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The Book of Honor : The Secret Lives and Deaths of CIA Operatives Paperback – May 1, 2001

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Editorial Reviews Review

Inscribed on a wall at Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia, is a quote from the Bible: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). On the other side of the lobby, five rows of stars are etched into the white marble wall, each representing a CIA officer killed in the line of duty. Below the stars is a case containing the "Book of Honor"--"a tome as sacred to the Agency as if it held a splinter of the true cross," writes Ted Gup--and in it are the names of the men and women who gave their lives serving the CIA. Well, not all the names; about half the entries are blank because the CIA says it doesn't want to compromise ongoing operations. Yet, as Gup argues in his own tome, also called The Book of Honor, the truth behind many of the stories that aren't being told threatens nothing--except perhaps the agency's own sense of shame over botched operations.

Gup, a well-known investigative reporter with experience at The Washington Post and Time, interviewed hundreds of current and former CIA case officers to tell the stories behind the stars. "In the aggregate, the stories of the stars form a kind of constellation that, once connected, reveal not only the CIA's history but something of its soul as well," he writes. Yet this is, thankfully, not an indiscrete book. He writes of "a young woman who died a violent and selfless death in 1996 ... her name is withheld from this book. The Agency made a compelling case that to identify her would put others at risk." The bulk of The Book of Honor does, in fact, name names and describe how they died. In this sense, it is similar to the runaway bestseller Blind Man's Bluff, which described the secret history of American submarine espionage during the cold war. Yet what's most striking about Gup's accounts is how many of the deaths were routine or accidental. Many agents merely had the misfortune of being on planes that crashed--hardly the stuff of a James Bond adventure. Throughout, Gup is sensitive to a situation in which, "between the values of an open society and the demands of a craft rooted in deception and betrayal, the CIA is asked to steer an uneasy, often irreconcilable course." This fascinating book strikes a clean blow for the open society--but it serves a larger purpose as well: telling the truth. --John J. Miller --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

A former investigative journalist with the Washington Post and Time and winner of a George Polk Award, Gup breaks a longstanding taboo in an expos that reveals the namesDand personal storiesDof some three dozen CIA agents who died in the line of duty and whose identities have been kept secretDsometimes for decades. Gup interviewed more than 400 current and former CIA agents, as well as surviving family members, to pry loose their stories. Among the spies unmasked in these kinetic biographical profiles are Douglas Mackiernan, U.S. vice-consul in China's westernmost Xinjiang province, who fled Mao's revolution only to be shot to death by Tibetan border guards; Pete Ray, an Alabama National Guard pilot killed in the Bay of Pigs invasion; Matthew Gannon, victim of the Pan Am Flight 103 crash over Scotland, a bombing linked to Libyan terrorists; and Hugh Redmond, who refused to crack during 19 torturous years in a Shanghai prison. Gup unveils covert missions from Laos to France, from Angola to Cyprus, providing extraordinary insight into the CIA's day-to-day operations. He also empathetically delves into the ordeals of these fallen spies' grieving families, many of whom were lied to for years as the agency refused to acknowledge the men's CIA ties. Told against the backdrop of Cold War and superpower struggles, Gup's sleuthing is a remarkable coup, full of high-level intrigue, cover-ups and drama. He leaves it to readers to decide whether his subjects are heroes or knaves, and whether the CIA is a rogue agency that should be reined in or an essential survival tool in a treacherous world. (May) FYI: Gup's 1992 expos in the Washington Post of a top-secret government installation buried beneath a West Virginia resort, where Congress would seek shelter in the event of impending nuclear war, led to that underground complex being shut down.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 396 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; 1st Anchor Books ed edition (May 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385495412
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385495417
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #274,083 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ted Gup is the author of the bestseller The Book of Honor, winner of the Investigative Reporters and Editors Book-of- the-Year Award, and Nation of Secrets, winner of the Shorenstein Book Prize. He is a professor at and the chair of the Journalism Department at Emerson College. A former investigative reporter for The Washington Post and Time magazine, he has taught at Case Western Reserve University, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing as a Fulbright Scholar. He has written for publications and media outlets such as Smithsonian, National Geographic, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Village Voice, Sports Illustrated, Slate, GQ, Mother Jones, Audubon, the Columbia Journalism Review, NPR, and Newsweek.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

