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From its inception more than half a century ago and for decades afterward, the Central Intelligence Agency was deeply shrouded in secrecy, with little or no real oversight by Congress—or so many Americans believe. David M. Barrett reveals, however, that during the agency's first fifteen years, Congress often monitored the CIA's actions and plans, sometimes aggressively.
Drawing on a wealth of newly declassified documents, research at some two dozen archives, and interviews with former officials, Barrett provides an unprecedented and often colorful account of relations between American spymasters and Capitol Hill. He chronicles the CIA's dealings with senior legislators who were haunted by memories of our intelligence failure at Pearl Harbor and yet riddled with fears that such an organization might morph into an American Gestapo. He focuses in particular on the efforts of Congress to monitor, finance, and control the agency's activities from the creation of the national security state in 1947 through the planning for the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.
Along the way, Barrett highlights how Congress criticized the agency for failing to predict the first Soviet atomic test, the startling appearance of Sputnik over American air space, and the overthrow of Iraq's pro-American government in 1958. He also explores how Congress viewed the CIA's handling of Senator McCarthy's charges of communist infiltration, the crisis created by the downing of a U-2 spy plane, and President Eisenhower's complaint that Congress meddled too much in CIA matters. Ironically, as Barrett shows, Congress itself often pushed the agency to expand its covert operations against other nations.
The CIA and Congress provides a much-needed historical perspective for current debates in Congress and beyond concerning the agency's recent failures and ultimate fate. In our post-9/11 era, it shows that anxieties over the challenges to democracy posed by our intelligence communities have been with us from the very beginning.
List of Acronyms
Introduction: First Hidden, Then Lost
Part 1. The Truman Era, 1947-1952
No "American Gestapo, " But "No More Pearl Harbors"
Initial Oversight: Budgets and Covert Action
"A South American Pearl Harbor"
The Soviet A-Bomb: "We Apparently Don't Have the Remotest Idea"
Communists and "Perverts" in the CIA
Korea: "No Better Today Than on December 7, 1941"
A New DCI
The "Dirty Business"
CIA Subcommittees, Intelligence Roles, and Budgets
"We Don't Let Just Anybody Look at Our Files"
"There Will Be No Changes"
Part 2. The Eisenhower Era, 1953-1960
Guatemala: "Sterilizing the Red Infection"
Mr. Mansfield Goes to the Senate
Joseph McCarthy: The CIA's Other Would-Be Overseer
"You, Who Championed Our Cause"
"Dodging Dead Cats"
"They Have to Have a Building"
The New Mansfield Resolution: Two Surprises
"We Have a History of Underestimation"
Hungary and the Suez: "We Had a Very Good Idea, Senator"
An Early "Year of Intelligence"?
"I Cannot Always Predict When There Is Going to Be a Riot"
Iraq: "Our Intelligence Was Just Plain Lousy"
Return to the Missile Gap
From the Pforzheimer Era to the Warner Era
In and Out of Hearing Rooms
"Who Are Our Liquidators?"
"I'd Like to Tell Him to His Face What I Think about Him"
U-2: "We Have Felt These Operations Were Appropriate"
Pouring Oil on Fire
"Their Answer to That Demand": Congressional Paternity?
"My Opinion of the CIA Went Skyrocketing"
Part 3. Cuba, the CIA, and Congress: 1960-1961
Castro: "This Fellow Is Bad and Ought to Go"
"What is the Rationale behind That?"
"I Agree That You Had to Replace Dulles"
Posted October 10, 2006
The 2006 D.B. Hardeman Prize for the best book on Congress published in 2005 has been awarded to 'The CIA and Congress'. Don Bacon, a member of the award committee, says: 'David Barrett has given us an engrossing account of the highly secret, often contentious relationship between Congress and its post-World War II creation, the Central Intelligence Agency. Thoroughly researched, rich in fascinating detail, 'The CIA and Congress' focuses on the spy agency's early years, when the Cold War was at its peak. The author relies heavily on previously hidden official records and his own insightful interviews to show that our lawmakers worried more about the new agency's potential for mischief and kept it on a shorter leash than has been previously known.'Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 21, 2005
Barrett's /The CIA and Congress/ is a triumph of research. Writing any history of the CIA is problematic because the documentation will never be close to complete some official and private papers have been destroyed or 'misplaced,' others remain classified 50 years or more after being written, and many important discussions and decisions were never committed to paper. Faced with such endemic incompleteness, Barrett, a political scientist at Villanova University, persevered, found widely dispersed research materials and displayed sound analytic sense and balance in their use. Having done so much fine detective work, Barrett can present not only a gripping review of leadership dynamics among the CIA, the White House and Congress but also a coherent view of the development and oversight of the CIA's budgets (a notoriously hard target) from 1947 to 1961. His research is made more impressive by his frankness in admitting on several occasions that he cannot tell the whole story because the documents are not available. Barrett's analysis of the relationship between the long-established Congress and the infant CIA (founded only in 1947) turns not only on documents but also on his superb portraits and assessments of the key players: The thoughts, actions and characters of senators, congressmen, presidents and CIA officials are front and center in the book. The human pageant Barrett presents is not all that different from that which exists today.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 26, 2005
This book is a necessary read if you are into the history and political analysis of the American government from the 1940s through the 60s. It's a fascinating read. Dr. Barrett has gone to incredible lengths of archival research to write a book that is a truly original voice on the period. As someone who came across the book looking for material on Joe McCarthy, I was amazed at how enjoyable the book was to read just in general. Dr. Barrett has found material to support stories that were merely rumors before. For example, letters from a military officer who was 'propositioned' by Senator McCarthy and memos supporting the fact that meetings occurred between the CIA Director and a Congressional subcommittee prior to the Bay of Pigs invasion. And Hubert Humphrey talking about 'Liquidators'?! Really enjoyable stories. This is truly a groundbreaking book that should be required reading for anyone interested in the CIA or Congress.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.