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Publisher's Summary

There’s a fundamental tension buried within the heart of the CIA’s mission to protect the American people: between democratic accountability and the inherent need for secrecy. Ultimately, it’s US citizens who bear the responsibility of staying informed about what the CIA has done and continues to do.

In these 24 engrossing lectures, explore the roles the CIA has played in recent American history, from the eve of the Cold War against communism to the 21st-century War on Terror. You’ll delve into some of the most remarkable successes, including the sound intelligence CIA spy planes provided during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the admirable performance of the CIA throughout much of the Vietnam War, as well as historic failures, including the agency’s slowness spotting the rise of radical Islamism (including the September 11 attacks).

In many cases, the lectures lead you to consider important questions about the nature of the CIA and its role in shaping modern history. What makes particular regions of the world ripe for the CIA’s attention? How successful are techniques like drone strikes, rendition, and interrogation? How does the CIA compare with its depiction in much of popular culture?

Here, in Professor Wilford’s unbiased exploration of the CIA’s inner workings, is everything you need to come to your own conclusions about what “the Agency” might have done right, what it might have done wrong, and what it should do in the future.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2019 The Great Courses (P)2019 The Teaching Company, LLC

What listeners say about The Agency: A History of the CIA

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Interesting history of Our Spies, modest bias

Very enjoyable review of the prehistory and history of the CIA. In general, the professor was unbiased. By the end, some of his anti-CIA views leaked through -- especially when he got into the Bush era. Overall, though, worth the listen.

12 people found this helpful

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Political bias complaining about politicized intelligence

The course started as a dry history lesson. It then picked up again until the modern era where facts are replaced opinions that are politically charged. The professor offers no proof for his belief that President George W. Bush always intended to invade Iraq, and tries to sell the belief that he fabricated evidence. Liberal politicians get a pass.

9 people found this helpful

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Great until the end

I loved this course until the final three chapters when, worked intentionally or unintentionally, the author’s personal bias impacted his ability to objectively communicate post 9-11 history.

7 people found this helpful

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Axe to Grind

Wilford certainly has an agenda, but unlike Tim Weiner (Legacy of Ashes), Wilford didn’t do any of the research. Here are a few erroneous points: CIA would monitor people simply for traveling to Russia and Cuba, and then names people who were members of the ACP, but he doesn’t mention that. Wilford said that South Vietnam was overrun in the Tet Offensive, yet we know that the Viet Cong were tactically decimated, but created a strategic victory through information operations. The Tet victory has long been debunked, but it illustrated Wilford lack of source material. Wilford said the CIA was lasing targets in Afghanistan for air strikes in Operation Jawbreaker, however, if Wilford so much as read Jawbreaker, Gary Schoern, he would know that is illegal and the reason they were embedded with Special Forces. Wilford only really gives credit to President Carter for his ability to wield the CIA, which is a fresh viewpoint to be sure.

This series is beneath the Great Courses. Wilford’s depth doesn’t seem to extend beyond the summaries on Wikipedia. If you want to know about the CIA by someone with an axe to grind, read Weiner- at least he did his homework.

22 people found this helpful

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An honest assessment

I found the lecturer's perspective fairly neutral, but not without failing to provide his own perspective on key events. There's nothing wrong with that if you're a rational person who can listen to and evaluate another's position based on facts and merit. I feel like many of the negative reviews of this course provide a commentary more on the state of US political discourse than the content of this book: I see a lot of people who can't abide dissent and mistake critical thinking for "liberal bias" simply because the lecturer fails to cater to some readers' sense of American exceptionalism. I'll say this: I found the course topics informative and thought-provoking; but if you believe that Oliver North is an American hero or that the invasion of Iraq was a justified response to 9/11, this course might not be a safe space for your beliefs.

5 people found this helpful

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Somewhat disappointed

I felt this book spent too much time /energy on what the CIA has done wrong over the last decades. Would have liked to hear more about day to day activities of both ANALYSTS and OPERATORS. The people who are in the trenches every day and MUST be doing a lot of things right. Otherwise how have we succeeded as a nation in the last half century or so. His conclusion does give a more balanced discussion of the two basic parts of the CIA, but a little late and not enough

3 people found this helpful

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Basic stuff

Old ground suitable for new listeners. Reasonably balanced. No outlandish smears or innuendo. Just OK for those with a more thorough understanding of the Agency.

2 people found this helpful

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Idk other ppl are hearing,but this is a great book

I had seen what ppl had written for reviews but love the topic and had a great experience with another great courses title so I decided to give it a shot. Idk what those ppl are hearing but the performer/professor was great not only in the way it was read style wise but also in the way you can tell he researched the topic well. I loved it and would recommend it to anyone. I thought I knew a lot about this topic but now I see I still have much more to learn.

1 person found this helpful

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Story only

one is only getting a story in this lecture if you call it that your getting a narrative simply put a story NOT THE STORY, take note of subjects mention then research you'll know, otherwise I like the CIA as honorable arm for the country national security interest not private ones.

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    2 out of 5 stars

liberal version

not my favorite course. professor definitely tells the story from the left. very dissatisfied from this course

7 people found this helpful

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  • G. A. Thart
  • 09-20-19

Interesting yet superficial

Interesting story and I learned a few new facts but generally too superficial and anecdotal.

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  • Liine
  • 04-28-19

Wish there was more

Very good but too short. probably this only emphasises how good it was that I wished every chapter was longer, that I would be given more background and info.

1 person found this helpful