Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Legacy of Ashes

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Legacy of Ashes

The History of the CIA

by Tim Weiner

Legacy of Ashes by Tim Weiner
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2007, 448 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2008, 832 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Amy Reading

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Beyond the Book

Print Review

The Central Intelligence Agency has been riven by turf battles, political infighting, and the lack of qualified agents and analysts. But just as frequently, the CIA has been brought to its knees by thoroughly avoidable blunders…

from the (somewhat) droll…

In 1994, the station chief in Guatemala accused the American Ambassador, Marilyn McAfee, of having a lesbian affair with her secretary, Carol Murphy. The station chief detailed his findings in "the Murphy memo," which he distributed around Washington. The CIA had, indeed, caught McAfee cooing endearments to Murphy on a bug in her bedroom. But it turns out that Murphy was her poodle.

to the distressful…

During the cold war, the CIA bought detailed reports of the Russian airframe industry from Karl-Heinz Kramer, the "Stockholm Abwehr." He claimed that the plans came from his vast network of agents inside the Soviet Union, when in fact they came from a set of aircraft manuals he'd found in a bookstore in Sweden. Similarly, the CIA bought a chunk of uranium that they'd been told was stolen from a shipment moving from East Germany to Moscow. Turns out the uranium was merely lead wrapped in aluminum foil.

and the deadly…

In 1999, NATO asked the CIA to help pick targets in Serbia as part of a bombing campaign to force President Slobodan Milosevic out of Kosovo. The CIA pinpointed one of Milosevic's military depots in Belgrade. The coordinates were uploaded into a B-2 stealth bomber and the building was summarily destroyed. But the analysts had relied on tourist maps for their coordinates, and they misidentified their target. The Pentagon had mistakenly bombed the Chinese embassy.

Interesting Link:
The CIA's review of Legacy of Ashes - important because it is written by a CIA 'insider' and is critical of the accuracy of Weiner's reporting.

This article is from the June 1, 2008 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

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