Legacy of Ashes by Tim Weiner

Legacy of Ashes

Legacy of Ashes is a detailed history of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from its creation after World War II, through the Cold War years and the War on Terror.

The book is based on more than 50,000 documents, primarily from the archives of the CIA, and hundreds of interviews with CIA veterans, including ten Directors of Central Intelligence. The author argues that the CIA has failed to create a first-rate spy service, which constitutes a danger to the national security of the United States.

The main themes of the book include the CIA’s failures in intelligence gathering, covert operations, and analysis, as well as its involvement in illegal activities such as assassination attempts and coups. The book also explores the political and bureaucratic struggles within the agency and its relationship with the White House and Congress.

Useful takeaways from the book include:

  • The CIA’s failures have had serious consequences for US national security.
  • The agency has been plagued by political interference and bureaucratic infighting.
  • The CIA has engaged in illegal and unethical activities that have damaged its reputation and credibility.
  • The agency’s successes have been few and far between, and often overshadowed by its failures.
  • The CIA needs significant reform and oversight to become an effective and trustworthy intelligence agency.

What I Liked

Oh, ho ho – so this book was amazing. Now – I was an International Affairs major in college. Also, the Bourne series are my favorite thriller movies…so this book is right up my alley. But it’s engaging, thorough, and embraces the complexity of the CIA as an agency that needs to exist…but is in constant need of reform and oversight.

What I Did Not Like

It’s a bit long in print – great for audiobook.

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