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This updated edition contains new analysis on the situation in Iraq and the war against terrorism. Sold over 10,000 copies in hardcover. No one outside the intelligence services knows more about their culture than Thomas Powers. In this book he tells stories of shadowy successes, ghastly failures, and, more often, gripping uncertainties. They range from the CIA's long cold w This updated edition contains new analysis on the situation in Iraq and the war against terrorism. Sold over 10,000 copies in hardcover. No one outside the intelligence services knows more about their culture than Thomas Powers. In this book he tells stories of shadowy successes, ghastly failures, and, more often, gripping uncertainties. They range from the CIA's long cold war struggle with its Russian adversary to debates about the use of secret intelligence in a democratic society, and urgent contemporary issues such as whether the CIA and the FBI can defend America against terrorism.


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This updated edition contains new analysis on the situation in Iraq and the war against terrorism. Sold over 10,000 copies in hardcover. No one outside the intelligence services knows more about their culture than Thomas Powers. In this book he tells stories of shadowy successes, ghastly failures, and, more often, gripping uncertainties. They range from the CIA's long cold w This updated edition contains new analysis on the situation in Iraq and the war against terrorism. Sold over 10,000 copies in hardcover. No one outside the intelligence services knows more about their culture than Thomas Powers. In this book he tells stories of shadowy successes, ghastly failures, and, more often, gripping uncertainties. They range from the CIA's long cold war struggle with its Russian adversary to debates about the use of secret intelligence in a democratic society, and urgent contemporary issues such as whether the CIA and the FBI can defend America against terrorism.

30 review for Intelligence Wars: American Secret History from Hitler to Al-Qaeda

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I hovered between three and four stars on this one, but only because when I hover over the four stars goodreads calls it "really liked it" and I'm not sure I felt that strongly about it. The book is very well-written, though, and I'm very glad I read it and thus the landing on 4 stars in the end. It's a history of US secret intelligence in the form of book reviews spanning from the 1970s to 2004 (in the expanded edition). These aren't just book reviews, though, but essays on the state of the fiel I hovered between three and four stars on this one, but only because when I hover over the four stars goodreads calls it "really liked it" and I'm not sure I felt that strongly about it. The book is very well-written, though, and I'm very glad I read it and thus the landing on 4 stars in the end. It's a history of US secret intelligence in the form of book reviews spanning from the 1970s to 2004 (in the expanded edition). These aren't just book reviews, though, but essays on the state of the field with various books as framing devices. I found the set-up of the book useful. It broke things down into easily digestible and individual pieces, and the inevitable repetition helped reinforce some points for me. The author's knowledge of this particular branch of history combined with his tempered tone make for satisfying reading. Even where he has an opinion on things he is very clear that there are open questions and that he could be wrong, whereas when there really isn't an open question despite some people insisting that there is, he is willing to say so. Toward the end, when he's writing about the Iraq war more or less as its happening, it loses some of the measured tone and, of course, some of the sense of perspective over time. He is clearly pretty angry at how that went down. But even there he brings to the subject such a vast knowledge of how the intelligence community works and responds to things that it helped give me some perspective on what might have happened.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    I gave up on this one because it was boring me, which is sad because it is one of the books that has been on my shelf the longest. I didn't realize when I bought it, or maybe I just forgot since I bought it so long ago, but it is really just a collection of book reviews. And that's not really what I was looking for. Clearly Powers is a smart guy who understands the history of intelligence, but there was nothing that grabbed me or made me want to keep reading. So after 150 pages, I'm checking thi I gave up on this one because it was boring me, which is sad because it is one of the books that has been on my shelf the longest. I didn't realize when I bought it, or maybe I just forgot since I bought it so long ago, but it is really just a collection of book reviews. And that's not really what I was looking for. Clearly Powers is a smart guy who understands the history of intelligence, but there was nothing that grabbed me or made me want to keep reading. So after 150 pages, I'm checking this one off my list and moving on.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Wayland Smith

    The title pretty much covers it. This is a history of the United States intelligence organizations from World War II onward. Powers takes an odd approach and relies heavily on other books on the subject. It's a decent overview of how the US has approached the art of espionage in the modern age. Recommended to anyone interested in this topic, or wanting a general historical overview of the field. The title pretty much covers it. This is a history of the United States intelligence organizations from World War II onward. Powers takes an odd approach and relies heavily on other books on the subject. It's a decent overview of how the US has approached the art of espionage in the modern age. Recommended to anyone interested in this topic, or wanting a general historical overview of the field.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Todd

    One of his chapters begins with, "There are secrets, and then there are secrets..." Mr. Powers correctly identifies what may be the biggest challenge in intelligence: identifying what is genuinely important. Through vignettes of mostly private successes and public blunders, he sketches an interesting outline of this intelligence service. Published only one year into the post 9-11 era, there is an occasional twinge of supposition about the future work of the CIA based on past behavior, a sadly in One of his chapters begins with, "There are secrets, and then there are secrets..." Mr. Powers correctly identifies what may be the biggest challenge in intelligence: identifying what is genuinely important. Through vignettes of mostly private successes and public blunders, he sketches an interesting outline of this intelligence service. Published only one year into the post 9-11 era, there is an occasional twinge of supposition about the future work of the CIA based on past behavior, a sadly ineffective rubric for any historian or stock broker. As a snapshot in time however, it is a interesting little read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    m

