Bibliography on Intelligence / Agencies / U.S.

Bamford, James. Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency from the Cold War through the Dawn of a New Century. New York: Doubleday, 2001. 721 pages.
When James Bamford wrote the world’s first book on the National Security Agency in 1982, everyone was nervous if not furious. The NSA reclassified some declassified documents he used, and even Newsweek liberals were critical. The book itself was great, but unlike many media pundits, Bamford forgot to take his cues from the Cold War intelligence establishment. Nineteen years later, this new book is the toast of the town. Bamford didn’t change; everyone and everything else did.
Two topics are very well done — the chapter on the USS Liberty, which was attacked by Israel in 1967, and the information on NSA’s computer systems and Echelon eavesdropping efforts. Less fascinating are the “little picture” chapters, based on interviews with former NSA globetrotters that make them seem more like adventurers than compulsive snoops. There’s also a major scoop in this book about a 1962 plan called Operation Northwoods, which was approved by the Joint Chiefs but never implemented. The Chiefs wanted to launch a terrorism war against Americans themselves, so that it could be blamed on Cuba, thereby justifying retaliation. The phrase “conspiracy to commit treason against the American people” comes to mind, but for the Pentagon this was just business as usual.
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Bamford, James. The Puzzle Palace: A Report on America’s Most Secret Agency. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1982. 465 pages.
The National Security Agency is many times larger than the CIA, and since 1952 has spent many billions more per year. That didn’t stop journalists from ignoring it, which suited NSA just fine. The story was too tough (or too career-threatening) for them; it took a mild-mannered, unassuming 35-year-old lawyer from Natick, Massachusetts to come along and blow the lid off. His only tools were persistence, shoe leather, and a tolerance for dusty library shelves in obscure archives. It was enough to get folks upset. The government reclassified some documents and warned Bamford “not to publish or communicate the information.” Newsweek — while grudgingly admitting that the book is “fascinating” and “revealing” — spent more space quoting inside sources regarding the book’s errors and insisted that “the threat the NSA poses to the privacy of Americans is not nearly so dire as Bamford would have it” (9/6/82).
NSA is located in Fort Meade, Maryland in twenty buildings with a dozen acres of underground computers. In 1978 it controlled 68,000 people to listen in on the world’s communications, analyze satellite eavesdropping systems, and develop and break codes. Numerous listening posts are spread around the globe, and 40 tons of classified documents are sent to the shredder each day. Your tax dollars are hard at work.
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Codevilla, Angelo. Informing Statecraft: Intelligence for a New Century. New York: The Free Press, 1992. 491 pages.
Angelo Codevilla, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, presents the conservative argument for major reform of the U.S. intelligence community. It’s not because he has ethical objections to spying or covert action — on the contrary, Codevilla is an admirer of Machiavelli. It’s just that the taxpayers are not getting much more than incompetence and a self-serving bureaucracy for their $31 billion per year. To put it indelicately, U.S. intelligence is a boondoggle.
Over half of this budget figure is for expensive snooper satellites, many of which are focused so narrowly that they produce little that’s useful. The rest is a combination of military and the CIA (the CIA gets $3.5 billion), and includes both technical and human intelligence. Counter- intelligence, mainly through the FBI, ends up with very little. To the extent that the CIA pretends to do counterintelligence at all, Codevilla feels that they’re doing it all wrong. Moreover, the CIA’s officers stationed in U.S. embassies throughout the world are useless, and the CIA should be stripped down to a clearinghouse. Unfortunately for his detractors, Codevilla is not just another professor with a new book: as a senior staff member of the Senate Intelligence Committee from 1977 to 1985, he learned where all the billions are buried.
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Corson, William R. The Armies of Ignorance: The Rise of the American Intelligence Empire. New York: Dial Press/James Wade Books, 1977. 640 pages.
The first half of this book is a history of U.S. intelligence from World War I up to the formation of the CIA in 1947, and the last 100 pages deal with the Revolutionary War up to World War I. This left about 200 pages in the middle that covered 30 years of CIA history. This is the material that was appropriate for NameBase.
