While the main part of the book is a discussion of the relationship between each of the presidents since Truman and the agency, perhaps the most interesting part of the book is recommendations for strengthening the agency so that it provides more useful assistance to the Government.
His basic proposal is for more of the same. More authority for the director, more budget (of course) more control of the other agencies. There is also a suggestion to tie togeather the fifteen or so agencies that currently collect information. Needless to say, the other agencies have different opinions.
From an outsider point of view, the CIA has become very oriented to collecting intelligence from 'National Technical Means' that is satellites. This worked pretty well when the target was the Soviet Union. It has not worked so well against al Queda or Iraq. Changing the target, the procedures, the languages and perhaps some major changes in philosophy may be needed.
It could be very useful to the public under one condition or rather one hope: that the public react to this book as I did, to wit, the author may not have intended this, but his superb tour of the relations between Presidents and Directors of Central (or in today's terms, National) Intelligence has persuaded me that our national intelligence community must be removed from the Executive Branch. We need a new hybrid national intelligence community in which the Director is simultaneously responsive to the President, to Governors, to Congress, and to the public. It's budget must be set as a fraction of the total disposable budget of the federal government, on the order of 1%. This agency must be completely impervious to Executive or Congressional abuse, and must act as a national objective source of truth upon which to discuss policy and acqusition and liaison options. A national board of overseers could be comprised of former Presidents, former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and former Leaders of the House and Senate, as well as selected representatives of the public. Intelligence is now too important to be subject to the whims of politics.Read more ›
I would not recommend this book to anyone (not even a newbie to national security studies); instead as a replacement "Getting to Know the President: CIA Briefings of Presidential Candidates 1952-1992" by John L. Helgerson (one of Turner's key sources by happenstance). But I also suggest reading "Keepers of the Keys" by John Prados, which concerns itself with the history of the National Security Council.
(1) Should the CIA serve an analytical or operations function? Analytical functions of the CIA include analyzing economies, politics, geography, and current events and trying to predict the future. Then there's the "operations" side that includes covert operations (James Bond type stuff). What balance should be struck between these functions?
(2) Then there's the question of whether the CIA should present "just the facts," in as objective a manner as possible, OR whether they should form opinions based on those facts. On the one hand, we need an objective organization, because other people offering intelligence are military-based, and have their own agendas which muddy the waters. On the other hand, it seems silly for people with good intelligence skills to come up with all the data...and then avoid drawing any conclusions...particularly because many Presidents don't have time, or aren't smart enough to draw intelligent conclusions of their own.
(3) Then there's questions of whether the CIA should be allowed to think about domestic military matters. This is typically the purview of military departments who (naturally) understand those matters best.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Good history of the CIA from a Admiral Stansfield who headed the agency in the late 70's. Great insight that a normal CIA agent just could not provide. Read morePublished on May 29, 2013 by Kyle Wheeler
Burn Before Reading: Presidents, CIA Directors, and Secret Intelligence
I have always liked Turner as he was a brilliant as Director of the CIA, although I do not agree... Read more
Admiral Stansfield Turner, Director of the CIA 1977-81, has written a very valuable book that cannot be labeled a history but more of a survey of the Agency he once led. Read morePublished on November 9, 2009 by Paul F. Brooks
Written by Jimmy Carter's CIA director, this book chronicles the history of the CIA through a unique perspective: the relationship between the president and the head of the CIA. Read morePublished on December 28, 2008 by Bradley Nelson
Admiral Stansfield Turner's 2005 tome is entitled `Burn Before Reading,' a tongue-in-cheek expose about the often tempestuous relationship between a DCI and his boss, the... Read morePublished on November 10, 2006 by Terry Heath
A great book describing Presidential relationships with their respective DCIs and the Intelligence Community. Read morePublished on February 27, 2006 by TheBookOfHonor
"Burn Before Reading" is comprised of twelve chapters, each covering relations between CIA directors (or equivalent) and their associated Presidents. Read morePublished on December 28, 2005 by Loyd Eskildson