Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA

Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA

3.8 66
by Tim Weiner
     
 

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ISBN-10: 0141033169

ISBN-13: 9780141033167

Pub. Date: 08/28/2010

Publisher: Viking Penguin

With shocking revelations that made headlines in papers across the country, Pulitzer-Prize-winner Tim Weiner gets at the truth behind the CIA and uncovers here why nearly every CIA Director has left the agency in worse shape than when he found it; and how these profound failures jeopardize our national security.

Overview

With shocking revelations that made headlines in papers across the country, Pulitzer-Prize-winner Tim Weiner gets at the truth behind the CIA and uncovers here why nearly every CIA Director has left the agency in worse shape than when he found it; and how these profound failures jeopardize our national security.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780141033167
Publisher:
Viking Penguin
Publication date:
08/28/2010

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Legacy of Ashes 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 67 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If this book had been written by Jimmy Breslin, it would be, ¿The Gang that Couldn¿t Shoot Straight Part Deux.¿ Only this book was not written by Jimmy Breslin and the consequences to our prestige as a nation, respect in the world and national security are much more serious. However it is a very interesting read, at many times incredible in the audacity of some missions sometimes just shocking in the stupidity displayed by what are supposed to be our nation¿s best. Mr. Weiner lays out the history of the CIA from the very beginning until our very recent history. In the process through extensive interviews and research of declassified documents, he tells a very unnerving story of what our CIA is, what it was meant to be and what it thinks it is. It is a damning indictment of the agency, the various directors and many of the presidents in power during its existence. Towards the end of the book, he pretty clearly sums up what the book is about, ¿Nineteen men had served as director of central intelligence. Not one met the high Standards Eisenhower had set. The agency¿s founders had been defeated by their ignorance in Korea and Vietnam and undone by their arrogance in Washington. Their successors were set adrift when the Soviet Union died and caught unaware when terror struck at the heart of American power. Their attempts to make sense of the world had generated heat but little light. As it was in the beginning, the warriors of the pentagon and diplomats at State held them in disdain. For more than half a century, presidents had been frustrated or furious when they turned to the directors for insight and knowledge.¿ Well that is what the book is about but before you get to that point, there is history, poignant stories, incredible blunders, and one of the best actual spy stories ever written. A true opus. Politically, the book is straight down the middle. You will find out that neo-cons were attracted to the agency from the beginning are were wrong from the beginning. I guess we could have seen it coming. They claimed 500 Soviet Missiles aimed at the US when there were only 4 and that is just the beginning. A featured character is Mr. Paul Wolfowitz who has managed to fail upwards for many years now. On the other side of the spectrum, the book paints President Eisenhower as perhaps our sharpest president in this entire era. However the idea of some guy putting on his underwear in the morning is a little disturbing. In today¿s times it¿s hard to remember the red menace and how that colored their thinking of the time, but it is shocking to learn how right wing and secretive Robert Kennedy was. An icon of liberalism definitely not portrayed that way in this book. The entire account of the Bay of Pigs invasion very much syncs with other accounts I have read so I have no reason to doubt the Robert Kennedy reporting. Other presidents: LBJ is an insecure mess. RMN is a drunken hawk. GRF, though having served in the Senate Intelligence committee for many years was surprised to find out he knew nothing of what the CIA was doing. JEC is a nice man, but not entirely as innocent as most people thought. RWR is out of the loop entirely, with a dark side and a cast of incredible characters to carry out some of the most disastrous missions in the entire agency history. Bill Casey definitely is not portrayed in gushing terms as Valerie Plame described him in her book. WJC was not a hands-on manager when it came to intelligence and was distrusted by the CIA and all the military. GWB, the worst period, as much of a nightmare to the agency as the rest of the United States. He would be the one to eventually undo the CIA and turn into ashes. Nobody comes off unscathed. A fair, fascinating look into the annals of the CIA and our presidents policies and relationship with the agency. A must read.
Rollo_Moss More than 1 year ago
Weiner sets out to demonize the CIA, and by use of selective incidents and cherry-picking of history, "succeeds." Not a balanced account of an agency that, like all government agencies, is made up of flesh-and-blood humans capable of ingenuity and bravery and, capable, too, of short-sightedness and cowardice. But what do I know? I only spent 5 years in CIA.
B-2 More than 1 year ago
The book is a bird's eye view of the CIA's history, based on the documents declassified in the last decade. It is a very critical view - but not at all in line with Agency's Hollywood's image ( evil devious all-powerful ruthless world conspiracy). The Agency is criticised for it's mediocre performance, inefficiency, poor planning, carrierist mindset, neglect of reliable intelligence in favor of poorly conceived covert projects and , frankly, for bringing more harm than good to US interests ever since Pearl Harbor. If you ( like me) can't really name a single major CIA success during your lifetime, the book is an explanation. Of course, the author could be biased ( I wouldn't know), but even if only half of his facts are only correct, CIA is a hardly a spy service one would expect a mighty superpower to have. I grade the books as Buy and Keep (BK), Read Library book and Return ( RLR) and Once I Put it Down I Couldn't Pick it Up ( OIPD-ICPU). This one is BK .
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wiener's overview of the CIA, at its best and worst, is amazing. A paramilitary organization enthralled by the sophisticated nature of the British spies, Dulles, Donovan, and others went on to find the Agency that has changed the world for better and for ill. At a time when intelligence is at a premium compared to what Rumsfeld says, the history highlights the Agency's brilliant successes--the defection of KGB agents, dismantaling of the AQ Khan network, overthrow of the Chile government and their spectacular failures--overestimating the Soviet's military strength, the numerous attempts on Castro's life, operations in Soviet Russia and Maoist China, and domestic spying. However, the Agency is still facing its own demise.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tim Weiner, an American journalist, has written a useful history of the US state¿s Central Intelligence Agency. It has been the president¿s private, secret and illegal army, it does what the president wants, so it is not `a rogue elephant¿, as the Church Committee called it. He shows that from its origin in 1947, the CIA has always been incompetent and incapable. In 1948 the CIA launched a scare about the Russians invading Berlin the next day Congress approved the Marshall Plan. A secret clause let the CIA skim $685 million from Plan funds, what Weiner calls `a global money-laundering scheme¿. In 1948 the CIA set up secret prisons in Germany, Japan and Panama, using torture and drugs on its captives. It carried out 81 major anti-democratic covert operations in Truman¿s second term, 170 in 48 countries under Eisenhower, and 163 in just three years under the liberals¿ hero Kennedy. Its efforts at gathering intelligence from 1948 (`World War Three starting in Berlin¿) to Iraq (`Weapons of Mass Destruction¿) have been consistently wrong. It always said that the Soviet Union was impervious to reason, impossible to reform and understood only force ¿ but this is projection, mirroring the CIA itself. It ran coups overthrowing elected governments and installing tyrants, for example in Iran, Guatemala, Congo, where Eisenhower ordered that Lumumba be `eliminated¿, Chile and Greece. Against Cuba it used biological and chemical weapons, assassination attempts hiring Mafia hit men and a botched invasion. The CIA funded Italy¿s neo-fascist terrorists in the 1970s. It illegally spied on the American people. The CIA lied to Congress, the people and presidents, for example, Weiner notes its director Allen Dulles¿ `practice of deceiving the president¿. To cover for the CIA, presidents lied to Congress and the people. Weiner remarks that the CIA¿s testimony to Congress ¿left the impression that the United States had hired a gang of conmen and thieves to run its foreign affairs.¿ It organised death squads in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and in Afghanistan and Iraq today. It carries out illegal renditions of innocent suspects to its secret prisons in Thailand, Poland, Afghanistan and Iraq. Could a democratic country use such a vicious tool?
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blue_solace More than 1 year ago
There are a few takeaways from this book and despite a lower than perfect score, I would still recommend this book. Here are the reasons why- 1) Tim Weiner does have sources to back up his wildly biased take on the CIA. Some of these were from the very top, others from archives, still others from some lower level CIA employees. This has to be taken into account and much of what he says, despite being delivered with a slant, actually took place. 2) He gets opinions from the top as well. Some of the former directors are not at all shy about being upfront with failures, though I think Weiner does a disservice to them when he doesn't include some other viewpoints than "we messed up" or "we didn't have a clue." 3) His mistakes are easier to spot and his bias clearly shows so it becomes a little bit easier to pull out the good stuff from the book (and there is some good stuff.) Overall, the book was an enthralling read, if not biased as mentioned many times before. His title alone (though sure to be an attention grabber) smacks of a viewpoint that doesn't allow for much good to be shown. Only occasionally does he mention a victory for the CIA. I agree with other readers that the CIA's responsibility is huge and by relying on agents (as is necessary) that mistakes are gonna be made. You can't win all the battles in the intelligence war. Weiner here does a disservice to all the capable and patriotic men and women that we have (and had) in the CIA by not bringing more light to their accomplishments (though a few are present.) It's a well known fact in the intel world that your failures are known 10 times over your accomplishments. Some accomplishments are sometimes never gonna be known (maybe a guy that they took off the streets was gonna be the lead of a next terrorist attack, who knows.) Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, this book might not be valued for its narrow view of the past but moreover for its telling of the future. It is not so important as to what the CIA did but HOW it came to do it. If we look at how the CIA was managed and how it was a reflection of not only the current time period and threats but also of the president and directors themselves, we can see how better to manage such a huge force for better in the future. Leadership that was too strong and one-armed as during the early Bush years yields certain unintended and unfortunate results but also the lack of caring for the organization under the early Clinton era maligned it as well. A certain balance is needed as well as a certain level of oversight. Along with that, a core mission is most certainly needed as evidenced by the fleeting raison d'etre that vanished when the Cold War ended and left the CIA spinning its rudders without going anywhere. When the CIA is given too much rope, it can easily hang itself as evidenced by too many failed covert ops in the early days (and the deaths of many agents as well.) When it is not given enough, it cannot fully do its job. That balance will remain elusive and hard to grasp. We can only hope to learn from our mistakes and continue to improve. Overall, a very gripping novel-like read and a book that can shine some light on an organization that was, and continues to be, misunderstood and maligned, sometimes not only by its leaders but also by authors like Mr. Weiner himself.
Russell_Kirk More than 1 year ago
After reading Weiner's work on the CIA you wonder how they haven't been disbanded by Congress; educate yourself on power and corruption from the start infected America's intelligence agency with irreparable ignorance.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is so jaded and biased that it renders itself useless.
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