cover image LOST CRUSADER: The Secret Wars of CIA Director William Colby

LOST CRUSADER: The Secret Wars of CIA Director William Colby

John Prados, . . Oxford Univ., $35 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-19-512847-5

This highly detailed look at one of the major spymasters of the post–WWII era is another intriguing work by the prolific Prados (Keepers of the Keys: A History of the National Security Council from Truman to Bush). The book focuses on key moments in Colby's career, which spanned from his early days in the office of the OSS in the 1940s to his replacement as head of the CIA by George Bush in 1975. Prados carefully charts Colby's involvement in this attempt to defeat North Vietnam through "arrests, precisely targeted raids or ambushes" as well as conventional assaults that degenerated into a de facto assassination program. Colby is presented as a "lost crusader" who "never lived down [his] second Vietnam tour and his Phoenix stewardship," both of which haunted him as he took over the CIA during the Watergate era. Prados takes a remarkably sympathetic view of Colby's late career, when he was the subject of Senate investigations into illegal espionage: he calls Colby "the man in the middle, required to respond to Congress but inevitably the focus of Ford administration and CIA resentments." Prados's most controversial argument is that Colby's willingness to work with Congress to reform the CIA "saved the agency" by allowing it additional freedom. This is an essential and provocative addition to works on the CIA. (Mar.)