The Family Jewels: The CIA, Secrecy, and Presidential Powerby John Prados
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/cite>
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.
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
- University of Texas Press
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- 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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