Corson, an able academic historian and former intelligence professional who lives in Potomac, Maryland, brought his considerable experience and many inside contacts to bear on this discussion of intelligence issues. For our purposes, we found the lists of various committee members particularly useful. These committees were formed as presidents from Truman to Carter dealt with aspects of intelligence policy. The committee membership provides a clue to that vague but important distinction between players and non- players — in other words, the ruling class insiders and outsiders of U.S. history since World War II. Although some of Corson’s bureaucracy-tracking might seem dull, this type of study is necessary. By following the paper trail of U.S. intelligence through numerous archives and presidential libraries, a seldom-appreciated aspect of policy-making is revealed, along with its power and consequent responsibility.
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Corvo, Max. The O.S.S. in Italy, 1942-1945. New York: Praeger, 1990. 324 pages.
In 1942, U.S. Army Private Max Corvo was a 21-year-old Sicilian immigrant who came up with a plan for subversive warfare against Sicily. He wrangled a three-day pass and an interview in Washington, and a few weeks later was transferred to the Office of Strategic Services. For the next seven months he traveled around the U.S. and recruited other immigrants. From 1943 to 1945, Corvo was stationed abroad, in charge of OSS operations in Italy. After the war he retired from intelligence work, and since 1947 has been the publisher of the Middletown Bulletin in Connecticut. Along with other OSS veterans, Corvo remains active in reconstructing the history of the agency from declassified documents.
There were numerous successes, as well as bureaucratic turf and logistical support problems, for the OSS in Italy. It was the Office of Naval Intelligence, for example, that released Mafia chief Lucky Luciano from a U.S. prison and recruited him for their advance work in Sicily, sidelining the OSS. (Corvo says that he made an early decision to avoid Mafia contacts during his recruitment efforts.) After Corvo left Italy, James Angleton took over the work there, and according to other accounts, vigorously encouraged the anti-leftist elements. More often than not, this meant promoting those with masonic, syndicate, or fascist connections.
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Jeffreys-Jones, Rhodri. The CIA and American Democracy. New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 1989. 338 pages.
Ordinarily, any book from Yale University Press about the CIA has two strikes against it, because of Yale’s long-standing relationship with intelligence elites. But Jeffreys-Jones, from his perspective at the University of Edinburgh, does a decent job of recounting CIA history from the published record. This is a scholarly work that is based on manuscripts, official documents, books, articles, memoirs, and oral history interviews, many of which are from presidential libraries and other special collections. The bibliography alone amounts to twenty pages of small print. It is not an investigative book in the journalistic sense, and there’s evidence of only a handful of interviews by the author.
Most of this book covers familiar ground. There is more material on Congressional relations than on covert operations, and the odd tidbit about some obscure staff aide occasionally sheds new light. There is also material on the machinations behind the founding of the CIA, and Truman’s position on this issue, that cannot be found in other books. The author’s conclusions are mushy, which is par for academia: yes, there’s a contradiction between democracy and the CIA; yes, the abuses of the power have been serious; no, don’t blame the CIA but instead blame presidential politics; yes, we need covert operations; and yes, it’s a dilemma that is sure to continue.
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Kessler, Ronald. Inside the CIA. New York: Pocket Books, 1994. 358 pages.
While Ronald Kessler is not a critic of U.S. intelligence agencies, neither is he an unqualified booster. The strength of this book is that he’s the first outsider to be allowed inside for a tour of CIA headquarters, and granted interviews with present and former CIA officials, for the specific purpose of writing it. After William Casey died, William Webster’s mandate was to restore an image of integrity to the CIA. One result of his efforts was a new openness in the CIA’s public affairs office, which traditionally had offered only a “no comment” to any and all journalists.
Kessler deals with each of the CIA’s four directorates (operations, science and technology, intelligence, administration), as well as the Office of the Director, in five separate sections of the book. He blends a bit of historical context (including some dirty laundry) with a description of day-to-day operations, and the result is worthwhile even for those of us who have read dozens of books about the CIA. But after noting on page 125 that “at least 80 percent” of the information used by the analysts in the Directorate of Intelligence is from open sources, we’d like to see another chapter on how the Directorate of Operations can be justified in the first place — particularly since it was never part of the CIA’s original charter (page 301), and it means we cannot complain about KGB moles without invoking a double standard. But that’s a chapter Kessler isn’t ready to write.
