The ghosts of Langley Into the CIA's heart of darkness

John Prados

Book - 2017

"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 thei...r apotheosis with the secret overseas prisons and torture programs of the war on terror." -- from publisher's web site.

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2nd Floor 327.1273/Prados Due Aug 31, 2022
Subjects
Published
New York : The New Press 2017.
Language
English
Physical Description
xxvi, 446 pages ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages [391]-423) and index.
ISBN
9781620970881
1620970880
Main Author
John Prados (author)
  • Prologue: Ghosts in the machine
  • The house that Allen built
  • Zealots and schemers
  • Stars and meteors
  • Crisis
  • The consiglieri
  • The sheriffs
  • The headless horseman
  • A failed exorcist
  • Jacob Marley's ghosts
  • The Flying Dutchman.
Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Prados (Storm Over Leyte), a prolific military historian and senior fellow of the National Security Archive, unearths the ways in which the CIA, "over seven decades, has resisted—and finally decoupled itself from—government accountability." The ghosts referred to in the title are individual CIA personalities who flashed across the firmament for a few years but whose spirits continue to inspire their successors. Their greatest collective accomplishment, Prados emphasizes, has been teaching the CIA how and why to operate free of oversight. He delivers scattershot biographies of CIA luminaries—including pioneers James Jesus Angleton, Allen Dulles, and Frank Wisner and more recent names such as Leon Panetta, David Petraeus, and George Tenet—and details the bureaucratic infighting that occurred alongside the Bay of Pigs, Iran-Contra, and Iraq War debacles. Prados admirably aims to highlight positive moments in agency history, but a primary motivation is to document the means spies have employed to "escape from criticism and accountability." The book begins and ends by discussing the most current example: the tumult over torture that produced widespread media and congressional outrage. The Bush administration announced that the U.S. didn't use torture and that torture was forbidden; CIA officials insisted that torture produces priceless information and then destroyed interrogation videos. The result supports Prados's theme: the CIA remains free to torture. The American intelligence establishment's yearning to outdo its rivals, both foreign and domestic, has produced a mixture of both genuine and comic-opera horrors that make for entertaining, if dismaying, accounts such as this one. (Nov.) Copyright 2017 Publisher Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Shares the history of the Central Intelligence Agency by focusing on key figures in their history and some of their most troubling covert actions around the world.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Describes the history of the CIA from the perspective of key figures and newly declassified documents, shedding new light on covert operations in Iran, Chile and Vietnam as well as the Bay of Pigs and current secret wars in the Middle East. 10,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

"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 PostFrom 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 foundingDuring 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.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

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

Review by Publisher Summary 5

The Ghosts of Langley is a provocative and panoramic new history of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that tells the story of the Agency through the eyes of key figures in CIA history and its covert actions around the world. Drawing on a wealth of newly declassified documents, celebrated historian of intelligence John Prados throws fresh light on classic agency operations such as the Bay of Pigs, and discerns a disturbing continuum from the practice of covert actions from Iran in the 1950s, Chile and Vietnam in the 1970s, and Central America in the 1980s to the current secret wars in the Muslim world. Prados delves into early Agency history to show that spy chief legends including Allen Dulles and Frank Wisner were masters of obfuscation who shielded the agency from government probing, to the extent that they have cast a ghostly shadow over their bureaucratic descendants. Thanks to these legendary spymasters, over the seven decades since its creation the CIA has slowly decoupled itself from government accountability, going rogue in a series of highly troubling and even criminal ventures that reach their tragic apotheosis with the secret overseas prisons and torture programs of the War on Terror.