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I enjoyed Legacy of Ashes a little less than Enemies by the same author Not that it is not fascinating and horrifying, just that perhaps it painted such an abysmal picture of the agency probably deserved, I know but did not really point to things they do right or should do better The Central Intelligence Group the predecessor to the CIA was created in the wake of the end of WWII by President Harry Truman in order to focus the FBI on internal surveillance and investigation and have an intelligence gathering organization focused on outside sources The first director of national intelligence was wealthy Rear Admiral Sidney W Souers who also happened to make his fortune with the first self service supermarket chain the US Piggly Wiggly and FUN FACT I worked for a Piggly Wiggly when I was 13 15 and have fond memories of slicing the meat of my thumb open when cutting some OJ cartons and tipping over a 6 tier wine rack with the floor wax machine But Souers quickly found that there was no mandate and was not long in this position for this organization which itself had a very short shelf life The CIA was created in the wake of the dissolution of the CIG and continued with a poorly defined mission and with directors that were obsessed with black ops reversal of regimes hostile to the US and cloak and dagger stuff than the actual intelligence they gathered Due to this, it took decades to have reliable information from the Soviet Union and yet the CIA prided itself in overturning regimes in Iraq and Guatemala the true facts of these operations were far sordid as documented by Tim Weiner I was appalled at many of the details, not the least of which was the use of Jew baiting as propaganda to try and raise a crowd to support the US backed coups Particularly enlightening was the description in chapter 14 of the attempted coup in Syria in 57 which has such painful and dramatic resonance now, 60 years later Of course, the Korean War also a CIA screwup by underestimating the Chinese strength amassed at the NK China border and the Vietnam War replete with senseless murders of civilians in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam including torture and napalm bombings Someone, despite all these catastrophes, the CIA was able to paint a nice picture to VP Nixon and later President Johnson From Weiner s notes, we can see that there is a great deal of evidence behind the theories that the Cubans with some aid from the KGB had the best reason for Kennedy s assassination in retaliation for the Bay of Pigs disaster and that the Cuban Missile crisis was not the story of Kennedy bravely staring down the nuclear barrel but rather Kruschev offering an exchange of US removal of arms in Turkey for USSR removal of arms in Cuba A majority of the document sources Weiner is using are declassified dossiers from 2002 2004, so the research is relatively recent and contains many facts previously hidden to the public In fact, there had been multiple illegal attempts on Castro s life by the CIA of which Bobby Kennedy as Attorney General was well aware, and it is highly likely that the use of deranged USSR citizen wannabe Oswald was acting on the orders of the Cubans with aid from the USSR Moving on towards the late 60s early 70s, the catastrophe in Indonesia was also largely the CIA s fault costing literally hundreds of thousands of lives The issue is that the massive amounts of dark money that could be coerced out of Congress to fund these operations regardless of their income were so appetizing to the folks running the CIA and they had no qualms about lying about their intentions spies being good at lying, right This lead to incredible abuses of power and the law and a shocking number of lost lives both enemy and friendly, both military CIA and civilian I am unable to continue detailing each of the many disasters that the CIA ham handed, but I will mention the two that were most influential on my personal opinion of the CIA the false information on weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussain who the CIA put into power and armed that the CIA gave knowingly to Colin Powell who then knowingly lied about it in front of the UN justifying a useless invasion of Iraq under Dubya, and then the supreme crime of the CIA their complete lack of any warning whatsoever in the 9 11 bombings in NYC Due to these failures, there was a bit of a come to Jesus moment back in 2005 2006 at which time the CIA was nearly disbanded Unfortunately, the book was written in 2007, so I do not have any information on what happened in the 10 years lapse I suppose it does not look like Carrie, Saul and Quinn going after the bad guys, but something far different.Highly readable and well researched, Legacy of Ashes is an important book right now was some fundamentals of democracy are being called to attention and in some cases destroyed by Drumpf s government The question of collective national security vs individual freedom is one in which the latter has most often lost the battle and seems to be losing again in terms of Drumpf Internet Policy I think that this book makes the argument that hiding things from citizens nearly always leads to catastrophe and that when the government steamrolls individual rights, it almost always comes back to haunt them one way or another. The idea of a