Book review! Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA

LoA

Legacy of Ashes is founded on three premises.

1. The CIA is incompetent. The author gathers plenty of ammo to back this one up, to the point of downplaying the agency’s successes and highlighting its failures. He still makes a compelling argument that the CIA’s track record isn’t good.
2. The CIA’s dual functions – gathering intelligence and covert operations – are fundamentally at odds with each other. This is obvious. Covert operations thrive on secrecy, not openness. On a more practical level, if you try to gather accurate information and disseminate disinformation at the same time you will invariably get the two confused. This is the best argument in the book; the author should have focused on this one more.
3. An organization like the CIA can not be truly effective in a democracy. The author does not say this, but it’s what he thinks. He  states it differently, more like: an organization like the CIA has no place in a democracy.

Legacy of Ashes contains a great deal of information. Mr. Weiner did his homework and then some. This book isn’t a real history because true historians try not to let their personal biases affect their thinking, which the author does. Also: after Richard Nixon the book gets sketchy. I’m assuming this is because a lot of the information has not yet been declassified (Mr. Weiner gets most of his information from primary documents from the CIA’s archives).

Still a good read.

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