The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence by Victor Marchetti and John D. Marks

“There is still a widely held belief in this country that America has the right and the responsibility to become involved in the internal political processes of foreign nations, and while faith in this belief and that of doctrinaire anti-communism may have been somewhat shaken in the last decade

“It is a multi-purpose, clandestine arm of power… more than an intelligence or counterintelligence organization.  It is an instrument for subversion, manipulation and violence, for the secret intervention in the affairs of other countries.”  -Allen Dulles (about KGB)

“Josef Stalin’s decision to attempt conquest of Western Europe by manipulation, the use of fronts and the purchasing of loyalty turned the Agency into a house of dirty tricks.  It was necessary.  Absolutely necessary, in my view.  But it lasted long after the necessity was gone.”  -Tom Braden, columnist


Well…  this book wasn’t what I expected.  It is neither the demagoguery I anticipated nor the bland narrative it likely could have been.  Once again, the CIA is simultaneously all things and none.  It is an out of control secret agency that is controlled by the President and discloses many different topics to Congress, the military and the media.  It is all powerful and yet helpless to effect real change.  It is a tightly bound bureaucratic machine while sloppy and inefficient. Etc. etc. ad infinitum ad nauseum.

Yet again, in an odd way, this book adds a little more light to CIA history and the social context it can be placed in.

I say read it, with the caveat that with either Agency-authored/vetted books or with Agency-critics’ books you keep in mind the intentions and motivations and later actions of the the ones writing it.  Anyone who ends up presenting to the Institute for Historical Review is suspect.

It is also hard to tell where the Agency is at currently, I’m afraid I’ve spent too much time in the past – the first 25 years of the CIA.  As much as there is a superfluity of available material for this era, I really need to stop lingering and get past 1973.