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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The simple fact is that this book is outdated.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The entire structure of the CIA is outdated.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.
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VINE VOICEon March 31, 2001
Kessler's Inside the CIA has more to say about the organization of the Agency than actual spycraft. As such it is hardly an interesting read - in fact, I would venture so far to say that it is downright dull. Kessler laboriously explains the table of organization of the CIA - what the 5 directorates are and what they do (in the abstract) with very little by way of specifics. The few interviews Kessler conducted in his preparation for this book were with former Directors - very little from the "men in the field." Most of the information Kessler presents can easily be found elsewhere, in a much abbreviated form, and at less cost than the book. If you are interested in a book about what the function of the CIA is and how it is organized to carry out its mission, this is the book for you. If you are interested in something about spycraft or are searching for stories about individual CIA operations, look elsewhere. In spite of its catchy title, you will be disappointed.
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on September 8, 2001
If you have ever had personal contact with anyone from the Agency, you know that this is the book the CIA tends to recommend for those seeking to understand the real world of espionage. This is not intended to be a spy thriller by any means or a pastiche of anecdotal accounts from folks in the field. However, colorful, humorous, sometimes disappointing, and often intriguing stories are interspersed throughout the narrative which keep the reading interesting. "Inside the CIA" touches on the Agency's history and development but focuses on Cold War and modern challenges, the personalities behind the decisions, past obstacles, successes and failures. Under DCI William Webster, Kessler was granted significant cooperation and access, both from the upper echelons and from the staff at large. His account does not seek to make friends within the Agency nor does it reek of an anti-Agency agenda. This is a fairly level headed account and solid reference for anyone seeking to build a basic understanding of the intelligence community.
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on December 30, 2002
This is a fantastic book that carefully steers away from the over-zealous and tired conspiracy theory that one might expect to read in any book about the CIA. For those interested in American political process, this book simply tells you how the CIA is structured and how it works to carry out its legal mission. In an unbiased way, it also highlights some of the successes and failures of the CIA since its inception.
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on December 20, 2002
This book got off to a great start and was very intriguing, but the momentum fizzled towards the end. The last section about the director of the CIA is a boring summary of William Webster's accomplishments. One chapter lists a typical week of his schedule that literally reads like, "at 7am he did this and met with this person, at 8am he did that, at 9am he had to do this...blah blah blah." I think this book is average. I would recommend reading all the sections except the last about the DCI. It completely fails to "reveal the secrets of the world's most powerful spy agency." The other sections do have some small interesting parts, but this book is not as revealing as it claims to be.
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on November 22, 2003
This 1992 book by Kessler is quite similar to his more recent book on the FBI, but without the quantity or quality of interesting inside stories. Not surprisingly, despite having excellent access to the CIA, there are fewer details. Again, however, he comes across as remarkably fair-minded--quite critical of failings of the agency, and not afraid to point out flaws and foibles of its leadership--but also sympathetic, refuting some inaccurate charges that have been made. The book has a very amusing and horrible typo in the title of Chapter 24: it is given as "X-Rated Chowder" in the table of contents, at the beginning of the chapter, and at the top of every page in the chapter. In fact, it was supposed to be (as you learn when you read the chapter) "X-Rayed Chowder." A good introduction to the CIA, but it's now over a decade out-of-date.
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on March 14, 2001
What an atrocious book. Thoroughly disappointing after a bright start. I learnt nothing from this poorly written, poorly edited and annoyingly repetitive book. I am glad I only bought the paperback. The whole thing was extremely tiresome and it was quite obvious the author had very little actual material to work with. I would estimate there is about 10% of this book containing vaguely interesting information, the rest is pure filler. And, in 2001, it's thoroughly outdated. Don't waste your time...
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on August 24, 2001
If you're going to read just one book about the C.I.A., this is it. The book provideds ample, succinct, and interesting history, analysis, and a treasure trove of direct quotes from the people who work at the agency. This is the first truly independent author to get cooperation from the company (at least at first), and this is the one book I've foundwhich I can honestly say seems unbiased. He's unshirking in looking at the ugly side, but just as thorough in his coverage of the heroism and success stories. This is also A QUICK AND ENTERTAINING READ; you won't be able to put it down.
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on January 22, 2006
Ronald Kessler's INSIDE THE CIA is among one of the worst books I've ever read, and the worst detailing the Central Intelligence Agency.

The material presented by Kessler is hardly informative, and never thought-provoking. Rather, the book is a cluttered, rambunctious compilation of CIA facts merged with Kessler's own commentary which, at times, entirely invalidates his initial claims.

Kessler spends one chapter depicting a CIA director as having been detrimental to the agency at critical times, and justly explains why. However, at the end of the same chapter, he spontaneously introduces his own commentary which contradicts his previous portrayl of the director. For three pages, he actually has the audacity to violate his role as an author and instead become a self-propelled menace to his own writing. Commentary in such books should elaborate on the research presented, and address the author's authentic view; not a repetitive rambling on information.

Furthermore, INSIDE THE CIA is poorly written. Kessler provides facts in short burts of words, sometimes in the most illiterate fashion. At times, Kessler repeats the same facts and commentary, sometimes within the same paragraph on the same page. Therfor, the book becomes irritating to read.

While the book pretends to illustrate the internal workings of each directorate in the CIA, Kessler spends the shortest of chapters on the Directorate of Science Technology, and provides absolutely noththing. The extent to which he describes this directorate is common sense; such as the utilization of satellites; spy devices, etc. He never describes either of those in detail.

Kessler's book succeeds with one function: presenting facts or views on the CIA that are already well known, or just common sense... There are plenty of books on the CIA, and I suggest you buy one that's more informative by an author that knows how to write.
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on October 6, 2002
Ronald Kessler does an outstanding job informing and entertaining the reader. Moreover, "Inside the CIA" is both objective and comprehensive. Kessler uses his remarkable access to key actors in the CIA to lift the Agency's curtain of secrecy. He also dares to expose agency blemishes and is critical of organizational failures. I found his review of the Cold War outstanding and appreciated his detailed breakdown of how each Directorate functions within the Agency. However, the best part of this book is the many first hand accounts from former operatives.
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