SECRECY AND DEMOCRACY: The CIA in Transition by Stansfield Turner


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Another memoir from the days of Jimmy Carter by that president's Director of the Central Intelligence Agency taking out his frustrations at the ""Firm."" Probably one of the most crucial phases of the CIA's 38-year history transpired during the Carter era. His was the first Democratic Administration after Watergate with both a philosophical predilection and an electoral mandate to curb past abuses of this country's intelligence agency. Turner's term as director thus became an interregnum, in which he attempted to centralize more power in the directorship as a means of ending the influence of the ""old-boy network"" of professional spies who believed in espionage-at-any-price. Unfortunately, the directorship see-saws historically between political appointees (George Bush, William Casey, and Ted Sorenson), espionage professionals (Allen Dulles and William Colby), and military men (Walter Bedell Smith and Turner himself). Putting one's stamp on the Agency, thus, becomes an exercise in futility; the agency bureaucrats know that if they just drag their feet long enough, the current director will be replaced. This was Tamer's frustration, which he fully recounts here. Turner can never quite make up his mind if he is writing a memoir of his term, a training manual, or program proposal. Consequently, Secrecy and Democracy reads for all the world like a civics textbook. . . and its final chapter is an enumerated agenda rehashing all that has gone before. This is disappointing since Turner, a Rhodes Scholar, presumably might have had the literary ability to make a book about the CIA an adventure in learning. He didn't, so all we end up with is another monotonous look at bureaucratic foibles, without any meaty details. CIA novels might exaggerate the thrills, but they're a lot more interesting.

Pub Date: June 5th, 1985
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin