A LOOK OVER MY SHOULDER: A Life in the Central Intelligence Agency

Richard Helms, Author, William Hood, Author, Henry A. Kissinger, Foreword by with William Hood. Random $35 (496p) ISBN 978-0-375-50012-1

Director of Central Intelligence from 1966 to 1973, and with an intelligence career spanning three decades, Helms offers an insider's defense—and occasionally critique—of the frequently maligned agency's performance during the turbulent 1950s, '60s and early '70s. He argues that criticisms of the CIA are misdirected because the agency made no policy and had no agenda of its own—it merely did the president's bidding. Helms doesn't sensationalize. Instead, he describes how the CIA successfully influenced geopolitical developments in ways that benefited the U.S. The strength of the book is in the breadth of history it encompasses. Helms's career spanned WWII, the Cuban missile crisis, the U.S role in the ouster of Chile's President Allende, Vietnam, numerous Middle East meltdowns and much of the Cold War. Along the way he battled with the Pentagon about the relative troop strength of the Vietcong and with the Department of Defense over the nuclear capability of the USSR. Helms's impressions of the men of his times, from Hitler to Reagan, makes for sometimes surprising reading. For example, President Johnson is sympathetically treated, while Sen. Frank Church, who headed Senate hearings into the CIA, is depicted as an ambitious political opportunist. Although it is only by implication, Helms raises provocative questions about the proper scope of congressional oversight of the CIA that are especially relevant in the post–September 11 world. Photos not seen by PW. (On sale Apr. 8)

Forecast:Helms's memoir would be newsworthy at any time, but when the intelligence establishment is under heavy scrutiny, it is bound to receive major review and media attention.

Reviewed on: 03/24/2003
Release date: 04/01/2003
Open Ebook - 364 pages - 978-1-58836-309-1
Paperback - 496 pages - 978-0-8129-7108-8
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