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Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA [Paperback]

Tim Weiner
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Mar 2012

All-powerful, brilliant, decisive, ruthlessly effective ... this is the image of the CIA as portrayed in countless films and novels. It is wrong.

This shocking book, based on thousands of declassified documents and interviews with agents at all levels, shows the reality behind the glamorous myth: a blundering, chaotic and dangerously incompetent organization, so ineffective it was nicknamed 'Can't Identify Anything' by Nato forces. In a story of botched coups, missed targets, lost operatives and fatal errors, Tim Weiner shows how the CIA now poses a threat not only to the security of the US, but the world.

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Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA + Enemies: A History of the FBI + The Untold History of the United States
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Product details

  • Paperback: 832 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (1 Mar 2012)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0241956234
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241956236
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 90,087 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


This extraordinary story reads like tragedy and thriller. Impeccably sourced, utterly absorbing, dazzling and very, very dark (Time Out )

This racy history reveals the CIA as a secret service to make Smiley weep and Bond howl in horror (Daily Telegraph )

Combines thrilling storytelling with terrifying revelations (Simon Sebag Montefiore New Statesman, Books of the Year )

Weiner's riveting history of the CIA contains dozens of jaw-dropping incidents ... astonishing (Evening Standard, Books of the Year )

Timely, immensely readable, and highly critical (Mark Bowden, Author Of 'black Hawk Down' )

Marvellous ... that every quote is also on the record is a testament to his skill (Steve Coll, Author Of 'ghost Wars' )

Winner of the National Book Award (Prizes and awards )

About the Author

Tim Weiner is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist at the New York Times where he has reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, and fifteen other nations. He was based for a decade in Washington, DC, where he covered the CIA and the military - the last topic being the basis for his famous book Blank Check: The Pentagon's Black Budget.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seeking the truth 25 Aug 2013
This is a fascinating book about the workings of the CIA and its relationship with the White House. Not only does it detail the fiascos created by the CIA, it also shows how the Presidents were not informed of what the CIA were doing in the wide world. Furthermore the book shows that every President since 1945 has lied, misinformed and misled the American public and the world at large.
It is a catalogue of Machiavellian machinations carried out in the name of National Security. It is a book that should be read by anyone interested in the truth
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting and eye-opening 10 Jan 2014
By Tobias
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In popular tv-series and countless movies, we get brainwashed with the idea that the CIA is an almighty organ of espionage, that could detect anyone, anywhere with the click of a button. This book unveils the actual weakness of the organisation and their numerous failures to predict what was going to happen, since their existence. Well written and easy to read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Biased Account??? 14 Dec 2013
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This book is good for people interested in American foreign policy and how it is shaped through intelligence gathering. When I came to the most recent part however surrounding the second Gulf War it places the blame on the CIA for misleading the White House over WMD and in effect causing George Bush Jnr to invade Iraq. All other accounts I have read of this period however place the blame on the White House for warmongering and using 911 as an excuse to overthrow Saddam, with the intelligence services being placed under pressure to come up with a case for war. I am inclined to believe the second version which then casts doubt over the accuracy of the rest of the book. It is still a worthwhile read however.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Too opionated but still informative 27 July 2014
The book is interesting and informative and at the same time well organised and flowing. For a more detailed critique though, what's frustrating me in most books, there's too much opinion and too little data. It's easy to fill line after line paraphrasing or slightly altering the main arguements (with occasional cherry-picked data thrown in) than delve years researching and preparing a dense, organised book with no lines wasted which speaks for itself and at the same time lets readers think for themselves.

Here, the author has indeed done the serious work, but there's too much opinion also. The book repeats (too) often how the CIA was/is useless, inflitrated by moles, played by its contacts (conmen and doublespies) etc. Yet, sometimes, some level of CIA competence is shown. It's mostly inferred by "narrative accident/necessity", in the stories of CIA failures, something which I think is manipulating the reader. For example, experienced spies, successfully bought foreign politicians, valuable defectors, Kremlin insiders (all giving intelligence to the CIA) are usually introduced in the book when some tragi-comical CIA blunder results in their apprehension, imprisonment or execution. If the CIA contacts were that valuable, they must have had years of work behind them, which usually goes unmentioned.

Throughout the book, CIA reports are presented as uninformed and unreliable. But, for example, in the 80s, a Cuban defects to the American embassy, reveals that all CIA Cubans are doublespies for Castro, and the vignette concludes with the line that an investigation showed it was true. Why this investigation was trustworthy and the others not? How come some reports -out of the blue- were valuable in other examples? (Rwanda etc).
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CIA über alles 9 July 2013
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This is a fascinating account of the historical crimes and blunders of the CIA, and these are just the events we know of! It clearly demonstrates that what lies behind our so-called benevolent democracies is purely violence, lies and coercion. It is totalitarianism, colonialism and empire building pure and simple, but done in secret in the name of National Security. You can do what you like, as long as nobody can prove it was you, including murder!

There are a number of disturbing examples of CIA coups, including one in Indonesia, where a CIA pilot was captured after bombing a church and a marketplace, the same pilot later remarked that all the people he attacked were communists, even though they may not have been aware of it.

The book highlights the problem of security service unaccountability. What strikes me as particularly hilarious, is the constant reiteration by Western Governments of the need for transparency, openness and fairness, whilst at the very same time cutting back on all departments that are bound by these principles, in contrast the unaccountable "Secret" areas of the state grow ever larger and more encompassing.

The more I read about these so-called "intelligence services" the clearer it becomes, that ideas like democracy and the rule of law become completely superfluous if they are not exercised in an egalitarian way.

Whenever the schemes of the secret services are exposed in the corporate media, they just find new ways of hiding and rearranging their activities, then carry on like its business as usual. It's a matter of National Security you see!

Definitely worth a read.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bit of a surprise 30 April 2013
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I wasn't expecting a critical history but it is excellent - and very scary. His sources are impeccable and yo just know it is all factual
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