Legacy of Ashes
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National Book Award Winner, Nonfiction, 2007
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.
"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)
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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.
39 people found this helpful
Lots of facts, but also a sprinkling of opinion
Weiner has done some excellent research. He is an excellent writer who can create a very compelling story. I have read this in print as well as listened to the audio version. What troubles me with this book is that despite his claim that his book represents only the truth he expresses his opinions of motivations, something that cannot be called fact. These are interspersed in the text in places where they seem to flow in the narrative in a way that makes them seem to be as truthful as the actual facts surrounding them.
I am no fan of the New York Times or its version of truth. Unfortunately, Weiner allows his association with that paper and its editorial viewpoint which flavors its own reporting to affect his writing.
This is still an excellent history, but one must listen very carefully so as not to be drawn into opinions which are not necessarily supported by the facts in which they are embedded.
10 people found this helpful
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.
60 people found this helpful
Legacy of Ashes
On the eve of the presidential election I can only wonder if our presidential candidates have read/listened to this book. Whomever wins should be required to become intimately acquainted with this work within the first weeks following the election.
It came as a bit of a shock to learn that JFK agreed to remove missiles from Turkey as the quid pro quo for the Russian removal of missiles from Cuba!
I knew that Bobby Kennedy had his fingers in a lot of pies, but not to the extent revealed in this book. It is scary to think that he came close to becoming president.
This book provides an entirely new perspective on our government in general and the CIA in particular.
9 people found this helpful
Tim Weiner reveals truths about our government, and the CIA in particular, that tie together seemlingly unrelated historical events into a larger portrait of good-intentioned failure on the part of the CIA. Explains a lot about how and why America got involved in Korea, Vietnam, Watergate, Iran-Contra, the bombing of the Cole, 9/11, and the Iraq War. Definitely recommend.
8 people found this helpful
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.
87 people found this helpful
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.
37 people found this helpful
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.
20 people found this helpful
- Andrew Apple
What seemed to be a compelling tale of the CIA is in fact delivered as a recitation of their failures. The framing isn't so much of a problem as how it is written and performed, a dry reading of official documentation with little in the way of context, and a monotonous, if sonorous, delivery.
5 people found this helpful
- C. L. Buerger
Correct Subtitle: A History of the CIA's screw-ups
Should be Subtitled "A History of the CIA's screw-ups." Solid look at the mistakes of the past, with a focus on how the CIA was supposed to be one thing and ended up another. Rarely talks about the successes, and spends lots of time on Washington and presidents. Richard Helms is praised in the book, but his time as Director is criticized, this duality is never explained. Wish it was, if he was so good, what was he doing right besides telling everyone else that they're doing it wrong.
5 people found this helpful