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Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA Paperback – May 20, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
This book is a case in point. Although ostensibly about CIA as an institution, the book really focuses on DO and its alleged failures. This fascination with the DO by journalists, Presidents, and CIA Directors has allowed the analytic arm of CIA to atrophy from almost the very first. Yet the many failures and embarrassments that Weiner has chosen to chronicle in this book are as much the fault of DI as DO.
Now this book is essentially a massive and well written critique of CIA and especially the DO. For the most part it is pretty accurate, but as CIA has pointed out in a rather pitiful rebuttal of the book, it is not entirely fair and balanced. For example, in 1998 India exploded a nuclear weapon to the utter surprise and amazement of the entire U.S. Intelligence Community (IC).Read more ›
The two - sides of Intelligence work, the gathering of information, and the undertaking of covert operations are generously surveyed in this work. Weiner a long- time reporter for the NY Times devoted twenty- years to this book, and in the course of it read through fifty- thousand declassified CIA Intelligence documents. He also interviewed ten former directors of the CIA.
He points out errors made all along the way. Frank Wisner at the beginning ignored 'intelligence gathering' and sent during the Korean War thousands of hired agents to suicidal behind- the- enemy- lines operations. In the Bay of Pigs fiasco and in numerous other operations the CIA instead of providing hard, truthful contradictory analysis essentially worked to politically support a prior decision of the Executive branch. Speaking 'truth to power' has not been its essential strong point.Read more ›
A constant theme throughout the book is the clashes of strong egos, of individual ambition taking precedence over national interest. This is a problem throughout the bureaucracy. The natural brakes on bureaucracy are the Congressional checkbook, oversight and rivalries from above and elsewhere in the bureaucracy, and public opinion informed by a diligent press. Bureaucrats everywhere try to hide their failings. When the mission itself is clandestine, they can be unusually successful in doing so.
The CIA is split into a Directorate of Operations and a Directorate of Intelligence, responsible for covert actions and espionage respectively. The DO received most of the funding through the early history of the CIA, and because of its activist charter got the agency into its gravest difficulties. Under its first long-term director, Allen Dulles, it developed a passion for regime change. Installing the Shah in Iran was the most sparkling success. Along with regime change, it was fascinated with political assassination.
Presidents were fascinated by the opportunities which a clandestine service presented for carrying out activities outside the law, or at least at its limits. They often directed the CIA to do things that its management would rather not have done, and they often asked for intelligence that was impossible to acquire given the CIA's resources. The tension resulted in a lot of lies being told. Presidents and Congress were told what they wanted to hear rather than the truth.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Time Weiner's Legacy of Ashes is a blistering critique of the Central Intelligence Agency. The book traces the history of the agency from its early post world war II beginnings up... Read morePublished 13 hours ago by JPM
This book is a very revealing look at this nation's spy agency. Well worth a read !Published 3 days ago by Bee Reader
A well researched and good overview of the good, bad, and ugly reality of the spy game.Published 9 days ago by Randy C. Patterson
The best non-fiction I have read since A Bright Shining Lie. I tried underlining the most important and interesting sentences and ended up underlining most of the book. Read morePublished 28 days ago by jln
History repeats itself. Insightful and adds in depth knowledge on a very obscure part of American history, FOIA additions are amazing and makes it that much more legitimate. Read morePublished 1 month ago by adam jackson