Central Intelligence Agency is quite a good one and I do understand why the US might want such an organisation There are lots of nations in the world and some of them have very good reason to dislike the United States they hate your freedom, your freedom to bomb them into the dark ages and so it is a pretty good idea for the US to have some idea what these nations are up to Are they building weapons of mass destruction, for example, and if they are what for Not everyone that builds a bomb necessarily wants to drop it on an American So, finding out the motivation of your potential enemies sounds like a reasonable thing to do The CIA has been quite good at times of taking photos of places other countries might not want them to take photos of but incredibly hopeless at working out why.The US is famously described as a melting pot that is, out of many, one has been made if you wrote that in Latin it could almost be a motto Anyway, you would think that a nation that has been made up out of people from every other nation in the world it wouldn t really have all that much trouble in putting together a spy network But that hasn t really been the experience of the US over the years There are parts of this book that read like Greek tragedy My favourite is the telling of the story of the death of Kennedy For three years the CIA had been trying to kill Castro and suddenly they thought that Castro had gotten in first What to do The problem was that if it came out that the CIA had been trying to kill Castro then people might think Castro was within his rights to strike first So the CIA tried to cover up what it had been planning which meant having to lie to the Warren Commission Conspiracy theories are all very well, but you don t need a conspiracy when straight history is this bizarre.The image that you get of the CIA from this book is mostly one of complete incompetence Essentially it is an organisation that knew virtually nothing about what was going on in the Soviet Union, nothing at all about North Korea, nothing about Iran and certainly less than nothing about Iraq I was really surprised at how many Presidents simply didn t pay any attention to the advice the CIA gave In fact, I was surprised to learn that most Republican Presidents felt the CIA was part of a leftwing conspiracy against them That is pretty much the exact opposite of what I would have thought, myself.There is instance after instance of quotes of advice given by the CIA to Presidents saying, for example, that there will be no war in Korea in the week the war started, or Iran will be much as it is for 20 years as the Iranian revolution was starting or that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction before the US launched one of the most expensive wars in history.The failures are epic and breathtaking What is even breathtaking is how no one ever seems to take responsibility for any failure You would think that someone would get a kick in the bum for the error over WMD in Iraq, say but in fact, the person who you would think was most responsible for it, George Tennent, was granted the Presidential Medal of Freedom the country greatest honour You can only say that the people in power in the US have no respect for their citizens otherwise giving Tennent such an award would be impossible Being a spy not only means never having to say you are sorry, but also being congratulated for your mistakes.The most disturbing thing is the most obvious thing that the CIA prefers dictatorships to democracy as is confirmed time and time again It wants the world to be predictable and democracy doesn t really do predictable This is a story that proves truth is stranger than fiction Throughout its history the CIA those in charge have constantly said that it is five years away from being able to fulfil its mission It is time to admit that tomorrow never comes and perhaps it would be better to just close the whole thing down. Attention crazy people If you are one of those poor souls who thinks that the Central Intelligence Agency is reading your thoughts and or manipulating your brain waves I have good news for you You can take off your aluminum foil hat and stop trying to pull out that tooth with the tracking device Here it is The CIA is too incompetent to do any of the things you are worried about Seriously After reading Legacy of Ashes, I m amazed that we weren t taken down by the Soviets during the Cold War or that China hasn t invaded and turned the US into a giant sweatshop that sews cheap clothing for its citizens or that some terrorists haven t reduced the country to pile of radioactive rubble Kind of odd timing to read a book that bashes the CIA this much shortly after Osama got his much deserved bullet to the brain, but this book outlined how the CIA muffed multiple opportunities to kill him before 9 11 during the Clinton and W Bush years After repeated stories of just how incredibly bad the CIA is at actually collecting human intelligence it s really not that surprising that bin Ladin had been living in a posh neighborhood for years while American forces searched caves in Afghanistan If you read something like a Tom Clancy novel, you ll get the idea that the CIA is really good at its job and that the occasional snafu like the Bay of Pigs or claiming that Iraq had WMD are just aberrations Per Tim Weiner, the real story is that the for the