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Kessler, Ronald. Moscow Station: How the KGB Penetrated the American Embassy. New York: Pocket Books, 1990. 340 pages.
“Moscow Station” tells the story of the KGB’s efforts to penetrate the U.S. embassy in Moscow, mainly by planting eavesdropping devices and by assigning attractive Soviet women to bait U.S. personnel. Examples of the former are the microwave cavity resonator discovered inside the Great Seal in 1952 and the thirteen bugged IBM typewriters discovered in 1984, which were being used in secure areas of the Moscow embassy and the Leningrad consulate. About half of the book reconstructs the investigation of Clayton J. Lonetree, an example of a “honey trap.” Lonetree, a young marine guard, confessed in 1987 after passing secrets to his Soviet girlfriend, who was employed at the embassy, and her KGB control officer, Alexei G. Yefimov.
Award-winning correspondent Ronald Kessler spent fifteen years at the Washington Post, and has also been a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. His books include “Spy vs. Spy,” “Moscow Station,” and “The Richest Man in the World: The Story of Adnan Khashoggi.” The first two are remarkable for his excellent contacts within current U.S. counterintelligence circles, while the book on Khashoggi was an international bestseller. Kessler lives in Potomac, Maryland.
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Kessler, Ronald. The FBI: Inside the World’s Most Powerful Law Enforcement Agency. New York: Pocket Books, 1993. 492 pages.
When FBI director William Sessions issued a teletype to all FBI employees requesting their cooperation with author Ronald Kessler, he made the biggest mistake of his career. Kessler blew the whistle on Sessions’ administrative incompetence, and on the antics of his wife Alice and longtime assistant Sarah Munford, both of whom were allowed to play ego games at FBI headquarters. Sessions was fired by President Clinton on July 19, 1993. Some of his defenders claimed that Sessions had to go because the FBI was getting curious about the Iraqi loan scandal, but Kessler debunks this theory.
Kessler’s unprecedented access to the FBI has produced one of the few books to concentrate on the years since J. Edgar Hoover’s death in 1972. Although there’s a recruitment-poster quality in Kessler’s description of hero agents, this book redeems itself by naming plenty of names, and by describing how things work at the FBI’s various departments and major field offices. Whatever one thinks about Kessler’s “inside” books (he also wrote one on the CIA with the cooperation of director William Webster), at least he’s thorough. For this book he interviewed 314 current and former agents and other FBI personnel, had the run of all FBI facilities, and even sat in on training classes, flew with Sessions on the FBI plane, and spent a night at the home of the chief agent in Dallas, Oliver B. (Buck) Revell.
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Mader, Julius. Who’s Who in CIA. Berlin: J.Mader, 1968. 605 pages.
Published in East Germany, under Stasi auspices and probably with KGB assistance, this little (4 by 5.5 inches) book is nearly impossible to find. It even has a habit of disappearing from U.S. libraries. Each of the nearly 2500 entries has a birth date and several short lines of career information.
Mader paints with a broad brush. He admits in his introduction — if not in his title — that his listings include former OSS, military intelligence (even during WW2), State Department personnel who have done “work for CIA,” FBI counterintelligence, and also the occasional politician who sat on this or that intelligence committee. Generally when Mader includes a name, it’s merely an indication that Mader found this person interesting for one reason or another, and further research and corroboration is needed before any conclusions can be drawn. Some of his names, for example, appear to have been compiled by looking for the word “intelligence” in the State Department Biographic Register.

At the same time, Mader apparently had access to some information on CIA officers that was not publicly available. More than once a “new” CIA name has surfaced in Western media that had been sitting in Mader’s book all along. For the occasional investigator who is too experienced to expect easy answers, this book continues to be quite useful. — D.Brandt
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Perry, Mark. Eclipse: The Last Days of the CIA. New York: William Morrow, 1992. 528 pages.
In this book Perry covers the CIA from the death of William Casey to the nomination of Robert Gates. He has chapters on how the CIA dealt with the Tiananmen Square massacre, Middle East terrorism, the fall of Eastern Europe, the Soviet breakup, the Persian Gulf War, and Panama.
