Kirkus Reviews QR Code


The Inside Story of the CIA’s Secret Campaign to Enroll American Students in the Crusade Against Communism

by Karen M. Paget

Pub Date: March 3rd, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-300-20508-4
Publisher: Yale Univ.

A multilayered, mystifying exposé of how the CIA infiltrated and ultimately directed the U.S. National Student Association in thwarting international communist goals from 1950 to 1967.

As one of the students involved in the NSA in 1965, along with her husband, American Prospect contributing editor Paget (co-author: Running as a Woman: Gender and Power in American Politics, 1993) was sworn to silence when apprised of the CIA’s role in a government agency that was considered liberal and left-leaning. Why and how would the CIA financially support a student-run agency that bolstered revolutionary, civil liberties–rich causes, such as the Algerian move for independence, the Hungarian revolution against Soviet dictatorship and the American civil rights movement, while it condemned the witch hunts by the House Un-American Activities Committee? In her thoroughgoing but occasionally convoluted narrative, Paget gradually unravels the full story for the first time—since the truth first emerged from a shocking internal leak to Ramparts magazine in 1967. The NSA was initially inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt’s American Student Union of the 1930s, which had comfortably included socialist and communist groups until the Soviet Union signed a nonaggression pact with Nazi Germany in 1939. Thus the student movement had to be “restructured” in order to train a new generation of leaders, hopefully wedded to FDR’s New Deal policies and yet firmly anti-communist. Due largely to a progressive Catholic student bloc pressing for a new national student group in favor of affiliation with the International Union of Students, based in Prague, the NSA would ultimately be manipulated by CIA operatives as a rival to the IUS and a channel through which to temper the communist influence. Elaborate ruses allowed only the top NSA leaders to be “witting” accomplices to the CIA infiltration.

An uneven but useful chronicle of a far-fetched history whose woeful truth is only now emerging.