THE AGENCY: The Rise and Decline of the CIA by John Ranelagh

THE AGENCY: The Rise and Decline of the CIA

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A massive history of the CIA--771 pages of text plus 72 pages of notes--from the agency's beginnings as the Office of Strategic Services during WW II up to the re-defection of Soviet KGB defector Yurchenko last year. Ranelagh, who has written about the IRA, has a good feel for the murky world of intelligence, and has constructed quite a readable work. The publisher says Ranelagh conducted scores of interviews with insiders and studied more than 7,000 pages of classified and formerly classified documents. The author hangs his history on the careers and personalities of the men who have led the Company, many of them remarkable people. They were the ones charged with enforcing policies that changed the course of America in the world--and that of quite a few other countries. Of necessity, much of the material has been previously published, but a good deal of it has not. The interviews with Company insiders provide fascinating glimpses of the intelligence wars that seem to be waged almost continuously. Many Americans believe the CIA is a nonpolitical agency. It is, however, up to its ears in politics. What it reports, to whom, when, and what angles it stresses all are highly political decisions. Sometimes, for instance, it has decided to tell a president mostly what he wants to hear. It must coordinate its work with other government intelligence agencies, which, of course, makes for great bureaucratic battles. Great reading and a valuable reference for students of government bureaucracy and intelligence work, but its bulk and detail will daunt the general reader.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1986
Publisher: Simon & Schuster