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Publisher's Summary

This is the book the CIA does not want you to read. For the last 60 years, the CIA has maintained a formidable reputation in spite of its terrible record, never disclosing its blunders to the American public. It spun its own truth to the nation while reality lay buried in classified archives. Now, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter Tim Weiner offers a stunning indictment of the CIA, a deeply flawed organization that has never deserved America's confidence.

Legacy of Ashes is based on more than 50,000 documents, primarily from the archives of the CIA. Everything is on the record. There are no anonymous sources, no blind quotations. With shocking revelations that will make headlines, Tim Weiner gets at the truth and tells us how the CIA's failures have profoundly jeopardized our national security.

©2007 Tim Weiner (P)2007 Blackstone Audio Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Absorbing...a credible and damning indictment of American intelligence policy." ( Publishers Weekly)
"A timely, immensely readable, and highly critical history of the CIA, culminating with the most recent catastrophic failures in Iraq." (Mark Bowden, author of Blackhawk Down)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A Must Read/Listen

This is by far the most informative book I have read or listen to for the real details of the CIA. The book does not have an agenda but one gets the sense the author does respect the employees who have put their lives on the line as well as those who daily attempted to protect this country.

This book is aimed at the leadership of the agency for the history of the CIA AND our leaders who we have voted for to guide this country. The book is based on documents, interviews and not a personal bias from the author. What the facts are based on is what is so scary, I have become very skeptical about the agency.

I have always defended the agency and assumed that the government (aka CIA)did what it had too do to keep us safe. This book reveals personal agendas by those in power who wanted revenge for the several defeats we as a county have had, even when it is described as less than a defeat.

It is a long book (21 hours) but well worth the time. For those who still have 9/11 burned into your memories, the story behind the story told in this book will leave you very upset.

I have listen to THE COMPANY and CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR, both relating to the CIA and the abuse of power by those in our government but LEGACY OF ASHES is the best.

33 of 34 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Spot On!

Having a background with the intelligence services of this country I wish I could say that the revelations included in this book are complete. This is not so, there are many, many more examples that remain classified and may never see the light of public scrutiny. This book is important not just because it gives the American public a look at several specific instances of ineptitude, poor analysis and politically driven intelligence reporting, but because it also explains our intelligence gathering and reporting culture and suggests reasons why our current intelligence apparatus fails...and will continue to do so.

This is a well written book that not only reports startling mediocrity but also explains why the CIA (and also DIA & NSA) has such problems gathering, analyzing and reporting its intel. The narration is good (I would rather have Grover Gardiner or Scott Brick narrate), the writing clear, the production quality high. Highly recommended.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Douglas
  • mission viejo, CA, USA
  • 08-04-07


This is a wonderfully written disturbing history of the CIA. I finished this book wondering if the CIA represents the inevitable malfunction of all government bureaucracies, or specific to an American spy agency. I fear the former, and am left with grave concern that intelligence can act intelligently.

32 of 34 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Michael
  • Walnut Creek, CA, United States
  • 07-18-08

Flawed but Important

This book should be read by anyone interested in the history of the CIA. I have rated this five stars, but this is not the perfect book, just a must read. The author clearly focuses only upon the failures of the CIA and glosses over any successes. Nevertheless, there is substantial value is focusing on failures (of course there is also value is focusing on successes, but that would be a different book). This book also does not seem to go out of its way to suggest tangible changes to improve the CIA.

The material is somewhat dry, and there is some jumping around. The narration is quite good, which helps keep the book interesting. This is not the best book about the CIA, but it is an indispensable viewpoint for anyone who wants to understand the agency.

62 of 67 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Frightening Ineptitude

Not the whole truth but it is nothing but the truth.
And the truth is hard to take if you thought the CIA was competent and effective. I have now listened through Legacy twice because there is so much information and it is so important to understanding our history. It is a wonder we survived Allen Dulles and the disaster that was the CIA. The CIA told JFK there were only 20 percent of the Soviet and Cuban troops that actually were on hand in the march to the Bay of Pigs disaster. JFK did not survive their ineptitude. If you had any respect for the CIA this book will destroy it completely.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Extensive and Excellent

This is one of the most complete histories of the CIA I have encountered. It is incredibly detailed and yet still managed to hold my attention all the way through.

A number of interesting threads weave through this history. One is the massive shifts between a dangerous lack of oversight and a devastating lack of independence of the Agency. Another is the shameful misuse of this intelligence tool as doctrinal and political hammer, instead of a gatherer and analyzer of information.

The author cleverly paints a portrait of a governmental entity so badly structured at its core, that it leaves the reader wondering if any amount of restructuring could ever remedy some of the most basic flaws of its architecture.

The choice of reader was perfect for this book. Understated, clear-spoken and precise.

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

A little jumpy

I thoroughly enjoyed this work.

Thorough is the key word here and the author treats all the CIA's misdeeds thoroughly. Clearly, in the author's opinion there are very few CIA success stories to relate. It is a long book and at times it became a bit tedious - still worthwhile.

My one complaint would be (as another reviewer mentioned) that the author has a tendency to jump from one event to another - both temporally and geographically. This can be confusing as a listener unless you are paying very close attention. Even then, it can catch you off guard.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Craig C.
  • austin, TX United States
  • 06-18-09


Excellent history, profoundly important because of the nature of undercover operations. Shows the limits of such activity which seems to ensure blowback and unintended consequences.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Would the US have been better off without the CIA?

An outstanding, thorough, apparently well-supported and fairly balanced overview of the history of the CIA, this book also sheds light on antidemocratic policies and illegal strategies of several US presidents who used and abused the agency. Using recently declassified internal CIA documents and Congressional testimony, the author argues that CIA officials have long exaggerated the agency's accomplishments. In the aftermath of its catastrophes they have asserted that only its few failures are made public, but that supposedly numerous successes can never be known. The author offers convincing evidence that this is a myth--that the agency has had few successes worthy of pride, and that the overwhelming body of its work has been so counterproductive that the reader ends up feeling the US would have been better off had the CIA never been formed. The reasons are partly structural--the nature of the agency, how it is funded and overseen--and partly driven by the personalities and capabilities of its leadership. The book is well complemented by John Perkins' Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, which tells a related story about disturbing contributions of the private sector to American foreign policy.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Frances
  • Del Rio, TX, United States
  • 07-26-07


This book is a must read for anyone who wants to
understand the global unheaval of the present time and why we have engendered such animosity
from the rest of the world.The CIA was created to prevent "another Pearl Harbor" and as we see it
failed. The best description of it's problems were
best stated in a recent Newsweek article. Though not referring to the CIA the words are right on.
" The magnitute of errors perputated by the agency
-ignorance,incompetence,arrogance,bad or non-existant planning, cronyism and naivete'-can make you weep with anger." Though these words were used
to describe an administration they also very well describe the agencey's track record. The agency's leadership was composed of alcholics,
mental cases,egomanics and a lot of good people
beating their heads against a bureaucratic brick wall. The book has been described as very critical of the CIA. I found it to be a very
evenly narrated series of events that just left
me very sad.

34 of 39 people found this review helpful