107 of 113 people found the following review helpful By JON MERRIMAN on May 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Ted Gups' efforts to pierce the secrecy of the Central Inteligence Agency has revealed the human side of covert operations . My father , John Merriman ,was assigned to the Congo in the summer of 1964 , to provide logistical assistance to an "Instant Air Force " comprised of T-28 , counter- insurgency aircraft and the Cuban exile pilots that crewed them . It is a difficult task to investigate the result of years of secrecy and denial , but Ted Gup has reaffirmed the courage and patriotism of not just the men and women whose names are inscribed in the Book of Honor , but also their families who had to sometimes live with a lie . His work has produced a written legacy to all the othewise nameless menbers of the CIA who made the ultimate sacrifice in unknown circumstances. My fathers story and those of all the others , can come out of the shadow of secrecy and into the light of American history .
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51 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Steve, Amazon Customer on June 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
An interesting and timely book. "The Book of Honor" sheds light on the extreme sacrifices made by a unique breed of Americans who were involved in the clandestine services and risked all for their country's security. It's appropriate to note and honor those brave men and women--including those who are still "out there"--engaged in our Nation's intelligence business. It is understandable, of course, that in some instances there are valid reasons why certain identities cannot be revealed, when this revelation may implicate others who might still be in the service and may endanger both them and/or their work. In reading about those in the book who have paid the highest price, I hope that others will become aware that there have been--and still are--thousands of men and women doing this dangerous work, all over the world, often under hazardous conditions and in places in which they undergo risks and hardships that would make most Americans cringe. They do it, not only out of a sense of adventure, but out of patriotism and a dedication that is not unlike that of young Americans who have gone to war throughout our country's history. These individuals are highly trained and educated; most could earn much higher salaries in the private sector, but they choose service instead, taking an oath of allegiance to our country and its Constitution. While the author is unable to name all of the fallen heroes that the stars represent, it is hoped that one day it will be possible that they all may be recognized and appropriately honored. For them, it was enough that they be known to their family, colleagues and friends. In the meantime, I hope this book will go a long way towards awakening the reader to the stories of these courageous Americans. The book is a service to their surviving families, who can be proud.
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70 of 74 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Even though I'm a compulsive reader of books about espionage and intelligence issues, I wasn't sure I was going to like "The Book of Honor." Some of the life stories it tells happened so long ago that at first blush they don't seem relevant to the present day.
Yet I found the book very hard to put down and the story of the first man who died in CIA service (1949) to be one of the most poignant. I won't spoil the tale here but will simply say oh, to have come so far after suffering so much and then to die like that!
James Bond addicts are not going to find much here to their liking. The deaths Gup chronicles are either very ordinary --a car accident, a plane crash-- or provide dramatic proof that even intelligence officers are not immune to a bullet or bomb. But the character sketches of the often heroic men and women who died these sad deaths are quite compelling.
And even though I accept that some of the recent entries in the Book of Honor have to remain annonymous (at least for the time being), it is very difficult to understand why a 21 year old secretary who died in a car bombing 35 years ago in Saigon cannot be acknowledged as one of the Agency's own. I think refusing to do so is cruel to her survivors.
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Mcleod on May 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Having just completed F.M. Bailey's classic Mission to Tashkent (out-of-print), this book was a wonderful continuation of the lives and trials that are the pricetag of intelligence gathering. Mr. Gup's book is well written and seemingly very well researched.
Forget James Bond, Derek Flynt and Jack Ryan. Reality, as usual, is far more compelling than anything Hollywood can offer.
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62 of 69 people found the following review helpful By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on June 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The actual quote "and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free", is chiseled in stone and stands across from an artificial star constellation representing those who died in service to this Country. The perfectly aligned stars are as unlike the sky's night-lights as the words regarding truth apply to the Agency on whose walls they are inscribed. Unlike real stars 38 of 71 of these are unnamed, they rise above a book that documents in writing the names of only 33 who have fallen.
This book is worthy of high praise, for the Author who brings us the story, the Families that told of their experience in spite of warnings not to, and the men and women who were the initial victims in these events. I use the qualifier as long after they had died serving this Country their Family and Friends often continued to suffer for decades.
I don't believe that secrecy in protection of our well-being and our goals as a Country are by definition wrong nor are they in dispute in this book. What is at issue is what happens when a select group become the arbiters of what they believe is in the best interest of all, what they would like the truth to be. What is so sad and so angering is that these stories were not about the shading of the truth on some sort of grayscale rather the difference between the truth and lies, misinformation, what have you, that were at times were so absurd that only those who propagated them thought they would be believed.
This book is a history lesson told by sharing the stories of men and women of the CIA and the Families they were apart of as Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, Sons, etc.
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