Its centrality in the American government ended with the dissolution of the office of director of central intelligence in 2005. Now the CIA must be rebuilt if it is to survive. That task will take years. The challenge of understanding the world as it is has overwhelmed three generations of CIA officers. Few among the new generation have mastered the intricacies of foreign lands, much less the political culture of Washington. In turn, almost every president, almost every Congress, and almost every director of central intelligence since the 1960s has proved incapable of grasping the mechanics of the CIA. Most have left the agency in worse shape than they found it. Their failures have handed future generations, in the words of President Eisenhower, a legacy of ashes. We are back where we began sixty years ago, in a state of disarray.
Legacy of Ashes sets out to show how it has come to pass that the United States now lacks the intelligence it will need in the years ahead. It is drawn from the words, the ideas, and the deeds set forth in the files of the American national-security establishment. They record what our leaders really said, really wanted, and really did when they projected power abroad. This book is based on my reading of more than fifty thousand documents, primarily from the archives of the CIA, the White House, and the State Department; more than two thousand oral histories of American intelligence officers, soldiers, and diplomats; and more than three hundred interviews conducted since 1987 with CIA officers and veterans, including ten directors of central intelligence. Extensive endnotes amplify the text.
This book is on the recordno anonymous sources, no blind quotations, no hearsay. It is the first history of the CIA compiled entirely from firsthand reporting and primary documents. It is, by its nature, incomplete: no president, no director of central intelligence, and certainly no outsider can know everything about the agency. What I have written here is not the whole truth, but to the best of my ability, it is nothing but the truth.
I hope it may serve as a warning. No republic in history has lasted longer than three hundred years, and this nation may not long endure as a great power unless it finds the eyes to see things as they are in the world. That once was the mission of the Central Intelligence Agency.
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