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A Look Over My Shoulder: A Life in the Central Intelligence Agency Paperback – August 31, 2004
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Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Below are a few of the gems that I find worth noting, and for which I recommend the book as a unique record:
1) Puts forward elegant argument for permissive & necessary secrecy in the best interests of the public
2) Defends the CIA culture as highly disciplined--he is persuasive in stating that only Presidents can order covert actions, and that CIA does only the President's direct bidding.
3) Makes it clear in passing, not intentionally, that his experience as both a journalist and businessman were essential to his ultimate success as a spymaster and manager of complex intelligence endeavors--this suggests that one reason there is "no bench" at CIA today is because all the senior managers have been raised as cattle destined to be veal: as young entry on duty people, brought up within the bureaucracy, not knowing how to scrounge sources or meet payroll...
4) Compellingly discusses the fact that intelligence without counterintelligence is almost irrelevant if not counterproductive, but then glosses over some of the most glaring counterintelligence failures in the history of the CIA--interestingly, he defends James Angleton and places the blame for mistreating Nosenko squarterly on the Soviet Division leadership in the Directorate of Operations.
5) Points out that it was Human Intelligence (HUMINT), not Imagery Intelligence (IMINT), that first found the Soviet missiles in Cuba.Read more ›
The Preface reports that February 2, 1973, was the day James Schlesinger was sworn in as head of CIA and Richard Helms lost the position which was his main claim to fame. Richard Nixon had something to do with it, and Chapter 1, `A Smoking Gun' reports enough about the Watergate break-in to give the CIA perspective from the top, and ends with "Five months later, and a few days after his reelection, President Nixon called me to Camp David. It was the last time we spoke while he was in office." (p. 13).Read more ›
I like how he didn't shy away from explaining U2 flights as much as he could, addressing Cuba/Castro interactions, Vietnam, and JFK assassination. One of the reasons I find that Helms is believable is that he admits that Vietnam history was unknown or ignored by everybody, Vietnam was not like Korea-they had been fighting for independence for 2000 years. Hindsight told him that Vietnam would NEVER had surrendered. I do find his support for J. Edgar Hoover disturbing, even maintaining that Hoover wasn't homosexual (homosexuality was Hoover's least important flaw). In Helms' defense, he probably didn't have to deal with Hoover much since CIA is responsible for everything outside of FBI's jurisdiction.
I believe his main purpose in writing this book is to absolutely stress how the CIA is a tool of the administration; President and at least some in Congress are aware and dictate everything that CIA attempts to do. There has been too much discussion on how the CIA does everything secretly on their own without any rules - he's trying to set the record straight in that the Agency has always followed the orders of the current administration.
I think that he is convincing with his details, some failures and some successes during his tenure.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Terrrible book. Not only poorly written but I can't understand why someone in his position would write about such uninteresting trivia. Read morePublished 3 months ago by No G.
I enjoyed this read from a man who admitted he never thought he'd write a memoir. Helms was a gentleman spy, a man who never violated the code, even getting himself charged with... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Harry Pandolfino
I was looking for more from the later years like LBJ and the Kennedy era ,did not give much of an insight into Watergate and I didn't believe his view . Read morePublished 12 months ago by Mrs. J. Norman
Insightful and well-written; however, the truth that he saw may not be the truth that others saw.Published 14 months ago by Richard Burke
Former Director Richard Helms gets down to business and admiringly stays there in his memoir, “A Look Over My Shoulder: A Life in the Central Intelligence Agency. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Yaakov (James) Mosher
The book is splendidly written -- very accessible, very good flow. Well-crafted all-around. It's a highly interesting account of not only an interesting career but it's a good... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Mandingo