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Tim Weiner: Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA

When President Eisenhower left office in January 1961, he did not look back with pride on the work of one of his key agencies. Eight years of covert activity, espionage, and intelligence missions had, in his opinion, resulted in only one thing: "Nothing has changed since Pearl Harbor," he told C.I.A. Director Allen Dulles. "I leave a legacy of ashes to my successor."

To write his controversial best-seller, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the C.I.A., Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tim Weiner used more than 50,000 documents, many of them recently declassified, from the archives of the C.I.A., the White House, and the State Department. He also used more than 2,000 oral histories from American diplomats, spies, and presidential aides, more than 300 interviews with C.I.A. officers and veterans, including ten Directors of the C.I.A., and transcripts from the White House. These interviews are all sourced and on-the-record; 154 pages of end-notes follow the text, with not a single anonymous statement or piece of hearsay.

In Weiner's view, the fleeting successes of the C.I.A. are far outweighed by their long-lasting failures in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Betrayed by myopic perspectives, by incoherent communication and co-ordination, and by short-sighted coups against constitutional governments in other countries, the C.I.A. has, for several decades, been inflexible and unable to adapt, failing repeatedly to anticipate threats and crises across the world - the very events it was founded to prevent. According to Weiner, the agency that began because President Truman wanted "a newspaper" has become capable of doing nothing but keeping the secret of its own ineptitude, at a high cost in money and lives to members of the American military and civilians alike.

Tim Weiner
Tim Weiner is a reporter for The New York Times. He has written on American intelligence for twenty years, and won the Pulitzer Prize for his work on secret national security programs. He has traveled to Afghanistan and other nations to investigate CIA covert operations firsthand. Legacy of Ashes is his third book.