Company Confessions: Secrets, Memoirs, and the CIA

Christopher Moran. St. Martin’s/Dunne, $27.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-250-04713-7
Intrigued by the many memoirs of former American spies, British historian Moran (Classified: Secrecy and the State in Modern Britain) proceeded to read them all and then write them up in this delightful account of true spy stories and the agency’s often-bizarre responses to them. With the CIA’s incorporation in 1947, officials yearned for the equivalent of Britain’s draconian Official Secrets Act but agreed that Congress would never pass it (the 9/11 attacks eventually did the trick, leading to the passage of the Patriot Act). To their relief, the 1950s were a golden age of espionage. Moran says few objected as the CIA dropped agents behind the Iron Curtain to foster insurgencies (all failed) and “overthrew popular governments in Iran and Guatemala.” The roof caved in 1960 when a U2 spy plane was shot down over Russia, followed by the disastrous 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba. Former spooks became critical of the agency, Moran explains, but their employment contracts required that all writing be vetted, so CIA censors regularly delayed action for years; redacted huge, largely uncontroversial passages; and hounded said critics. America’s rightward swing in the 1980s, coupled with the rise of terrorism, diminished criticism but not the steady stream of unflattering memoirs. In Moran’s hands, the CIA’s 60-year battle to rein in ex-employees becomes an irresistible niche history that mixes cruelty with tragicomic wackiness. Agent: Andrew Lownie, Andrew Lownie Literary. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/04/2016
Release date: 08/23/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 978-1-4668-4749-1
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