Top critical review
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Good history, fair analysis, outdated
on October 19, 2006
The simple fact is that this book is outdated. Published in 1992, it is obvious that the absolute last world event dealt with in the author's research was the Gulf War of 1991. Even though it says it's been updated in 1994, there is definitely no mention of the Clinton years or the 1993 WTC bombing. In fact, in an ominous line, the authors writes to the effect that there has never been a major intel failure since the 80s (regardless of what side you believe, 9/11 would certainly get a full chapter under this category). It's time to update this book, or it will be totally obsolete very soon.
The entire structure of the CIA is outdated. The book was written in the days when there was a DCI, and the major directorates were Ops, Science & Technology, Intelligence and Admin. Now, there is a DNI/DDNI team as head of national intel, under whom is the DCIA (not DCI anymore). The directorates are different as well: Ops is now called the National Clandestine Service; S&T is the same, Intelligence is called Analysis, and Admin is called Support. Not to mention that the whole thing about visitors to Langley is laughably archaic in post-9/11 America.
Though some reviewers mention that Kessler doesn't "reveal any secrets," I found the book quite full of inside info. There are tons of examples of insider issues, operations that went well or badly, and myth debunks. What did you expect, that even if there is a captured UFO, the book would tell you? I didn't see TOPSECRET//NOFORN//SCI anywhere on the cover.
As a history, the book is wonderful. Unfortunately, it's the closest thing to a current tell-all of the Agency, which is sad. Even the Agency itself lists it at the top of their recommended reading for applicants. Untimately, how much can one read about the Soviets and their terrible, horrible threat and still take it seriously in the age of terrorism? In a history of the CIA, fine. But in a book that is supposed to (by the Agency's own admission!) let the average civilian in on the unclassified story of the CIA, Kessler has got to update this book.