CIA the Bay of Pigs and Iraq WMDs are the typical performance levels, we just only hear about the really big screw ups After World War II and with the Cold War ramping up, America needed an intelligence service, but all Harry Truman really wanted was an agency to boil down all the information that the military and state department collected and summarize it for him daily However, when a bunch of former OSS guys were put in charge, their brilliant idea of an intelligence service was parachuting half trained dissidents behind the Iron Curtain to lead resistance groups and perform sabotage missions Unfortunately, the people were so poorly prepared and the Soviets had already so thoroughly penetrated the Agency that they were almost all captured and or killed Oh, and they completely missed the Soviets developing their own atomic bomb thanks to stolen intelligence.From the Korean War through Vietnam to missing the economic decay of the Soviet Union that caused it s ultimate collapse, the CIA was so consistently bad at their supposed main job of gathering intelligence that it boggles the mind Weathermen are jealous at how these guys were able to be so repeatedly and completely wrong yet somehow none of them lost their jobs over it.The only thing that CIA seems to have been really good at was backing the most evil fucks around as long as they claimed to be anti communist If there was a strong arm dictator or leader of a military coup waiting to take over from a government with the slightest bit of left leanings the CIA was there with bags of cash and support for assholes to take over countries like Iran and Guatemala, and the result has been countless deaths of innocent people and the trashing of goodwill towards America in many parts of the world To be fair, there s a few parts of the book where it seems that Weiner doesn t give them credit for the few things they did right Accurately predicating the outbreak of violence in Rwanda or running a successful operation to help convince Libya to ditch it s WMD programs are barely mentioned And despite documenting how the CIA has bowed to political pressure and repeatedly told several presidents exactly what they wanted to hear the Iraqi WMD claims are portrayed almost exclusively as an intelligence failure with little mention of poltical pressure from the Bush administration which is hard to believe Overall, Weiner used recently declassified internal CIA reports and histories to document a long history of spectacular failure The book explores how a combination of politics and a bureaucratic nightmare has left America deaf and blind at the times it could least afford to be so even as the myth of an all knowing intelligence agency has been perpetuated Billions upon billions of dollars have been spent trying to keep tabs on America s enemies Frankly, we all would have been better off if the US would have used that cash to buy everyone in the world some cake and ice cream every now and then At least maybe so many people wouldn t hate us because how could you be mad at someone who gives you free cake and ice cream Tim Weiner deserves enormous credit for amassing such a huge and detailed body of information for us to look at and judge the CIA He writes history the way I prefer to read it chronologically When characters appear before or after their moment in the limelight, Weiner tries to keep them in context of events happening contemporaneously This is a huge aid to both our understanding and to our judgment That having been said, this was a difficult book to read listen to because of the poor assessment of the Agency, because of the accretion of evidence of mistakes and incompetence, because of the massive amount of information readers get about how the Agency operated at different times under different leaders with different mandates.The easy solutions to repairing or overhauling the Agency when they have done something spectacularly inept or not done something, like prepare us for 9 11 have all been tried, each unsuccessful in its own way Weiner has given us the material with which to begin to understand what we as citizens have tasked and funded the Agency to do and to ask ourselves if this is still a valid and do able goal Soliciting secrets held by foreign governments can be very difficult work Most of the time those secrets are revealed because individuals have a reason for wanting to impart the information, a reason that may have little to do with money, though money often does grease the wheels The information could be disinformation It takes an unusual person who is willing to use their language skills and familiarity with other countries to live overseas undercover, to deceive, steal, and manipulate their way to secrets It s a dirty business Richard Helms It would seem the very nature of the work would predicate a small clandestine field arm, therefore limiting the size of the analyst arm Weiner starts with the genesis of the Agency, an outgrowth of the Office of Strategic Services which parachuted agents behind enemy lines in WWII Europe to sabotage the enemy and influence the course of the war While it was put about when speaking with the American public that an Agency that could understand the intent of hostile nations would be better prepared against attack by those nations, really its model was not merely listening, but acting Immediately upon