Perry is skeptical of the CIA’s ability to handle a crisis, from its failure to predict the fall of the Soviet empire to its failure to provide adequate intelligence for Desert Storm. One of the most troubling chapters is on CIA’s assessments and handling of the 1989 pro-democracy movement in China. Though the CIA helped rescue many of the student leaders, it failed to predict the military crackdown. George Bush is depicted as a novice in his understanding of the CIA, despite the fact that Bush was once CIA director. CIA director William Webster is slower still, apparently lacking even in his knowledge of world geography. Perry interviewed numerous CIA officers and State Department officials for this book. The work includes an excellent bibliography and chronology for further research.

— Wendell Minnick
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Pisani, Sallie. The CIA and the Marshall Plan. Lawrence KS: University Press of Kansas, 1991. 188 pages.
In 1983, Sallie Pisani was a graduate student in history at Rutgers University. She approached Richard Bissell at the Bach Festival that year and asked him a question. This led to extensive interviews with Bissell, and through him with John Bross, Lawrence Houston, Kermit Roosevelt, and Franklin Lindsay. Pisani turned it into a doctoral dissertation, and by 1991 was assistant professor of history at Monmouth College in New Jersey.
The covert-action arm of the early post-war U.S. intelligence establishment was called the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), which was later absorbed into the CIA. The program of U.S. aid to Europe following the war was broadly called the Marshall Plan, one aspect of which was the appropriation under the Economic Cooperation Administration. ECA included secret funding for OPC activities in Europe. This book is a behind-the- scenes look at policymaking during the early Cold War years. Ex-OSS elites, such as those interviewed by Pisani, played an active role in making sure that U.S. aid came with political strings attached, often in the form of secretly-funded propaganda fronts that pushed the correct line. We beat the Communists at their own game. But victory came at a price: covert action in peacetime is now institutionalized, and it won’t go away.
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Prados, John. Keepers of the Keys: A History of the National Security Council from Truman to Bush. New York: William Morrow, 1991. 632 pages.
The NSC started out in 1947 under the National Security Act, the same bill that authorized the CIA. Truman rarely bothered to attend its meetings, but Eisenhower created the position of national security advisor. Kennedy strengthened the NSC when he used its staff and his advisors to deal with the Cuban missile crisis, and Johnson gave his advisors, McGeorge Bundy and Walt Rostow, major roles in Vietnam policy.
Kissinger, who was Nixon’s national security advisor, exercised a monopoly on foreign policy, making both the State Department and the NSC itself almost superfluous. Ford tried to restore the balance, but Carter’s advisor Brzezinski regained much of the power that Kissinger once had. By the time Reagan sleepwalked his way into the oval office, the NSC was able to run with the ball in the President’s name. This allowed an obscure lieutenant colonel named Oliver North to orchestrate U.S. policy under the protection of U.S. secrecy laws, and in the name of the American people (despite public opinion polls to the contrary). While journalists were generally content to doze under Reagan’s spell, some eventually woke up.
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Prouty, L. Fletcher. The Secret Team: The CIA and Its Allies in Control of the United States and the World. New York: Ballantine Books, 1974. 556 pages.
L. Fletcher Prouty is a retired Air Force colonel who served in the Pentagon from 1955-1963 as the Focal Point liaison officer for Department of Defense support of CIA covert activities. During the Kennedy years his title was Chief, Special Operations Division, Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was a briefing officer on various special assignments dating back to the Cairo and Teheran conferences of 1943, and has also been a jet pilot and professor of air science and tactics at Yale University. Since first writing on the topic in May, 1970 for the Washington Monthly, he has made a persistent case based on his own experiences that the CIA and other secret elites are out of control. Prouty was portrayed as “Mr. X” in Oliver Stone’s movie “JFK.”
“The Secret Team” is Prouty’s euphemism for those security-cleared individuals in and out of government who react with paramilitary plans and activities, directly or through proxies, to data provided by the CIA and NSA. “It is a bewildering collection of semipermanent or temporarily assembled action committees and networks,” whose power “derives from its vast intragovernmental undercover infrastructure and its direct relationship with great private industries, mutual funds and investment houses, universities, and the news media, including foreign and domestic publishing houses.”
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Richelson, Jeffrey T. The Wizards of Langley: Inside the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology. Boulder CO: Westview Press, 2001. 386 pages.
This is the first book to focus on the Directorate of Science and Technology (DST) at the CIA. The DST story begins in the 1950s with high-altitude photography and the U-2 spy plane, which gave way to spy satellites such as the KH-11 by the end of the 1970s. One problem with a book like this is that an author’s access is always best for those topics that are least controversial, which means that the successes and gee-whiz gadgets get the most ink. The failures (remote viewing) and morally repugnant programs (mind control) are barely mentioned. The book can end up reading like a recruiting poster for the CIA.
The future for high-tech at the CIA does not look bright. There have been bureaucratic problems, and today the National Reconnaissance Office controls most of the resources for spy satellite programs. By 2000 there was even some doubt whether DST could survive as a separate entity. The biggest problem now is finding ways to sort through all the information that is available, by developing software that can sift, translate, search and visualize the data. The CIA has a hard time keeping current with information technology, and formed a venture capital firm called In-Q-Tel to invest in certain smaller companies that are likely to be more innovative than the big defense contractors.
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Riebling, Mark. Wedge: The Secret War Between the FBI and CIA. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994. 563 pages.
Mark Riebling graduated in 1984 with a degree in philosophy, his writing is articulate and reflective, and he also did the usual number of interviews, government-archive sleuthing, and FOIA requests that one would expect for a history on the jurisdictional struggles between the FBI and OSS/CIA from 1941 to the present. The problem in these struggles was counterintelligence. At the FBI, Hoover and his by-the-book flatfoots didn’t have a feel for the complex games that the KGB might be playing. At the CIA, meanwhile, James Angleton was hamstrung by an unworkable geographical split that passed jurisdiction to the FBI as soon as the target entered the U.S. As shown by the Aldrich Ames case, the two agencies still cannot cooperate effectively.
In some sections of this book, Riebling appears to have relied heavily on the assistance he received from Edward Jay Epstein, an Angleton confidant who still pushes his theories. Fortunately, Riebling explains the Angleton view so competently that it finally makes sense on its own terms. One can see, for example, why those at the CIA who felt that the KGB or Castro were behind Oswald in 1963 would still be inclined toward cover-up. Castro, they had suddenly discovered, knew all about the CIA’s most closely-held secret — namely, the CIA-Mafia plots against him. This meant that Castro would be able to point the finger back at the CIA by claiming justifiable homicide.
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Sayer, Ian and Botting, Douglas. America’s Secret Army: The Untold Story of the Counter Intelligence Corps. New York: Franklin Watts, 1989. 400 pages.
The U.S. Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) served in World War I, World War II, and Korea, but the public first heard of it in 1983. Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie was being extradited from Bolivia to France and his picture was in the news. College professor Erhard Dabringhaus saw the picture and dialed the local TV station in Sarasota, Florida to tell them that he was the agent who had run Barbie in 1949 when they were both employed by CIC in Germany. It seemed that another window was slowly opening on secret U.S. history. Other CIC agents during and shortly after the war included Henry Kissinger, J.D. Salinger, and Richard Helms.
Sayer and Botting are experts on Nazi history. For this book they gained exclusive access to CIC archives and corresponded with dozens of former agents. Although well-written, the book tends to romanticize the history of CIC, perhaps as an antidote to all the negative 1983 publicity. This is probably why the authors enjoyed so much official cooperation in the first place. But as the only book available on the CIC “big picture,” we take what we can get. It has just 20 pages on Barbie and is not very concerned with CIC’s use of ex-Nazis, but Dabringhaus has written a book of his own (“Klaus Barbie”, Washington: Acropolis Books, 1984).
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Smith, Bradley F. The Shadow Warriors: OSS and the Origins of the CIA. New York: Basic Books, 1983. 507 pages.
At least four books on William Donovan and OSS appeared in 1981-1983, by authors Thomas F. Troy, Richard Dunlop, Anthony Cave Brown, and Bradley F. Smith. There are several ways to explain this excess: 1) much primary source material was now available from government archives; 2) OSS man William Casey helped to resurrect the myth (Casey encouraged Anthony Cave Brown to write his book, and the CIA released Donovan’s papers to him); 3) congressional hearings on CIA misdeeds in the mid-1970s may have prompted OSS veterans to defend their heritage; 4) the backlash against the “Vietnam syndrome” invited nostalgia for the moral clarity of World War II; and 5) many OSS officers were recruited from academia, so scholarly interest in U.S. intelligence has always been abundant. After the nitpicking and boring prose, one realizes that these books generally fawn over Donovan. Apparently his only shortcoming was in 1945, when peace broke out and briefly threatened an end to covert activities. Author Bradley Smith is more cynical than most, but he concentrates more on Donovan’s bureaucratic wars in Washington than on the campaigns in the field. One tidbit from Smith is that in the fall of 1940, Donovan used the U.S. media to play up the bogus threat of a Nazi “fifth column” in order to promote his plans for an intelligence agency (pages 38-39). In other words, what the OSS called “psychological warfare” when issued as foreign propaganda, was first used on U.S. citizens.
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Smith, Richard Harris. OSS: The Secret History of America’s First Central Intelligence Agency. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981. First published in 1972. 458 pages.
Smith resigned from a brief CIA career in 1968 and began work on this history of OSS. Although he was not able to obtain access to OSS archives, he did contact some 200 OSS and State Department alumni. More importantly, he has the delightful habit of providing hundreds of career updates through footnotes: so-and-so of the OSS went on to become CIA station chief in whatever country from this year to that year, etc. — which makes this book a NameBase inputter’s dream come true.
The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was the major U.S. intelligence agency during WW2. Its research branch consisted largely of conscientious humanities and social science liberals from Harvard and Yale. Their sudden access to international secrets, when mixed with inbred academic elitism, proved quite compelling. By war’s end, these opinion-makers had become converts to OSS director William Donovan’s vision of a postwar agency. Despite Truman’s reluctance, Donovan’s old-boy network was formalized into the CIA; the pipe-smoking liberal of the thirties became the cold warrior of the fifties. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the academic community would begin to recover its social conscience.
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Sullivan, William (with Bill Brown). The Bureau: My Thirty Years in Hoover’s FBI. New York: Pinnacle Books, 1982. 286 pages.
William C. Sullivan was appointed by J. Edgar Hoover as the number three man in the FBI in 1970, almost thirty years after he first became an agent, and was fired the following year when he began criticizing Hoover’s methods. In November 1977, Sullivan was killed in a hunting accident in the woods near his home in New Hampshire. Some consider this to be another suspicious death. But even though Sullivan took secrets to the grave at a time when our national media was interested in reporting them, the evidence of conspiracy in his death is lacking.
This book is valuable mainly as a study of Hoover’s autocratic administration. Few enjoyed a close-range view of Hoover, and those that did got there by either flattering him or keeping quiet. Although Sullivan considered himself a liberal Democrat, his politics were contradictory. He supported the expansion of illegal surveillance methods advocated by Nixon’s White House (the Huston Plan), while Hoover saw this plan as a turf war and opposed it. At the same time, Hoover was forever pursuing the Communist Party USA. But Sullivan, who was named assistant director of the FBI’s Intelligence Division in 1961, had long recognized that the Party was tiny and irrelevant.
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Summers, Anthony. Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1993. 528 pages.
After 850 interviews and “hundreds of thousands of documents” over a five-year period, Anthony Summers, based in Ireland and best known for his JFK assassination research, has produced an eye-opening biography of Hoover. Soon after the PBS production “Frontline” highlighted some of his research on February 9, 1993, this book, which had just been released, headed for the bestseller lists.
Comedian Jay Leno keeps hammering on Hoover’s coffin with references to his cross-dressing, but there’s much more to Summers’ research. Hoover is depicted as perhaps the most powerful politician in Washington, feared by every president who served over him. The only players who were immune to Hoover’s secret files were those who had secrets of their own about his personal life — namely, the Mafia. Hoover’s homosexuality was known to the Mafia, who apparently had photographs, and Hoover’s frequent gambling junkets were paid by his Mafia friends. Meanwhile, Hoover’s anti-Communism was self-serving. “If it were not for me,” Hoover is quoted as saying in 1963, “there would not be a Communist Party of the United States. Because I’ve financed the Communist Party, in order to know what they are doing.”
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Swearingen, M. Wesley. FBI Secrets: An Agent’s Expose. Boston: South End Press, 1995. 192 pages.
M. Wesley Swearingen spent 25 years in the FBI. From 1952-1962 he was assigned to Chicago, and from 1970-1977 he was in Los Angeles; other postings included Kentucky and New York. Most of his career was spent on political cases — black bag jobs against suspected communists in Chicago, and dirty tricks against the Black Panther Party in Los Angeles, along with tracking members of the Weather Underground. Swearingen is the first agent to offer an explosive inside look at the FBI’s COINTELPRO program. He even has evidence that Elmer (Geronimo) Pratt, who is still in prison trying to get a new trial, was framed for murder by the FBI and LAPD. When Swearingen was writing his memoirs after retiring, the FBI got wind of it and raided his boat to search for documents. Publisher William Morrow had a contract with Swearingen, but then they mysteriously lost interest.
This book destroys the myth of FBI integrity. While the FBI told Congress that only 238 black bag jobs had been conducted nationwide between 1942 and 1966, Swearingen once documented at least 500 bag jobs in Chicago alone between 1952 and 1957. Stomping on the rights of citizens is one thing. But Swearingen also describes an amazing level of petty corruption and incompetence within the FBI. Much of this was due to the legacy of J. Edgar Hoover, who preferred sycophancy over honesty from his aides.
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Turner, William W. Hoover’s FBI. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1993. 344 pages. Revised and updated from the 1970 edition by Sherbourne Press, which also appeared as a Dell paperback.
From 1951-1961, William W. Turner was an FBI agent, until he was fired for refusing to roll over in the face of J. Edgar Hoover’s eccentric megalomania. Turner hired superlawyer Edward Bennett Williams and sued the FBI; he lost, but did manage to get anti-Hoover testimony by other agents into the record. By 1968, Turner was working on the JFK assassination for the celebrated muckraking magazine Ramparts, and was number three on Hoover’s personal COINTELPRO enemies list. That year Turner wrote The Police Establishment, and after this book appeared in 1970, he wrote several others that are indexed in NameBase: Power on the Right, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy (with John Christian), and The Fish is Red (with Warren Hinckle, about the CIA and anti-Castro Cubans).
What’s amazing, 26 years after Hoover’s death, is that this book was not only the first, but still ranks as one of the best, among the dozens of books that have since appeared on this topic. Everything anyone needed to know about Hoover was available while he was still in power, for the price of a Dell paperback, and before the Freedom of Information Act started churning out documents. It’s a brutal reminder that even when the facts are indisputable, most people still find it convenient to ignore them.
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Turner, Stansfield. Secrecy and Democracy: The CIA in Transition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1985. 305 pages.
“A native of Highland Park, Illinois, Stansfield Turner entered Amherst College in 1941 and was graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1946. As a Rhodes Scholar he received a Master’s Degree in philosophy, politics, and economics from Oxford University in 1950. Admiral Turner has commanded a mine sweeper, a destroyer, a guided-missile cruiser, a carrier task group, and a fleet; and he has served as President of the Naval War College. His last naval assignment was as Commander in Chief of NATO’s Southern Flank. In 1977 President Jimmy Carter selected him to be the Director of Central Intelligence, where he served until January 1981. Stansfield Turner is currently a lecturer, writer, and TV commentator, and serves on the Board of Directors of several American corporations.” [About the Author, page 305]
Turner is best known for attempting to de-emphasize the role of covert action in favor of high-tech intelligence collection and objective analysis. He passed out over 850 pink slips to covert operators, and this was after James Schlesinger had canned more than two thousand spooks in 1973. When William Casey took over in 1981, some of the old guard were reactivated. Currently the emphasis seems once again to be on collection, but this time collection by humans (HUMINT) rather than by high-tech.
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Turner, William W. Rearview Mirror: Looking Back at the FBI, the CIA and Other Tails. Granite Bay CA: Penmarin Books, 2001. 318 pages.
