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Executive Secrets: Covert Action and the Presidency Paperback – June 2, 2006

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Executive Secrets: Covert Action and the Presidency + Dirty Tricks or Trump Cards: U.S. Covert Action and Counterintelligence + The Art of Intelligence: Lessons from a Life in the CIA's Clandestine Service
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: The University Press of Kentucky (June 2, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813191610
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813191614
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #241,245 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Named a 2005 Choice Outstanding Academic Title." --

"[Daugherty] gives a frank and refreshing evaluation of several Chief Executives, their Directors of Central Intelligence, and even some lover in the hierarchy. Anyone interested or involved in the development and execution of foreign policy must know the tools available, of which covert action may be least known and understood. This understanding is also pertinent to a wider audience: the press, the public, and many political appointees in the National Security system. This book should help." -- Air Power History

"A most informative study of covert action.... This well-researched, thoughtful book is a valuable work that will be treasured by scholars and professionals in the field. Highly recommended." -- Choice

"A hard-hitting, balanced and highly successful effort to deal with the issue of presidential responsibility for covert action." -- John Stempel, Patterson School of Diplomacy, University of Kentucky

"Daugherty has done us all a tremendous service by attempting to rescue the Agency from the myths, both well-meaning and malevolent, that shape our understanding of it.... This book ought to dispel some of the fog that obscures our understanding of the C.I.A. and that prompts the gigantic mood swings in our attitude toward intelligence gathering and covert actions." -- Mark Bowden, from the foreword

"There are some interesting and carefully drawn vignettes of covert operations here that demonstrate a skillful blending of declassified documents, investigative reports, and secondary sources. It is these case studies that make this one of those essential works for specialists in intelligence policy." -- Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"If you are a keen observer of the agency, this one will interest and instruct you." -- Rockland (ME) Courier-Gazette

"Offers a richly textured books that clears up some common misconceptions of the CIA, as well as an insider's perspective on how covert action really works, or fails." -- Savannah (GA) Morning News

"Readers of this timely and occasionally revelatory account may be surprised to learn that President Carter approved a covert action program to attack the internal legitimacy of the Soviet system, and that he repeatedly releid on covert action to achieve his foreign policy aims." -- Zbigniew Brzezinski

""[Daugherty] has done a great service for those wanting to seriously understand the realistic capabilities of the organization. This is not an easy task, for the CIA has been the subject of many books, movies, and certain mindsets in the population."-- Foreign Area Officer Journal" --

From the Publisher

Foreword by Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Simon Mall on February 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Titles like this may smack of conspiracy theory, but very rarely do authors choose their own titles. A marketing team's title should not be confused with the authors' intent. In this case, a slightly flashy title fits the content--intelligence work is often duller and at the same time more exciting than its glamorous reputation.

This point is made clear by the authors of this excellent book, developed by a fine writer and made infinitely credible by an author of unquestioned expertise. Secrets are revealed, of course, but nothing that couldn't be garnered from rigorous research. It is the meticulous attention to detail, delivered in an exciting, provocative tone, that separates this book from the miasma of contenders. The tone is sharp and compelling. The style is filled with facts and support but never burdened by them.

For fans of solid U.S. history and those who want to know the true nature of intelligence work in America, this book is highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D. Edger on May 24, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an excellent, factual, and comprehensive review of covert action (CA) through the presidency of Bill Clinton. While a bit dated, the facts and background explanations in this book have not been equaled by any other book to my knowledge. The author is highly knowledgeable about CA and writes with an insider's understanding, but without any insider distortion.

I hope the author is busy at work on an update, but this is still a book that should be read by any serious student of intelligence operations.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A. Rocheleau on September 3, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book had a lot of promise. Covert action? Very cool. The problem is, it's horribly written. There's an awful lot of sloppy mistakes and repetition. It's loaded with sentence fragments and poor grammer. (Or, "the sentences are fragments and bad, bad written with.") It doesn't interfere with the substance, and maybe I'm being too particular that I couldn't focus on the subject--but I couldn't. It was obnoxious, distracting, and I finally put the book down about three chapters from the end. I'm even a history major--I'll read anything.
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Richard Thieme on May 22, 2008
Format: Paperback
"Executive Secrets" reviews the history of covert action since WW2 and provides information the general reader might not have had (contrary to other reviews, there are no "secret" secrets in this book, since the author limits his examples to declassified data approved by the CIA, which eliminates much information in the public domain that the agency can not or will not acknowledge, One good recent example of the impact of this policy is the an attempt by former CIA officer Melissa Mahle to deliver a speech at the 2007 conference of the International Ethics and Intelligence Association on rendition, prevented when the agency "gutted" her talk by removing information in the public domain which it did not want to give an imprimatur of official acknowledgement).

The author is a former ranking official of the CIA and the context of this book is apologetic and defensive. It repetitively makes these points: (1) the CIA acts only when ordered to do so by the President, which orders since 1974 have been reviewed by relevant Senators and Representatives - except when it does not, e.g. Iran-Contra, in which cases it is wrong and (2) the ability to reflect honestly and deeply by an experienced intelligent career professional is compromised significantly by assimilation into the agendas of a complex organizational structure and the bureaucratic distinctions that become highly relevant inside, but not to the outside observer or citizen.

Because these two themes are the subtext of this book and the emotional energy of Daugherty's polemic, what is revealed is the impact of a lifelong career of assimilation to "insider" thinking and the blind spots and hubris that engenders.
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