Joseph J. Trento, Author . Prima $30 (576p) ISBN 978-0-7615-2562-2

Citing legitimate governments ruined and thousands of lives lost, investigative reporter Trento (Widows) views the CIA as stunningly incompetent. He blames the agency's culture of arrogance for the waste of superior intellects and hundreds of millions of dollars. Trento vividly re-creates the day-to-day lives of key CIA agents during defining post-WWII events: the Cuban missile crisis; JFK's assassination; Vietnam; the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile; and Cold War espionage in the U.S. and Soviet Union. In Chile, for instance, the Nixon administration arranged a military coup to head off the Socialist Allende's presidency and abetted the assassination of the Chilean army's chief of staff, General René Schneider, who wouldn't help "oust a democratically elected leader." Based on U.S. and Soviet records and reports and on hundreds of interviews with former CIA men and their families, the firsthand stories of moles, secret operations, assassination attempts and triple agents are equal to John le Carré's best. But Trento's provocative conclusions—that Lee Harvey Oswald worked for the KGB and that Averell Harriman was probably a Communist sympathizer—suffer from the poor credibility of his sources; his CIA has few heroes, many alcoholics, womanizers, deceitful bureaucratic infighters, outright liars and worse. Trento's prose sometimes reads like boilerplate spy thriller (peopled by "brilliant," "cunning" men and "beautiful and ambitious" women), but generally he does a good story justice, and he has ample opportunity here. (Oct.)

Forecast:Recently released Cold War security documents are spawning numerous intelligence exposés, and Trento's salable blend of gravitas and sensation will attract a wide readership.

Reviewed on: 09/17/2001
Release date: 10/01/2001
Paperback - 560 pages - 978-0-7867-1500-8
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