An explosive, headline-making portrait of Allen Dulles, the man who transformed the CIA into the most powerful—and secretive—colossus in Washington, from the founder of Salon.com and author of the New York Times bestseller Brothers.
America’s greatest untold story: the United States’ rise to world dominance under the guile of Allen Welsh Dulles, the longest-serving director of the CIA. Drawing on revelatory new materials—including newly discovered U.S. government documents, U.S. and European intelligence sources, the personal correspondence and journals of Allen Dulles’s wife and mistress, and exclusive interviews with the children of prominent CIA officials—Talbot reveals the underside of one of America’s most powerful and influential figures.
Dulles’s decade as the director of the CIA—which he used to further his public and private agendas—were dark times in American politics. Calling himself “the secretary of state of unfriendly countries,” Dulles saw himself as above the elected law, manipulating and subverting American presidents in the pursuit of his personal interests and those of the wealthy elite he counted as his friends and clients—colluding with Nazi-controlled cartels, German war criminals, and Mafiosi in the process. Targeting foreign leaders for assassination and overthrowing nationalist governments not in line with his political aims, Dulles employed those same tactics to further his goals at home, Talbot charges, offering shocking new evidence in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
An exposé of American power that is as disturbing as it is timely, The Devil’s Chessboard is a provocative and gripping story of the rise of the national security state—and the battle for America’s soul.
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About the Author
David Talbot is the author of the New York Times bestseller Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years and the acclaimed national bestseller Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror, and Deliverance in the City of Love. He is the founder and former editor in chief of Salon, and was a senior editor at Mother Jones and the features editor at the San Francisco Examiner. He has written for The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Time, The Guardian, and other major publications. Talbot lives in San Francisco, California.
Table of Contents
1 The Double Agent 15
2 Human Smoke 37
3 Ghosts of Nuremberg 58
4 Sunrise 74
5 Ratlines 94
6 Useful People 119
7 Little Mice 141
8 Scoundrel Time 159
9 The Power Elite 193
10 The Dulles Imperium 227
11 Strange Love 267
12 Brain Warfare 287
13 Dangerous Ideas 316
14 The Torch Is Passed 352
15 Contempt 393
16 Rome on the Potomac 429
17 The Parting Glass 463
18 The Big Event 484
19 The Fingerprints of Intelligence 510
20 For the Good of the Country 549
21 "I Can't Look and Won't Look" 587
22 End Game 605
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
First and foremost, "The Devil's Chessboard" is a beautifully written and meticulously researched volume. Talbot drew upon archives at Princeton University, where the Allen Dulles papers are housed. He also conducted research in other archives across the country. The documentary work is buttressed and amplified by interviews with the surviving daughter of Dulles, as well as interviews with the children of Dulles' colleagues and over 150 officials from the Kennedy administration. Nearly forty pages of notes serve to document the author's sources. A heretofore unanswered question about the JFK assassination is what was Allen Dulles was doing between the time he was dismissed by JFK as Director of the CIA in 1961 until the moment of the assassination on November 22, 1963. A related question is how was it conceivable for Dulles to have been appointed to the Warren Commission that eventually produced the conclusions that are still accepted by mainstream historians and the media? Talbot’s intensive research helps to shed on light on those questions by tracing the arc of development of the career of Allen Dulles as a high-powered attorney at the center of the elitist East Coast establishment, his shocking collaboration with the Nazis while working in the OSS, and his career in clandestine activities at the CIA. Talbot's research probes not merely the activities of Dulles as Director of the CIA, but explores the broader context of his function over three decades as a power broker, whose "efforts were directed not against hostile governments but against his own." (p. 3) Talbot cites revelations from the Columbia University sociology professor C. Wright Mills about the secret government of Allen Dulles, which was comprised of a "power elite" and based on the anti-Constitutional premise of "organized irresponsibility." In many ways, "The Devil's Chessboard" is a companion volume to Talbot's essential study "Brothers," which focuses on the relationship of John and Robert Kennedy. But the more recent book on Dulles covers the broader scope of how the American government was transformed into the national security state in the years following World War II. Talbot's goal in preparing this book is to demonstrate the urgency of coming to terms with our past and how "it is essential that we continue to fight for the right to own our history." (p. xii) An excellent place to begin that quest is to own this book.
Extraordinary story of some of some of the most unsavory people in recent American history, admirers of the worst of the third Reich, they facilitated and ensured their escape and resurgence in many areas of American life, especially incorporating the horrific experiments in wwii. Story of unapologetic evil. These are the major contributors to America's heinous rendition, torture, and assassination policies of the present.
I have just finished reading Mr. Talbot’s book. I sat for many minutes in stunned silence reflecting on what I had just read. How can a small number of evil men depose or assassinate heads of state with impunity? How can such a small number of evil men, with great wealth and power, determine American foreign policy? The book is aptly named “The Devil’s Chessboard” for only the most evil men play this game with people’s lives as their pawns without the least sense of morality and all in the name of ‘patriotism.’ The leading CIA cast of characters in the book have long since passed into Hell, but we can be sure they have been replaced in the here and now. Their progeny are just as evil. Their names are not as well known as Dulles, Angleton, or Gottlieb... Someday they will be.
Absolutely one of the most revealing history books ever written, and written well. Don't count on propaganda rags like the NY Times or Washington Post to review it. They don't want us to know real history and the damage done by devils like Allen Dulles. Nor do they want us to know that they've long been propaganda rags serving the CIA. Just read The Devil's Chessboard! Be informed. The truth matters.
Saw the author, David Talbot, interview with Tavis Smiley on PBS. Chilling! Disgusting that an airport is named after Dulles