its conception, a result of the predilection of Agency leaders and because powerful men, including presidents, found the secrecy aspect of the Agency irresistible, the Agency became an instrument, not simply of intelligence but of covert action And every president sought to change even wanted to abolish the Agency when its failures became politically unbearable.The truth is that a spy agency that operates in secret has also often withheld their secrets from the president and his council of advisors Worse than that, sometimes they tailored the information they gave to the president to suit his predilections.Weiner gives examples of successes amidst the roster of failures of intelligence The CIA muscled the Taiwan government into abandoning its plan to develop a nuclear weapon they managed to cripple the Abu Nidal organization through disinformation the CIA stymied Soviet attempts to steal corporate software by implanting bugs into targeted software And Weiner seems to admire, or at least not coruscate, certain CIA officers like Robert Ames, the Arabist scholar spy memorialized by Kai Bird in The Good Spy The Life and Death of Robert Ames and who was killed in the Beirut embassy bombing in 1984 Weiner also gives a pass to Robert Gates, former CIA director and Secretary of Defense under two presidents Weiner acknowledges the extraordinary patriotism and selflessness of certain agents in the field, who tried to accomplish their missions despite the dysfunction at home It is easy for us to forget that the Agency was only started after WWII, in 1947 Before that, we used to get intelligence through journalists, businesspeople, and embassies We did not usually attempt to influence events except through pressure at national levels, among statesmen When it began, The Agency was obsessed with Soviet power around the world and a balance of that power Even then our intelligence was faulty, subject to political jostling, and influenced by the fears of our government Although revolting to learn, it does us no good to turn away from Weiner s assessment of these years, since millions of Americans before us have made their indignation known and demanded better It forced changes in the Agency, which was decimated after the fall of the Soviet Union, which caught the vast arsenal of analysts completely by surprise.The Agency underwent several RIFs in its history, and it was even thought that outsourcing to private contractors would provide better intelligence The result was higher prices for intelligence and less control over agents Weiner talks us through the failures of several directors, and their determination to make the Agency great again Charges of too big, too small, too old, too young, too restrained, too wild have all been dealt with in the way one might expect a large bureaucracy might try to change its image None of the changes have really worked Finally, because presidents have had difficulty relying on the CIA for accurate information, they now call on a plethora of different agencies for intelligence which are run mostly by former military men, and much of the CIA s capabilities are outsourced What is undeniable is the secrecy of the organization has come close several times in its history to ruining us Outside threats are one thing, but many times the Agency was operating to contain threats we created through fear The reason our democracy has succeeded as long as it has is because we have managed to maintain some kind of public accountability through transparency Weiner asserts that Soviet leaders knew before the Berlin Wall fell that the lies and secrets their government kept from their people ultimately ruined them A large and secret bureaucracy takes on a life of its own that cannot have adequate oversight It becomes a danger rather than an aid Despite his dire assessment of the Agency and its current capabilities, Weiner does not advocate its abolition He acknowledges it may have an important role to play in spite of the difficulty of its mission and the difficulty of finding the right personnel He suggests that it may one day be refashioned to fit the needs we have with a leadership that can shape and control it Until then, however, it is a liability we rely upon at our peril.The fact that we now experience violence and terror from non state actors might predicate changes for the CIA More agents has been the simplistic solution loudly proposed by at least one presidential candidate Marco Rubio , but we already know that is hardly likely to produce the desired results The CIA has always been plagued by its inability to recruit and retain good personnel because of its image and history but also because covert work is very hard to accomplish successfully It may be time to reduce the size of the Agency once again, which may seem counterintuitive in this time of diverse threats Getting vast numbers of analysts or agents unsuited to the task is probably not going to yield the kind of information we wish we had I remain skeptical that a large bureaucracy can produce intelligence beyond what a large news organization can organize and analyze I wonder that we have the hubris to influence events in allied countries, or to organize the defeat of leadership in countries with which we are not allied I have no argument with obtaining information, as long as that information serves to better prepare us for