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


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The incompetence of the CIA, detailed in this epic account, was inbuilt from conception.

In 1945, President Truman wanted the newborn agency to supply news but its first boss "Wild Bill" Donovan insisted, "In a global and totalitarian world, intelligence must be global and totalitarian."

Resulting débâcles ranged from the Bay of Pigs to Iran-Contra. "A neat idea," claimed Oliver North about that, and offered a pithier phrase when supplying unauthorised missiles to Chad insurgents: "Fuck Congress."

In the UK, we think Saddam's WMDs were invented by Blair/Campbell but the CIA did the same with a dodgy dossier from Germany. Fortunately, the country that engendered the CIA also produces ace reporters like Tim Weiner.