A look at spooks in action that does not resemble a Tom Clancy novel. A lingering question about the Bay of Pigs operation has always been how anyone could ever have thought it would work. Somehow presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, with the input of their military and intelligence advisers, approved an invasion plan that projected the victory of a 1,400-man exile force over the 25,000-man Cuban army. Moreover, they did so while implausibly insisting that the action must not be traced back to the US. Until recently, the cloak of secrecy has restricted efforts to explain this planning and decision-making process to idle speculation; with the publication of this volume, somewhat informed speculation is now possible. Through the Freedom of Information Act, the National Security Archive (a public-interest group), with which Kornbluh is affiliated, has obtained the CIA’s internal and very critical report on the Bay of Pigs and a lengthy response from the CIA officer in charge of the operation. Edited by Kornbluh (Nicarauga, 1987), the volume includes an analytical introduction, an interview with two CIA men involved in the planning of the operation and a detailed timeline of events. This mass of information provides insight into shifting objectives, ambiguity over responsibility and accountability, and the momentum that precluded halting or even seriously reconsidering the operation. Most striking, however, is the vigor with which those involved seek to hide behind presidential cancellation of an air strike in explaining the failure. The impulse to deflect blame clearly overrides any self-analysis that could lead to institutional learning from the experience despite the absurdity of claiming that one decision was the turning point in an operation riddled with problems. What remains unexplained is the failure of American political leadership, a puzzle that may be beyond the potential of historical documents to solve. An eye-opening account, regardless of one’s political convictions.