changes which affect us I note that the largest changes which are bound to affect us profoundly in immediate years, e.g., climate change, do not seem to have registered a blip on the government radar while we scurry to contain events which will not have as great an impact on us It looks like a kind of overheated masculine style delusion predicated on fear rather than the rational measure of risk Therefore, before eliminating the organization entirely, perhaps we should bring it back to its earliest roots during this time of terrorist insurgency Keep the organization small and flexible and covert, like our enemies organization Covert undercover work may have been useful during WWII, but it didn t work well after that The CIA did real damage to countries around the world by involving themselves with regime change predicated on fear whipped up by our leaders Surely the American people have progressed beyond that, even if some of their self proclaimed leaders are still caught in the dark ages Weiner told us nearly everything, but he didn t tell us what became of the analyst s who were responsible for the U.S bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, reporting that it was a weapons cache I listened to the Blackstone audio production of this book, read by Stefan Rudnicki It was beautifully produced and read, and though Rudnicki mispronounced some people and place names, those mistakes did not obscure understanding This is a real masterpiece of journalism. Written by a writer who has won the Pullitzer Prize for his work on National Security for the New York Times, this is the first ever comprehensive, on the record, history of the CIA Every interview in the book is on the record, including 10 Directors and over 100 agents With newfound access to thousands of recently declassified documents, and extensive notes, this is the best history of the CIA you re likely to read This is a devastating book The experience of reading it reminded me of the experience reading The Greatest Story Never Told by Michael K Smith A revelation on every page I d read as widely as I could about the CIA, but there s always a grain of salt involved Finally, a book I deem credible enough to verify almost every story I d heard of about the CIA Secret wars, assassinations, executions, propaganda, rigged elections, LSD experimentation, secrecy, madness, paranoia, suicide But the greatest secret Weiner reveals is the total lack of competence, the amazing number of times CIA was penetrated by foreign intelligence agents, and the fact that it failed miserably in the two tasks it was created to perform figure out with the Soviets were doing, and prevent a second Pearl Harbor.A warning These dark corners of American history, the ones that haven t made it yet into the history textbooks, are painful to confront. Sometimes I think the CIA is kept around just so all those old movies and Tom Clancy books will make sense Because really, from start to finish, the Agency has proven a monumental failure The title Legacy of Ashes comes from President Dwight D Eisenhower, who hopelessly battled the Agency throughout his eight years in office Undoubtedly, his inability to change the CIA was partially responsible for his famous parting shot the military industrial complex speech Author Tim Weiner agrees with Eisenhower s assessment, and his book is a lengthy catalogue of failure It s a one stop reference for every foolish, idiotic, murderous, illegal, and incomprehensible thing the CIA has ever done, or failed to do It starts at the beginning, with Wild Bill Donovan and the Office of Strategic Services, an inauspicious bunch that managed to kill a lot of their own men by parachuting them behind enemy lines on Quixotic missions The OSS later transforms into the CIA, but the name change doesn t help their abilities What follows, in quick succession, is a parade of nadirs the failure to predict the North Korean invasion promoting and then abandoning the Hungarian revolution promoting and then abandoning the failed invasion at the Bay of Pigs failing to catch Bin Laden in Afghanistan and most recently, falsely selling the world the idea that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction An entire book could be devoted solely to abuses in Central and South America The list, at times, feels endless It left me feeling exhausted and disheartened and wondering what the hell Lee Greenwood was singing about In Weiner s telling, the CIA is composed of a bunch of babies who spend as much time whining about personal slights as they do at their jobs Considering the CIA s success rate, this actually might be a good thing The CIA isn t a spy agency it s a secretive DMV, a stagnated bureaucracy filled with political hacks and pensioners In a place like that, the best, smartest, and most able operatives stick out, and are likely to be fired than promoted just ask Porter Goss, the poster child of politically vindictive mediocrity Even when the CIA succeeds at something, it s usually ends badly, because of the Agency s short sighted refusal to ever map out an endgame you d think that someone, eventually, would introduce them to the law of unintended consequences For instance, in Operation Success in Guatemala, they led a coup to get rid of the left leaning Jacobo Arbenz They succeeded in doing so, and Castillo Armas took over, ushering in 40 