The Family Jewels: The CIA, Secrecy, and Presidential Power

Overview

In December 1974, a front-page story in the New York Times revealed the explosive details of illegal domestic spying by the Central Intelligence Agency. This included political surveillance, eavesdropping, detention, and interrogation. The revelation of illegal activities over many years shocked the American public and led to investigations of the CIA by a presidential commission and committees in both houses of Congress, which found evidence of more abuse, even CIA plans for assassinations. Investigators and the...

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The Family Jewels: The CIA, Secrecy, and Presidential Power

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Overview

In December 1974, a front-page story in the New York Times revealed the explosive details of illegal domestic spying by the Central Intelligence Agency. This included political surveillance, eavesdropping, detention, and interrogation. The revelation of illegal activities over many years shocked the American public and led to investigations of the CIA by a presidential commission and committees in both houses of Congress, which found evidence of more abuse, even CIA plans for assassinations. Investigators and the public soon discovered that the CIA abuses were described in a top-secret document agency insiders dubbed the "Family Jewels." That document became ground zero for a political firestorm that lasted more than a year. The "Family Jewels" debacle ultimately brought about greater congressional oversight of the CIA, but excesses such as those uncovered in the 1970s continue to come to light.

The Family Jewels probes the deepest secrets of the CIA and its attempts to avoid scrutiny. John Prados recounts the secret operations that constituted "Jewels" and investigators' pursuit of the truth, plus the strenuous efforts—by the agency, the executive branch, and even presidents—to evade accountability. Prados reveals how Vice President Richard Cheney played a leading role in intelligence abuses and demonstrates that every type of "Jewel" has been replicated since, especially during the post-9/11 war on terror. The Family Jewels masterfully illuminates why these abuses are endemic to spying, shows that proper relationships are vital to control of intelligence, and advocates a system for handling "Family Jewels" crises in a democratic society.

With a new epilogue that discusses former CIA employee Edward Snowden's revelation of massive covert surveillance by the NSA, this powerful accounting of intelligence abuses committed by the CIA from the Cold War through the war on terror reveals why such abuses and attempts to conceal them are endemic to spying and proposes how a democratic nation can rein in its spymasters.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A scholarly book about the dirty operations of the American government that feels like it has been ripped from the headlines. In his capacity as a senior fellow at the National Security Archive, Prados (Islands of Destiny: The Solomons Campaign and the Eclipse of the Rising Sun, 2012, etc.) regularly sees top-secret documents as they quietly enter the public domain. The book is part of the publisher's Discovering America series, which is based on the premise that much of the American experience remains to be told by historians and cultural critics with fresh takes on events and individuals seemingly well-known but often masked. When the author viewed the documents known collectively as "the Family Jewels," which set out covert CIA operations from the 1950s to the early 1970s, he realized he could teach about the contemporary American surveillance state by referencing and examining recent history. After all, the Family Jewels, never meant to be shared with the general citizenry, demonstrates how the CIA has spied on Americans despite a ban against domestic operations, has tortured alleged enemies captured during wartime and peacetime, and has assassinated overseas leaders viewed as "enemies" of the U.S. The book seems ripped from the headlines due to the recent massive news coverage of the NSA's monitoring of telephone and digital conversations, perhaps without legal authority. Prados takes readers inside not only the CIA in an attempt to plumb the thinking behind the questionable secretive operations, but also the White House, the halls of Congress and newsrooms. As a result, he casts light on shadowy cultures that often undermine democracy. An impressive research effort showing how, when it comes to current political affairs, the past is almost always prologue.
Library Journal
11/01/2013
In 2007, a compilation of CIA documents describing its illegal domestic activities was declassified. This notorious collection is referred to as the CIA's "Family Jewels." Prados (senior fellow, National Security Archive; How the Cold War Ended: Debating and Doing History) has worked to bring the contents of these documents to public attention. Prados broadens his title's scope beyond the documents themselves, casting a light upon the political context in which the illegal activities occurred. He pays particular attention to the role of various presidential administrations, from the 1970s to the present, in condoning or encouraging illegal activities from domestic surveillance to torture and assassination. Prados is passionate and compelling on the point that these abuses are a threat to a democratic society. His book does, however, suffer somewhat from an excess of information. Readers who are less familiar with Washington politics in the 1970s and 1980s may quickly find themselves adrift in a sea of names and events. VERDICT Prados writes with obvious passion, and his topic couldn't be more important or timely. Those unaware of the history of the events discussed may find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer amount of detail provided, but this volume is recommended to those who can stay the course.—Rachel Bridgewater, Portland Community Coll. Lib., OR
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780292737624
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press
  • Publication date: 9/15/2013
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 580,732
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

JOHN PRADOS is a senior fellow of the National Security Archive in Washington, DC, where he helps bring newly declassified government records to public attention. He is the award-winning author of twenty-one books, including Islands of Destiny: The Solomons Campaign and the Eclipse of the Rising Sun. He also lectures widely on security, freedom of information, and other issues; analyzes combat processes; serves as a historical adviser to filmmakers; and designs strategy board games, including the well-known Third Reich and other award-winning titles.
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Table of Contents

List of Acronyms
Introduction
Prologue
Chapter 1. Where Did the Family Jewels Come From?
Chapter 2. The Family Jewels: The White House Reacts
Chapter 3. Domestic Surveillance
Chapter 4. Surveillance II: Private Communications
Chapter 5. Detention and Interrogation
Chapter 6. Assassination
Chapter 7. Cloaking the Dagger
Chapter 8. Plugging the Dike
Chapter 9. Circling the Wagons
Chapter 10. Clarity
Notes
Index
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