America's Secret Power: The CIA in a Democratic Society

Oxford University Press
Free sample

Based on hundreds of interviews with CIA officials, national security experts, and legislators, as well as a thorough culling of the archival record, America's Secret Power offers an illuminating and up-to-date picture of the CIA, stressing the difficult balance between the genuine needs of national security and the protection of individual liberties. Loch Johnson, who has studied the workings of the CIA at first hand as a legislative overseer, presents a comprehensive examination of the Agency and its relations with other American institutions, including Congress and the White House, and looks closely at how it pursues its three major missions--intelligence analysis, counterintelligence, and covert action. At once fascinating and sobering, Johnson's book reveals how the best intelligence reports can be distorted or ignored; how covert actions can spin out of control despite extensive safeguards, as in the Iran-Contra scandal; and how the CIA has spied on American citizens in clear violation of its charter. Further, he provides a thorough review of legislative efforts to curb these abuses, and suggests several important ways to achieve the delicate balance between national security and democratic ideals.
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About the author

Loch K. Johnson is Regents Professor of Political Science at the University of Georgia, and was recently named a Meigs Professor, the University of Georgia's highest teaching honor. He has served on the Senate and House committees on intelligence and on foreign affairs and has been a consultant to the National Security Council, the U.S. State Department, and the Senate Subcommittee on Separation of Powers. He is the author of A Season of Inquiry, the winner of the 1986 Certificate of Distinction of the National Intelligence Study Center, and America As a World Power (1991).
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Mar 14, 1991
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Pages
369
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ISBN
9780195361537
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Language
English
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Genres
History / United States / 20th Century
Political Science / Security (National & International)
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Content protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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"The Ghosts of Langley offers a detail-rich, often relentless litany of CIA scandals and mini-scandals. . . [and a] prayer that the CIA learn from and publicly admit its mistakes, rather than perpetuate them in an atmosphere of denial and impunity."
—The Washington Post

From the writer Kai Bird calls a “wonderfully accessible historian,” the first major history of the CIA in a decade, published to tie in with the seventieth anniversary of the agency’s founding

During his first visit to Langley, the CIA’s Virginia headquarters, President Donald Trump told those gathered, “I am so behind you . . . there’s nobody I respect more, ” hinting that he was going to put more CIA operations officers into the field so the CIA could smite its enemies ever more forcefully. But while Trump was making these promises, behind the scenes the CIA was still reeling from blowback from the very tactics that Trump touted—including secret overseas prisons and torture—that it had resorted to a decade earlier during President George W. Bush’s war on terror. Under the latest regime it seemed that the CIA was doomed to repeat its past failures rather than put its house in order. The Ghosts of Langley is a provocative and panoramic new history of the Central Intelligence Agency that relates the agency’s current predicament to its founding and earlier years, telling the story of the agency through the eyes of key figures in CIA history, including some of its most troubling covert actions around the world. It reveals how the agency, over seven decades, has resisted government accountability, going rogue in a series of highly questionable ventures that reach their apotheosis with the secret overseas prisons and torture programs of the war on terror. Drawing on mountains of newly declassified documents, the celebrated historian of national intelligence John Prados throws fresh light on classic agency operations from Poland to Hungary, from Indonesia to Iran-Contra, and from the Bay of Pigs to Guantánamo Bay. The halls of Langley, Prados persuasively argues, echo with the footsteps of past spymasters, to the extent that it resembles a haunted house. Indeed, every day that the militarization of the CIA increases, the agency drifts further away from classic arts of espionage and intelligence analysis—and its original mission, while pushing dangerously beyond accountability. The Ghosts of Langley will be essential reading for anyone who cares about the next phase of American history—and the CIA’s evolution—as its past informs its future and a president of impulsive character prods the agency toward new scandals and failures.
National security intelligence is a vast, complex, and important topic, made doubly hard for citizens to understand because of the thick veils of secrecy that surround it.

In the second edition of his definitive introduction to the field, leading intelligence expert Loch K. Johnson guides readers skilfully through this shadowy side of government. Drawing on over forty years of experience studying intelligence agencies and their activities, he explains the three primary missions of intelligence: information collection and analysis, counterintelligence, and covert action, before moving on to explore the wider dilemmas posed by the existence of secret government organizations in open, democratic societies. Recent developments including the controversial leaks by the American intelligence official Edward J. Snowden, the U.S. Senate's Torture Report, and the ongoing debate over the use of drones are explored alongside difficult questions such as why intelligence agencies inevitably make mistakes in assessing world events; why some intelligence officers choose to engage in treason against their own country on behalf of foreign regimes; and how spy agencies can succumb to scandals -including highly intrusive surveillance against the very citizens they are meant to protect.

Comprehensively revised and updated throughout, National Security Intelligence is tailor-made to meet the interests of students and general readers who care about how nations shield themselves against threats through the establishment of intelligence organizations, and how they strive for safeguards to prevent the misuse of this secret power.

As President Trump’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton spent many of his 453 days in the room where it happened, and the facts speak for themselves.

The result is a White House memoir that is the most comprehensive and substantial account of the Trump Administration, and one of the few to date by a top-level official. With almost daily access to the President, John Bolton has produced a precise rendering of his days in and around the Oval Office. What Bolton saw astonished him: a President for whom getting reelected was the only thing that mattered, even if it meant endangering or weakening the nation. “I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my tenure that wasn’t driven by reelection calculations,” he writes. In fact, he argues that the House committed impeachment malpractice by keeping their prosecution focused narrowly on Ukraine when Trump’s Ukraine-like transgressions existed across the full range of his foreign policy—and Bolton documents exactly what those were, and attempts by him and others in the Administration to raise alarms about them.

He shows a President addicted to chaos, who embraced our enemies and spurned our friends, and was deeply suspicious of his own government. In Bolton’s telling, all this helped put Trump on the bizarre road to impeachment. “The differences between this presidency and previous ones I had served were stunning,” writes Bolton, who worked for Reagan, Bush 41, and Bush 43. He discovered a President who thought foreign policy is like closing a real estate deal—about personal relationships, made-for-TV showmanship, and advancing his own interests. As a result, the US lost an opportunity to confront its deepening threats, and in cases like China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea ended up in a more vulnerable place.

Bolton’s account starts with his long march to the West Wing as Trump and others woo him for the National Security job. The minute he lands, he has to deal with Syria’s chemical attack on the city of Douma, and the crises after that never stop. As he writes in the opening pages, “If you don’t like turmoil, uncertainty, and risk—all the while being constantly overwhelmed with information, decisions to be made, and sheer amount of work—and enlivened by international and domestic personality and ego conflicts beyond description, try something else.”

The turmoil, conflicts, and egos are all there—from the upheaval in Venezuela, to the erratic and manipulative moves of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, to the showdowns at the G7 summits, the calculated warmongering by Iran, the crazy plan to bring the Taliban to Camp David, and the placating of an authoritarian China that ultimately exposed the world to its lethal lies. But this seasoned public servant also has a great eye for the Washington inside game, and his story is full of wit and wry humor about how he saw it played.
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