years of death squads and murder Then there s the coup in Iran, with its eventual blowback And, of course, Afghanistan, where the CIA armed the warlords to fight the Soviets, and then sat on its hands while it devolved into a stateless, terrorist breeding ground In its one dimensional, undefined struggle against the Soviet Union, no one in CIA ever seemed to consider the benefit of stability the USSR provided in the world The problem I had with Legacy of Ashes is that it did too much and not enough It was long and shallow, like an all day marathon of The Hills on MTV By deciding to encompass the whole history of failure, Weiner doesn t have any space to dedicate to things like context, detail, or character The book jumps from one event to another at a frantic pace normally, I m a fairly slow reader, but I finished these 600 pages in two days One moment, you re in Guatemala, the next you re in Hungary, the next you re in Vietnam What s worse is that you never know why There is no explanation, no background Further, there is no narrative verve, which one might expect in a book full of spycraft I m not asking for a techno thriller, but a little blood and thunder wouldn t hurt I mean, with some of these stories, you actually have to try to make things uninteresting Unfortunately, Weiner does This is perhaps owing to his writing style, which consist mostly in gluing together quotes with lifeless, mechanical prose The only characters in this book are the guys at the top, mostly the directors Since they re all white, old, and incompetent, they tend to blend into each other, with a few standouts Helms, Gates, Deutch, Tenet Little space is devoted to the gruntwork, or the actual mechanics of CIA clandestine activity This leads to a second complaint, that of a certain bias against the CIA that doesn t allow proper exploration of their successes Weiner notes, for example, that the CIA scored a coup by correctly forecasting the Six Day War However, that story is told in all of one sentence Seriously One sentence Also, the heroics of individual agents is mostly ignored Mike Scheuer, the hard charging chief of Alec Station, gets only one mention In general, the CIA, as an institution, has failed, and repeatedly However, the book does little or nothing to highlight the individual courage and successes, especially in the paramilitary realm For instance, the operatives in Afghanistan during the early days of the war, on an individual level, did a remarkable job making up for a lot of lost time Another criticism Weiner leaves it up to the reader to figure out the different between the CIA s clandestine services, and its analytical side thus, I never got a sense of its actual workings As it is, the achievement of Legacy of Ashes is as an historical artifact Weiner has interviewed hundreds of people and combed through the latest declassified records His sources are awesome and I appreciated his expansive endnotes This is a great book to have if you get into an argument about the CIA at a holiday party, which God knows will probably happen after I get a little champagne in me I d like to think this mercilessly critically, impeccably sourced book might foment some change But alas, it appears as though the bumbling anti Bond bureaucrats are well entrenched, and we are left with the illusion that we are being guarded by Jason Bourne, rather than a government lifer waiting for his pension to kick in. |DOWNLOAD BOOK ⚆ Legacy of Ashes: the History of the CIA ♿ For The Last Sixty Years, The CIA Has Managed To Maintain A Formidable Reputation In Spite Of Its Terrible Record, Burying Its Blunders In Top Secret Archives Its Mission Was To Know The World When It Did Not Succeed, It Set Out To Change The World Its Failures Have Handed Us, In The Words Of President Eisenhower, A Legacy Of Ashes Now Pulitzer Prize Winning Author Tim Weiner Offers The First Definitive History Of The CIA And Everything Is On The Record LEGACY OF ASHES Is Based On Than , Documents, Primarily From The Archives Of The CIA Itself, And Hundreds Of Interviews With CIA Veterans, Including Ten Directors Of Central Intelligence It Takes The CIA From Its Creation After World War II, Through Its Battles In The Cold War And The War On Terror, To Its Near Collapse After September Th, Tim Weiner S Past Work On The CIA And American Intelligence Was Hailed As Impressively Reported And Immensely Entertaining In The New York Times The Wall Street Journal Called It Truly Extraordinary The Best Book Ever Written On A Case Of Espionage Here Is The Hidden History Of The CIA Why Eleven Presidents And Three Generations Of CIA Officers Have Been Unable To Understand The World Why Nearly Every CIA Director Has Left The Agency In Worse Shape Than He Found It And How These Failures Have Profoundly Jeopardized Our National Security When I see, the History of something, I expect the actual history of it While this book was extremely well researched, some claims that were provided had only a basis in conjecture and no actual proof In addition, rather than giving the actual history of the CIA, the author only provides an 800 page critique of the agency I prefer learning history that is based in fact, not having a political agenda While this book was certainly interesting, it was too politically biased to be enjoyable. Oddly enough, it was The Looking Glass War that early on opened