LEGACY OF ASHES
Upon publication this month, "Legacy of Ashes" by Tim Weiner of the New
York Times has all at once become the best single source on the history
of the Central Intelligence Agency.
The book synthesizes entire shelves of prior studies, and surpasses
them with the fruits of deep archival research and two decades of
on-the-record interviews. The detailed endnotes provide pointers for
Somewhat oddly, the book is framed as a "warning."
"It describes how the most powerful country in the history of Western
civilization has failed to create a first-rate spy service. That
failure constitutes a danger to the national security of the United
States," Mr. Weiner writes.
The implication here is that the standard for excellence has been set
by another intelligence agency, one that unlike CIA is "first rate."
If so, it would be interesting to know which agency that is. (Not the
KGB, certainly, nor the SIS or Mossad.)
If not, and if there is no consistently "first rate" intelligence
service, then the problem may lie in an exaggerated expectation that
any secret intelligence service can reliably "see things as they are in