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The Secret History of the CIA

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2001

    The Dangers of No Accountability for Human Intelligence

    The Secret History of the CIA will shake whatever faith you have in undercover intelligence activities by the United States. From the beginning of the Cold War, the CIA (and its predecessors) and the FBI were riddled with double agents for the Soviet Union, Israel, and Cuba among others. But don¿t give the foreign intelligence agencies too much credit. U.S. operations were conducted with undue haste, laxness, inattention to detail, and questionable loyalty to ¿people with backgrounds like ours.¿ Key intelligence leaders and operatives are described as typically being drunks, morally corrupt, inept, and callous about others. In many ways, this history is a good parallel to The Sword and the Shield, which draws on the KGB¿s own secret history files. The books reinforce the fundamental message that the Western vulnerability to KGB efforts had its basis in many basic weaknesses within British and U.S. intelligence operations. The primary sources for this book are retired CIA intelligence and counter-intelligence operatives, many of whom insisted on either anonymity or having their stories told after their deaths. I can certainly see why they were reticent to make these horrible stories public while they were alive. The mistakes began with wide-open recruiting of former Nazis and their collaborators, which opened the door to long-time Soviet agents like Igor Orlov who appeared to have operated successfully until his death over 35 years later. Later, émigré groups were treated the same way, letting more double agents into U.S. intelligence. Counter-intelligence had its hands tied from the beginning because those who had recruited the former Nazis did not want their roles uncovered. If you are like me, you will be amazed at how those who bungled operations in Berlin from the beginning went on to head up important operations like Cuba, Vietnam, and Laos where they brought new disasters to the United States. One of the most appalling aspects of these stories is the way that hundreds of agents were lost, one right after another, due to leaks within the CIA¿s operations. In some cases, many died for information that wasn¿t even needed, because no one bothered to check. It was easier to let two hundred people go to prison or to their deaths. The book also details the many times that private citizens and political figures ran their own illegal intelligence operations, both in the United States and in the Soviet Union. The story about Lee Harvey Oswald¿s connection to the Soviet Union and to Cuba will fascinate you. The book argues that the assassination of John F. Kennedy had Soviet sponsorship, and was part of internal efforts to take power in the Soviet Union. The book is filled with U.S.-led efforts that manipulated elections, tried to keep leaders from office, attempted and performed political assassinations, and helped establish dictators. You will also learn about deals with the Mafia, opium smuggling, and routinely lying to Congress. But the biggest shocks for you will probably be how badly the CIA¿s ¿intelligence¿ misled U.S. policy makers about Soviet circumstances and intentions. Hundreds of billions of Cold War expenditures were probably needless, and Eastern Europe could possibly have been freed much sooner than occurred. The main weaknesses of this book are in making claims without listing the arguments against those claims, tending to wallow a bit too much in the personal dirt of sexual misconduct, and failing to be precise about the exact claims being made. Mr. Trento writes in a way that will get your attention, but you will find it hard to tell the differences between one person and another except for the main subjects (like Kim Philby, Jim Angleton, Igor Orlov, Bill Harvey, J. Edgar Hoover, Robert Kennedy, David Murphy, and George Weisz). As we begin the new efforts to counter terrorism, how can we avoid repeating the horrible mistakes that this book documen

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