THE NIGHT WATCH by David Atlee Phillips


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After 25 years in the CIA, Phillips resigned and wrote this book--not, like his fellow Latin-American specialist Philip Agee (Inside the Company, 1975), to damn the agency, but to publicly defend it. A former actor and writer trained in propaganda work, Phillips casually presents his version of CIA controversies amid a profusion of anecdotes about CIA ""tradecraft"" and luck. A CIA-bugged chair for a Communist embassy in Mexico ended up, not in the Ambassador's office but in his library--where he held his most important meetings anyway, to elude bugs. Phillips, who says he began as a stringer in Chile, rose through dirty-tricks operations like running a fake radio station against the 1954 Arbenz government in Guatemala to become a high-level supervisor, involving chiefly ""routine management."" He contends that the U.S. did not fix the 1966 Dominican Republic election of Balaguer over Bosch; that the CIA may have tried to kill Castro earlier, but in 1968 warned him against an exile assassination plot; and that the CIA made no effort to destabilize the economy of Allende's Chile. More prominently, he draws lively sketches of his fellow operatives and bureaucrats as brave, astute, sensitive characters, from Latin American chief Win Scott (who wrote prize-winning love poetry in secret) to the devoutly religious William Colby and the dashing Howard Hunt. CIA excesses in the 1970s, according to Phillips, were Nixon's idea, while Kennedy's worst mistake on the other hand was to refuse Air Force cover to the Bay of Pigs invaders. Unlike Joseph Burkholder Smith, whose Portrait of a Cold Warrior (p. 958) indicates various factional lineups within the CIA's Latin American department, Phillips' portrait is one of ""solider-priests"" besieged by uncomprehending critics: ""Colby looked out past the dogwood to the church. 'No,' he repeated, 'There was no other way,' ""Fun to read; not to be believed.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1976
Publisher: Atheneum