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"National-security journalist Weiner supports an American clandestine espionage service but flays the one that has been in business for the past 60 years. His history of the CIA draws extensively from primary documentation, yielding lively episodes of agents and operations and the reactions to their results by CIA directors and presidents. The title quotes President Dwight Eisenhower's negative opinion of the intelligence organization, a recurrent executive complaint that prompts Weiner's analysis of the CIA's historical problems. He argues that covert action has deflected the CIA from espionage's classic function of ascertaining adversaries' secrets and intentions and, accordingly, populates these pages with covert-action fiascoes (the Bay of Pigs in 1961) and intelligence failures to avert another Pearl Harbor (one reason the CIA was created) such as 9/11. Although critical, Weiner expresses esteem for certain CIA directors, such as Richard Helms. These directors understood espionage basics, and Weiner concludes with the hope that the CIA will get back to them. Thousands of the CIA's annual applicants will seek out an institutional history, and Weiner's ably meets that need."--"Taylor, Gilbert" Copyright 2007 Booklist

Publishers Weekly
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Is the Central Intelligence Agency a bulwark of freedom against dangerous foes, or a malevolent conspiracy to spread American imperialism? A little of both, according to this absorbing study, but, the author concludes, it is mainly a reservoir of incompetence and delusions that serves no one's interests well. Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times correspondent Weiner musters extensive archival research and interviews with top-ranking insiders, including former CIA chiefs Richard Helms and Stansfield Turner, to present the agency's saga as an exercise in trying to change the world without bothering to understand it. Hypnotized by covert action and pressured by presidents, the CIA, he claims, wasted its resources fomenting coups, assassinations and insurgencies, rigging foreign elections and bribing political leaders, while its rare successes inspired fiascoes like the Bay of Pigs and the Iran-Contra affair. Meanwhile, Weiner contends, its proper function of gathering accurate intelligence languished. With its operations easily penetrated by enemy spies, the CIA was blind to events in adversarial countries like Russia, Cuba and Iraq and tragically wrong about the crucial developments under its purview, from the Iranian revolution and the fall of communism to the absence of Iraqi WMDs. Many of the misadventures Weiner covers, at times sketchily, are familiar, but his comprehensive survey brings out the persistent problems that plague the agency. The result is a credible and damning indictment of American intelligence policy. (Aug. 7) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved