Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Legacy of Ashes

I'm almost halfway through this history of the CIA, and it is eye-opening how much the CIA has done with so little actual hard information to go on. The myth of Jack Ryan, the ultra-informed CIA analyst created by Tom Clancy, is the opposite of the CIA as it really existed, at least in the parts I have read. The CIA seems to have operated on some really bad ideas, wasting lives and money in a desperate attempt to change world politics in the U.S.'s favor. The CIA's purpose in the early years was more focused on covert action than on intelligence-gathering, and the covert action was remarkably cavalier and destructive. This picture of the CIA is backed up with pages and pages of footnotes, and the author's access to declassified documents seems to be extensive. Still, one wonders if one is getting the whole truth in this history. I don't know if this criticism is valid or not without having any other information to go on, but it is a lingering question as I continue to read the book. It's an interesting read, but I hope it's not the whole story of the CIA.
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