THE UNKNOWN CIA: My Three Decades with the Agency by Russell Jack Smith

THE UNKNOWN CIA: My Three Decades with the Agency

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Unabashedly patriotic memoirs from Smith, author of the novel The Secret War (1986) and former Deputy Director for Intelligence at the CIA. CIA business, Smith suggests, is not transacted by a Blackford Oakes sort of operative or via John le Carr‚-style novelistic twists. Rather, it is conducted by dedicated intelligence analysts--""men and women sitting at desks sorting, sifting, and patterning secret evidence into a matrix"" that carries conviction. Smith, himself one such desk man, was present at the creation of the CIA in 1947 (after a stint as an English professor at Williams College). He quickly went on to work at the higher levels of the CIA through such crises as the U-2 fiasco, the Bay of Pigs episode, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Six-Day War in the Mideast, the Vietnam War, and the sinking of the CIA's reputation in the mid-1970's. But in portraying the workaday operations and the internal atmosphere of the agency, Smith manages to restore some of its luster, Recapping the more damning public perceptions, he opines that the ""CIA is not like that. Nor, I might add, is the KGB."" In fact, he states, ""anyone who entertains seriously the notion that CIA could assassinate a leader or topple a foreign government contrary to White House order or permission simply does not understand how power is disposed in Washington."" In the meantime, Smith has kind words for his directors (Walter Bedell Smith: ""a man of genuine brilliance, great personal force, and organizational genius""; Richard Helms, whose ""leadership enabled the CIA to become a unified, cohesive organization""). Surprisingly, Smith points an accusing finger at Nixon, whose ""mean-spirited, trust-no.one-but-ourselves, us-against-them siege mentality"" precipitated the public denigration of the CIA. Such a solid, fascinatingly inside-look that many readers won't mind the whitewash.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Pergamon-Brassey--dist. by Macmillan