From the New York Times bestselling author of The Gatekeepers, an “engaging…richly textured” (The New York Times), behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to run the world’s most powerful intelligence agency. “The best book about the CIA I’ve ever read…one hell of a story” (Christopher Buckley).
With unprecedented access to more than a dozen individuals who have made the life-and-death decisions that come with running the world’s most powerful and influential intelligence service, Chris Whipple tells the story of an agency that answers to the United States president alone, but whose activities—spying, espionage, and covert action—take place on every continent. At pivotal moments, the CIA acts as a counterforce against rogue presidents, starting in the mid-seventies with DCI Richard Helms’s refusal to conceal Richard Nixon’s criminality and through the Trump presidency when a CIA whistleblower ignited impeachment proceedings and armed insurrectionists assaulted the US Capitol.
Since its inception in 1947, the Central Intelligence Agency has been a powerful player on the world stage, operating largely in the shadows to protect American interests. For The Spymasters, Whipple conducted extensive, exclusive interviews with nearly every living CIA director, pulling back the curtain on the world’s elite spy agencies and showing how the CIA partners—or clashes—with counterparts in Britain, France, Germany, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Russia. Topics covered in the book include attempts by presidents to use the agency for their own ends; simmering problems in the Middle East and Asia; rogue nuclear threats; and cyberwarfare.
A revelatory, well-researched history, The Spymasters recounts seven decades of CIA activity and elicits predictions about the issues—and threats—that will engage the attention of future operatives and analysts. Including eye-opening interviews with George Tenet, John Brennan, Leon Panetta, and David Petraeus, as well as those who’ve recently departed the agency, this is a timely, essential, and important contribution to current events.
Former 60 Minutes producer Whipple (The Gatekeepers) delivers a well-documented look at the job of the CIA director, "the person who must tell the president what he doesn't want to hear." Opening in 2016, when CIA chief John Brennan learned of Russian efforts to influence the presidential election, Whipple examines the inherent conflict between the agency's role in gathering and analyzing intelligence and the political nature of the director's job. He compares Richard Nixon's attempts to obstruct the Watergate inquiry by claiming it was a covert CIA operation to Donald Trump's conflicts with intelligence agencies; describes the different managerial styles of directors he's interviewed, including George Tenet and Leon Panetta; and details notable CIA operations from the 1960s through today. Though unsparing in his appraisal of intelligence community failures, such as not anticipating the fall of the Shah in Iran and allowing Aldrich Ames to funnel secrets to the Soviet Union, Whipple disputes the "notion that the CIA has bungled its way through the last fifty years." His suggested reforms for improving CIA performance include a fixed 10-year term for directors (as is the case in the FBI), and strengthening whistleblower protections. Whipple makes excellent use of insider accounts and provides enough color to keep readers turning the pages. This well-written and accessible survey illuminates a neglected role in American history.
An exceptional reading experience
I worked for every administration from Reagan to Trump and served on the frontlines of the clandestine front of our nation’s foreign service, including every Director CIA from Judge Webster to Gina Haspel. This book should be required reading for anyone serving in the NSC, SSCI, HPSCI or within the 17-member Intelligence Community. Not recommended reading, required. Chris Whipple, thank you. Well done. If I could give six stars, I would.
Biased From Start to Finish
The authors obvious distain for President Trump reverberates in almost every chapter. His purpose for this book was to condemn Trump for as much as he could pile on. This bias over shadows the author’s research and assessments of the history of the CIA and its former directors.
The Spy Masters
A 5 star book. The details of the workings of the CIA directors shape the world of spying and how they deal with the president they serve is amazing and they had to deal with the problem and decisions they had to make is amazing. Kevin