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Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIAby Tim Weiner
Synopses & Reviews
Legacy of Ashes is the record of the first sixty years of the Central Intelligence Agency. It describes how the most powerful country in the history of Western civilization has failed to create a first-rate spy service. That failure constitutes a danger to the national security of the United States. Intelligence is secret action aimed at understanding or changing what goes on abroad. President Dwight D. Eisenhower called it a distasteful but vital necessity. A nation that wants to project its power beyond its borders needs to see over the horizon, to know what is coming, to prevent attacks against its people. It must anticipate surprise. Without a strong, smart, sharp intelligence service, presidents and generals alike can become blind and crippled. But throughout its history as a superpower, the United States has not had such a service.
History, Edward Gibbon wrote in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, is little more than the register of crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind. The annals of the Central Intelligence Agency are filled with folly and misfortune, along with acts of bravery and cunning. They are replete with fleeting successes and long-lasting failures abroad. They are marked by political battles and power struggles at home. The agency's triumphs have saved some blood and treasure. Its mistakes have squandered both. They have proved fatal for legions of American soldiers and foreign agents; some three thousand Americans who died in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001; and three thousand more who have died since then in Iraq and Afghanistan. The one crime of lasting consequence has been the CIA's inability to carry out its central mission: informing the president of what is happening in the world.
The United States had no intelligence to speak of when World War II began, and next to none a few weeks after the war ended. A mad rush to demobilize left behind a few hundred men who had a few years' experience in the world of secrets and the will to go on fighting a new enemy. All major powers except the United States have had for a long time past permanent worldwide intelligence services, reporting directly to the highest echelons of their Government, General William J. Donovan, the commander of the wartime Office of Strategic Services, warned President Truman in August 1945. Prior to the present war, the United States had no foreign secret intelligence service. It never has had and does not now have a coordinated intelligence system. Tragically, it still does not have one.
The CIA was supposed to become that system. But the blueprint for the agency was a hasty sketch. It was no cure for a chronic American weakness: secrecy and deception were not our strengths. The collapse of the British Empire left the United States as the sole force able to oppose Soviet communism, and America desperately needed to know those enemies, to provide foresight to presidents, and to fight fire with fire when called upon to light the fuse. The mission of the CIA, above all, was to keep the president forewarned against surprise attack, a second Pearl Harbor.
The agency's ranks were filled with thousands of patriotic Americans in the 1950s. Many were brave and battle-hardened. Some had wisdom. Few really knew the enemy. Where understanding failed, presidents ordered the CIA to change the course of
A New York Times reporter offers a powerful indictment of the CIA and its intelligence-gathering capabilities as he traces the history of the organization from the end of World War II to Iraq, in a study that condemns the CIA for its record, its inability to understand world affairs, the violence it has unleashed, and its undermining of American politics. Reprint. 150,000 first printing.
Tim Weiner, a reporter for The New York Times, has filed stories from inside the CIA and around the world for twenty years. He is a past winner of the Pulitzer Prize for covering national security. This is his third book.
About the Author
Tim Weiner is a reporter for The New York Times. He has written on American intelligence for twenty years, and won the Pulitzer Prize for his work on secret national security programs. He has traveled to Afghanistan and other nations to investigate CIA covert operations firsthand. This is his third book.
Table of Contents
"In the beginning, we knew nothing" : the CIA under Truman, 1945-1953 — "A strange kind of genius" : the CIA under Eisenhower, 1953 to 1961 — Lost causes : the CIA under Kennedy and Johnson, 1961 to 1968 — "Get rid of the clowns" : the CIA under Nixon and Ford, 1968 to 1977 — Victory without joy : the CIA under Carter, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush, 1977 to 1993 — The reckoning : the CIA under Clinton and George W. Bush, 1993 to 2007.
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