Review: The CIA and the Culture of Failure: U.S. Intelligence from the End of the Cold War to the Invasion of Iraq

4 Star, Intelligence (Government/Secret)
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

John Diamond

4.0 out of 5 stars Got the Obvious Right, Misses Everything Else, September 4, 2013

I regard Retired Reader as an alter ego and top gun in the field, so his review has my vote. If the book were current (it was published in 2008) I would be tempted to buy it but my time is not my own for the next year or two. Tim Weiner’s book remains my top level choice, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA along with The Secret Team: The CIA and Its Allies in Control of the United States and the World (Second Edition), and of course the many other books that I have reviewed here at Amazon, all easily scanned and leading to their respective Amazon page, by searching for “Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Intelligence (Most)”. I last updated it in August 2011.

There are seven CIAs, not just the one that the author writes about, and that costs the book one star. Search for my post of some time ago, “Search: Seven CIAs [Steele on the Record]”.

There is also a total lack of integrity as well as intelligence in Washington, D.C., and while I might normally take a second star away from the book — the author is pimping the cover story and not addressing the deep pathologies across the Executive, Legislative, and corporate worlds — this last bit is something I focus on and will return to in a year or two once I am done with my service overseas.

Yes, the CIA failed on 9/11 because Dick Cheney ordered it so and the Director of the FBI, two weeks on the job, was hired for the explicit purpose of covering it all up (just as the FBI actively covered up George W. Bush’s participation in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and its own culpability in the assassination of Martin Luther King, as well as many other crimes of state from Waco to Oklahoma and beyond).

No, the CIA did not fail on Iraq. Charlie Allen got it right, and George Tenet prostituted his office in willfull betrayal of his oath of office and the public trust. we had the defecting son-in-law, we had the 20 plus legal travelers, we knew they had kept the cook books, destroyed the stocks, and wer bluffing for regional influence’s sake.


There is certainly a great deal of good in this book and it fully merits the four stars, it fully merits being used as a classroom text, but it does not touch upon “deep secrecy,” or treason as a common practice across the executive, which lacks counterintelligence and ethics in every possible sense of the work. We are our own worst enemy, and until we have a public that demands honest government, and a president that demands an Office of Management and Budget able to actually manage, cognizant of true costs, strong in promoting open source everything (the technical solution) and multinational information-sharing and sense-making (the human solution), we will remain a nation of sheep, distracted, ignorant, lethargic, cannon fodder for the likes of Henry Kissinger, whose two great quotes will conclude this high-level commentary, followed by a few books that I consider seminal to the discipline of intelligence, which is about decision support, not about spending money on going through the motions.

Henry Kissinger: “The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.”

Henry Kissinger: Military men are `dumb, stupid animals to be used’ as pawns for foreign policy.

The Pathology of Power
Philosophy and the Social Problem: The Annotated Edition
High Noon: 20 Global Problems, 20 Years To Solve Them
Routledge Companion to Intelligence Studies

Best wishes to all,
Robert David STEELE Vivas
INTELLIGENCE FOR EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainability

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