A good friend of mine died recently under very tragic circumstances. Some of us saw it coming for quite a while but it was still a huge shock when it finally happened. I picked up this book at the advice of a friend and absolutely couldn't put it down. I'd read it walking the dog, getting fast food, or even just lounging around the house. It helped me realized that my friend really believed in something, and that giving your life for the CIA, NSA, FBI, Mossad, or other intelligence agency is truly a higher calling and not something to mourn. A wholehearted recommendation.
Generally, when people think about CIA operatives, they imagine what they see in films or television. In most popular programming there's a camaraderie among team members. Gup does an excellent job of capturing the isolation that many clandestine officers face.
My favorite account was of Hugh Redmond, the U.S. intelligence agent who spent decades in a Chinese prison (Ward road Prison -- Shanghai; 1951-197x). After years of incarceration, the once-athletic Redmond had lost all of his teeth and became afflicted with disorders that he was forbidden to discuss. (William McInenly.)
Gup's book is great because he captures the integrity of the men and woman who have fought bravely to defend American values while at the same time criticizing hypocrisy within our government. For example, on page 75, he writes -- "Plausible deniability" enabled the president to distance himself from the darker hand of his own foreign policy, even freeing him to chastise those who carried out covert activities that he himself had set in play. Increasingly the Agency would be forced to fall on its own sword, to suffer not only ignominy of occasional defeats but the full moral responsibility of that defeat."
The author's disdain for the CIA and its secrecy make this difficult to get through. The subject matter is interesting; while many of the details of these agents' deaths remain classified, readers get an interesting look at their lives and how they came to be agents, as well as how the agency itself evolved through the Cold War and beyond. However, the author is unrelenting in his focus on the lack of credit and recognition the agents received. He seems to imply that, once dead, all need for discretion is erased, which ignores the reality that there are other people - agents, assets, informants, etc. - still alive who could be "outed" and missions jeopardized if all was revealed. With each chapter, Gup laments the fact that the agents are represented by a "nameless star", that their widows may no have been allowed to keep their medals, and that their gravestones or other memorials referenced their over positions rather than their link the CIA; time and again he despairs over the "lowly" positions the agents held as part of their cover stories when clearly they were all so superior to their purported roles. Not only does this make for repetitive storytelling, but it is a strange fixation to have - these agents knew the nature of their work, both in terms of the risk involved and the anonymity. To be sure, the CIA has its failings and could have done more to protect some of these people, but the lack of fanfare for agents - current or former - comes with the territory. Gup has misjudged his subjects; the need for glory and notoriety is his, not theirs.
It is my first review ever, after 18 years of buying from Amazon. Bottom line, one of the best books I have ever read. Author managed to tell fascinating personal stories, touch higher level subjects while carrying a sensible critical tone that doesn't take over the book's main purpose. I can only hope he takes his experience here and apply it together with his curiosity and sensitivity towards more such works.
This is a fascinating book about the untold story of the history of the CIA and its fallen heroes. Each star on the wall in the CIA lobby represents an agent who has given his/her life in service to the country, yet because of the CIA's security most of the information about them has been concealed from the public. Even their families have limited information and many have spent years trying to get the facts. Now we learn their full stories. Each of the agent stories in the book gives a glimpse into a different time period in American history, from post-WWII America, to the Cold War, Cuban missile crisis, and others. It paints a vivid picture of the evolving nature of the CIA, and US policies, as the focus of the organization shifts from Cold War to terrorism threats. I hope they make this into a TV series, many will be riveted by this secret history.
This book is an eye-opening "review" of our gov't in action. Or should I say 'inaction?' Definitely worthy of getting, hours can pass by before it's realized that actual work needs to be done (hope the boss ain't reading this review 😳). A long bus ride will melt away like ice on a 120°F sidewalk because the stories are so skillfully entwined. I did find one error: 'baled' should've been written as 'bailed' - as in 'bailed' [him] out. Other than that one error, it's a great book.
When you walk into the headquarters of the CIA in Langley, VA, on the right side of the entrance foyer there is a marble wall with stars honoring those CIA Intelligence Officers who lost their lives in the service to our country.. Below, is a shelf with a drawer. Inside the drawer is a book. This is not an ordinary book. The book is a very secret document of our country listing the names CIA Intelligence Officers who lost their lives in service to our country. Only years after, through the Truth of Information Act, has some of these names become known. One of my Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity Brothers name from the University of Southern California, is among those listed. I knew this fact prior to reading the book. I am very glad Mr. Gup wrote this book for America to have. Respectfully, John P Callos, Author, Luck is Not a Strategy, Amazon Books.