Not for the General Reader
July 27, 2007
Tennent H. Bagley
Tim Weiner's book, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA is the better book for the general reader as well as any intelligence professional.
This book loses one star for failing to be open about the special prison built for Nesenko at “The Farm,” and the extraordinarily abusive treatment he received at the hands of the Soviet Division in the CIA's Directorate of Operations (DO). Old timers are still shaking their heads in dismay.
Recognizing that this book is a profound and detailed telling of the story from the side of those who destroyed Nosenko, I give it a four over all for detail from a particular perspective, a 3 for the general reader.
There is nothing in this book that would lead anyone to believe that the DO was anything less than quite good, and while I was tempted to drop it to a 3 for that reason, I left it at 4 for what I call special purpose reading. Deeper details than most desire, and details that cannot be evaluated alone, but must be considered in the light of many other accounts and context–don't bother if you only want to read one book.
In passing, the author confirms CIA's persistent inability to field officers with language skills, even against the “main enemy,” the Russians. The author also touches on the groupthink mentality of the cult of intelligence.
Other books apart from Legacy of Ashes:
Flawed by Design: The Evolution of the CIA, JCS, and NSC
Wilderness of Mirrors: Intrigue, Deception, and the Secrets that Destroyed Two of the Cold War's Most Important Agents
The First Directorate: My 32 Years in Intelligence and Espionage Against the West
Molehunt: The Secret Search for Traitors That Shattered the CIA
None So Blind: A Personal Account of the Intelligence Failure in Vietnam
See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism
Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of How the Wildest Man in Congress and a Rogue CIA Agent Changed the History of Our Times
Dirty Tricks or Trump Cards: U.S. Covert Action and Counterintelligence
Nightmover: How Aldrich Ames Sold the CIA to the KGB for $4.6 Million