After ten years as an FBI special agent, William Turner resigned and became an investigative journalist. He went on assignments for Ramparts magazine and was soon a senior editor (Ramparts was arguably the most significant magazine that has appeared in the U.S. since the 1930s). Turner became interested in Jim Garrison’s efforts to reopen the JFK assassination, and also co-authored a book (with Jonn Christian) on the Robert Kennedy assassination. His “Hoover’s FBI” is one of earliest to blow the whistle on Hoover, and “The Fish is Red,” which he wrote with Warren Hinckle, is a detailed look at the CIA’s Cuban exile community.
Turner was personally targeted by J. Edgar Hoover, at about the time that Ramparts was a target of dirty tricks engineered by the CIA. And needless to say, any high-profile person who saw the assassinations as conspiracies in the late 1960s could forget about qualifying for life insurance. Turner not only survived, but still has that rare quality of being able to put things into useful perspective, without dismissing relevant evidence or becoming paralyzed with paranoia. The chapters about the adventures of Ramparts, and the JFK and RFK assassinations, are excellent. As just one example, Turner was involved with “Farewell America,” a mysterious book from Europe about the JFK assassination.
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Volkman, Ernest and Baggett, Blaine. Secret Intelligence. New York: Doubleday, 1989. 265 pages.
This self-described “popular history” of certain episodes in U.S. intelligence grew out of a public television series that was produced in Los Angeles. It concentrates on the topics that might capture an audience: code-breaking, assassinations, Vietnam and Laos, the FBI’s Cointelpro, electronic intelligence, and spy satellites. It begins in 1917 and ends with William Casey, and between those years it touches briefly on some of the more familiar issues and events.
The writing style is geared to the compelling video image, and sometimes presumes a front-row seat that imputes mood and motive to historical actors. Thus the teaser on the dust cover, “The Inside Story of America’s Espionage Empire,” shouldn’t be taken seriously. Viewers who want documentary infotainment will like the series, while folks who read only an occasional book will probably enjoy this one. If you think you have an interest in the topic, this is a good place to start. It may not be comprehensive, but it’s painless, informative, and well-written.
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Volkman, Ernest. Warriors of the Night: Spies, Soldiers, and American Intelligence. New York: William Morrow, 1985. 443 pages.
Ernest Volkman began writing articles on intelligence for Penthouse magazine in the 1970s. His strength as an essayist is demonstrated in this book, which consists of discrete chapters on various intelligence topics. These include the CIA’s war against Cuba (pages 61-95), spying and the arms race (pages 97-131), photo reconnaissance and spy satellites (pages 133-166), the mole wars (pages 167-228), and the CIA in Indochina (pages 229-264). Volkman includes endnotes, and most of his narrative is credible.
However, Volkman’s writing is not taken seriously by most scholars of U.S. intelligence. For one thing, his choice of wording is frequently exaggerated, in the style of an essayist writing from an elevated perspective. This probably makes it more interesting for readers who know little about the topic, but proves annoying for those who realize that major issues can be swept aside with merely a flippant phrase. Volkman does some interviews, but the bulk of his sources are secondary and he apparently chooses not to waste any time in special archives or with FOIA requests. Ultimately one is left with the impression that Volkman prefers to fire one shell from a shotgun and quickly move on to the next target in case he missed. Unfortunately, most of the issues discussed require a sniper’s expertise and equipment.
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Wise, David and Ross, Thomas B. The Espionage Establishment. New York: Random House, 1967. 309 pages.
Their first book was “The U-2 Affair” in 1962, their second was the comprehensive and critical “Invisible Government” in 1964, and this was the third and last by these co-authors. It deals primarily with spying by and between the intelligence services of the USSR, China, Britain, and the U.S. While the preceding book dealt with more with U.S. interventions in the Third World, this one is concerned with tradecraft and counter- intelligence, “illegals” and surveillance.
With all of the literature about the CIA over the past two decades, it is easy to forget that for the first half of the Agency’s history, almost nothing was in the public domain. Washington journalist David Wise changed all of that with “The Invisible Government” in 1964. CIA director John McCone called in Wise and co-author Thomas Ross to demand deletions on the basis of galleys the CIA had secretly obtained. When that didn’t work, the CIA formed a special group to deal with the book and tried to secure bad reviews, even though the CIA’s legal counsel had found the book “uncannily accurate.” As the unofficial dean of intelligence journalists, Wise is still working on future books from his Washington office.

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