Since its creation in 1947, the CIA has been a byword for everything that is sinister and ruthless about America's projection of power during the Cold War and with the 'war on terror'. There have been few major political events around the world in which the hidden hand of the Agency has not been seen. In countless movies and books, the CIA has been shown as decisive, brilliant and in control of its own secret world: the image of omnipotence. But this is an illusion. In reality, the CIA has been incompetent, naive, chaotic, and a danger to American interests for sixty years."Legacy of Ashes" is both a horrifying and a richly enjoyable book. Tim Weiner's immense research reveals a startlingly consistent level of failure. The general dismay at the CIA's failure to see the fall of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War, the invasion of Kuwait, the events of 9/11, its wholly false assessment of Saddam's WMD and its role in the 'rendition' of innocent suspects implies that it has fallen from some bygone golden age. "Legacy of Ashes" makes clear that the CIA has always been a blundering, ruinously incapable organization, with each decade providing its own low points.
"Legacy of Ashes" is as gripping and powerful a narrative as its fictional movie counterparts, but the story it has to tell is a lot less comforting.
Tim Weiner is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist at the New York Times where he has reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Sudan, and fifteen other nations. He was based for a decade in Washington, DC, where he covered the CIA and the military - the last topic being the basis for his famous book Blank Check: The Pentagon's Black Budget.