    I think Thomas Powers is a national treasure. This book (154,000 words) collects 24 previously published essays, almost all of which first appeared at the New York Review of Books. Below I've listed all of the chapters comprising Intelligence Wars and appended hyperlinks to those that I think especially worth reading; next to some I've appended an asterisk or two to designate it's particular merit. ——————————————————— Introduction (5,050 words) * 1 The Underground Entrepreneur — Bill Donovan (610 I think Thomas Powers is a national treasure. This book (154,000 words) collects 24 previously published essays, almost all of which first appeared at the New York Review of Books. Below I've listed all of the chapters comprising Intelligence Wars and appended hyperlinks to those that I think especially worth reading; next to some I've appended an asterisk or two to designate it's particular merit. ——————————————————— Introduction (5,050 words) * 1 The Underground Entrepreneur — Bill Donovan (6100 words) * 2 The Conspiracy That Failed — The Plot to Kill Hitler (8000 words) ** 3 Founding Father—Allen Dulles (4100 words) * 4 Phantom Spies at Los Alamos — Robert Oppenheimer (6200 words) 5 The Plot Thickens — Whittaker Chambers & Alger Hiss (9400 words) ** 6 The Riddle Inside the Enigma — James Angleton (5700 words) ** 7 The Bloodless War. (5700 words) * 8 Saving the Shah (3500 words). The Nation, April 12, 1980. 9 And After We’ve Struck Cuba? — Cuban Missile Crisis (4300 words) * 10 "The Heart of the Story." Great essay about Marina & Lee Oswald, but no hyperlink. New York Times Book Review, October 30, 1977. (2500 words). ** 11 The Mind of the Assassin Norman Mailer on Oswald. (3200 words) 12 The Interesting One — RFK (6400 words) ** 13 Marilyn Was the Least of It (3300 words) 14 Soviet Intentions and Capabilities (2500 words) 15 The Ears of America. The NSA. (4200 words) 16 Notes from Underground. (5700 words). The USS Liberty & NSA. ** 17 Doing the Right Thing. William Colby, New York Times Book Review, May 21, 1978 (2700 words). 18 Last of the Cowboys. Bob Woodward & William Casey. (4200 words) * 19 The Bottom Line (9000 words) 20 No Laughing Matter. Aldrich Ames. (4100 words) * 21 Who Won the Cold War?. (7800 words) 22 The Black Arts. Moynihan, JFK & Fidel Castro (5800 words) * 23 The Trouble with the CIA. Osama bin Laden (6900 words) ** 24 America’s New Intelligence War. Two-part New York Review essay on FBI & CIA failures. (13,900 words) **

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    A compilation of edited book reviews for books on the history of the CIA, Intelligence Wars is fascinating but dry. The book could have used perhaps further editing- it would have benefitted from a brief primer to a dizzying cast of characters and historical events which the author in many spots seemed to expect the reader to already know. In other areas, the book repeated some of the same stories and information already given in a prior chapter. Overall, the book was a great overview of a signi A compilation of edited book reviews for books on the history of the CIA, Intelligence Wars is fascinating but dry. The book could have used perhaps further editing- it would have benefitted from a brief primer to a dizzying cast of characters and historical events which the author in many spots seemed to expect the reader to already know. In other areas, the book repeated some of the same stories and information already given in a prior chapter. Overall, the book was a great overview of a significant part of 20th century history which is usually overlooked. However, it may take dedication to get through some parts, and it leaves us hanging at the beginning of the changes and drama of the Bush II years.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kellan

    Intelligence Wars reads like the New York Times Book Review's review of the Cold War. Which for all intents and purposes it is. Dryly intriguing, and turgidly illuminating, worth picking up and putting down, each chapter is self contained, having started life as an article in NYTBR at some point over X's 30 year period as a contributor to the Times Book Review, applying his own deep knowledge of the field to critique the trends in the popular texts of the time. Intelligence Wars reads like the New York Times Book Review's review of the Cold War. Which for all intents and purposes it is. Dryly intriguing, and turgidly illuminating, worth picking up and putting down, each chapter is self contained, having started life as an article in NYTBR at some point over X's 30 year period as a contributor to the Times Book Review, applying his own deep knowledge of the field to critique the trends in the popular texts of the time.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    Basically just nationalist cheerleading presented as critical investigation. Glosses over nearly all of the major illegal, treasonous crimes committed by the agency that ushered in the violent death of the American Republic and brought you Reagan/Bush. And, if that wasn't enough, it's badly written and really, really boring. Basically just nationalist cheerleading presented as critical investigation. Glosses over nearly all of the major illegal, treasonous crimes committed by the agency that ushered in the violent death of the American Republic and brought you Reagan/Bush. And, if that wasn't enough, it's badly written and really, really boring.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    basically a collection of book reviews of other books on intelligence... basically a collection of book reviews of other books on intelligence...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lillian

    This book gave me a skipping, skimming sort of overview of significant events for the CIA, FBI, and other intelligence organizations since World War II. I learned some things, but by golly it was a slow read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dessi Bradecich

    Interesting and quite revealing. I appreciate the essay style and the succinct descriptions. I took my time with reading and digesting the information. Very Good read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Dee

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nick

  14. 5 out of 5

    MJ

  15. 4 out of 5

    Liquidlasagna

  16. 5 out of 5

    Molly

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cy

  18. 4 out of 5

    Austin Mleziva

  19. 4 out of 5

    Leif

  20. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Tunda

  21. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rem

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dan

  24. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Cranney

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jake Canfield

  26. 4 out of 5

    Brent

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tyler Grant

  28. 4 out of 5

    Paul Daly

  29. 4 out of 5

    Wackosjackos

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michael Trusty

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