my eyes to the fact that intelligence work was not conducted with the hyper competency and machinelike efficiency with which it was depicted in most fiction When it comes to the Western intelligence agencies, one would think, with a seemingly bottomless budget and access to vast congeries of technology, weaponry, and personnel state of the art all there would be few secrets, allied or enemy, incapable of being swiftly ferreted out Alas, intelligence work is ultimately reliant upon human intelligence, which means its methods will always be vulnerable to all of the frailties and follies and failures endemic to human endeavor.Weiner depicts how this applies to the fabled CIA, ruthlessly and relentlessly, in a book that sheds light upon an appalling history of misjudgments, misdirections, and mistakes, beginning in the maelstrom final years of the Second World War, and accreting throughout the progressing stages of the Cold War and the brief starburst of relaxed tension that followed gingerly in the wake of its demise The interagency collisions and confusions that hobbled their ability to detect the 9 11 attack in time to prevent it were entirely presaged by CIA failures in Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, Cuba, and Latin America Saddled with conflicting Directors of Intelligence and their political masters infiltrated by communist moles that compromised and frustrated major operations dogged by evidence of complicity in assassinations and barbaric experimentation the one redoubtable victory over the Soviet Union that severely affected the latter s fate, that of supporting the Afghani mujahideen in their insurgency, proving a double edged sword that cleaved its agency enablers on the rebound stroke from that which struck at the Soviet occupiers Weiner grimly provides the details, clearly exasperated by the agency s remarkable ability to shoot itself in the foot on a steady basis.Somewhat surprisingly, I found the end result of Weiner s book was to engender a sympathy for the organization routinely overmatched by an enemy completely unrestrained by the legal, ethical, and political rules the agency had to operate or at least been seen operating within, riven by the huge egos and personalities that cast their imprimatur upon their respective departments and operations, endeavoring to penetrate alien cultures by means of methods co mingling the military with the bureaucratic and aided by contacts who tended to either disappear or betray, so many career operators succumbed to the same bleak routine despair and disillusionment as they realized their limitations, consolation within the bleary strictures of alcoholism, and, shockingly often, premature death by means of a self administered bullet For some reason, the story of Frank Wisner a wartime agent runner who sent countless covert teams to their deaths via nighttime drops into an Albanian countryside pre warned of their coming, and who seemed to learn little of value from this exercise in lethal futility and his descent into insanity and suicide particularly haunted me The anguish accumulated over years of stunted achievement is perfectly captured by his presence in a photo in the book Amidst smiling colleagues, the balding Wisner presents to the camera a bleak gaze of nullity he is the epitome of a shattered man Then there is James Jesus Angleton, for ages the CIA s director of counter intelligence, a man gifted and flawed in equal measure, likewise driven to the limits of alcohol fueled paranoia over his inability to uncover the fabled CIA mole, a paranoia that spread like a virus to infect much of the organization In the echoes of Weiner s condemning history, it is clear that the agency has been deficient from inception and is badly in need of a reconfiguration if ever the United States is to consistently achieve first rate, reliable intelligence It is the personal cost, that of so many committed men broken on the wheel of futility, that is the most stinging legacy of all. Legacy of Ashes is founded on three premises.1 The CIA is incompetent The author gathers plenty of ammo to back this one up, to the point of downplaying the agency s successes and highlighting its failures He still makes a compelling argument that the CIA s track record isn t good.2 The CIA s dual functions gathering intelligence and covert operations are fundamentally at odds with each other This is obvious covert operations thrive on secrecy, not openness On a practical level if you try to gather accurate information and disseminate disinformation at the same time you will invariably get the two confused This is the best argument in the book the author should have focused on this one 3 An organization like the CIA can not be truly effective in a democracy The author does not say this, but it s what he thinks He might state it differently, like an organization like the CIA has no place in a democracy.Legacy of Ashes contains a lot of information The author did his homework, and then some This book isn t a real history because true historians try not to let their personal biases affect their thinking, which the author does Also after Richard Nixon the book gets sketchy I m assuming this is because a lot of the information has not yet been declassified the author gets most of his information from primary documents from the CIA s archives.Still a good read.