OF SPIES AND LIES: A CIA Lie Detector Remembers Vietnam

John F. Sullivan, Author . Univ. Press of Kansas $29.95 (264p) ISBN 978-0-7006-1168-3

The enormous and ever-growing Vietnam War memoir library is more and more dominated by the works of former military and media men, but only a handful of memoirs tell the war stories of civilian intelligence personnel. Sullivan, a former CIA polygraph examiner, adds his unique voice and perspective in this detailed, anecdote-heavy (and CIA-approved) account of his four years of service during the Vietnam War, from 1971 to 1975. Sullivan arrived in Vietnam a war hawk. After 48 months of traversing the war zone administering lie-detector tests to thousands of enemy prisoners and others, he came home a thoroughly disillusioned dove. Sullivan chronicles his change of heart by seemingly sparing few details about his work and social lives during his extended tour of duty. He paints a generally negative picture of the CIA's war against the Vietcong. Sullivan claims that CIA operatives produced "some good information," but that information was misused by those at the top and produced no real progress in undermining the enemy. On the social side, Sullivan readily admits that he lived the good life in Vietnam. He and his wife and child lacked for few creature comforts in the war zone. The book is peppered with references to leisurely brunches, swimming pool parties, daily exercise workouts, two-hour lunches, restaurant dinners, movies in theaters, dinner parties and the services of maids, cooks and chauffeurs. "Partying hardy," Sullivan says, "was another reality of Saigon, and keeping up with Saigon's social life was a challenge." It's safe to say that few others who have written memoirs about their Vietnam War experiences have delved as deeply as Sullivan does into this particular sort of "challenge." (May 30)

Reviewed on: 03/25/2002
Release date: 05/01/2002
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