David M. Barrett

Barrett, David M. The CIA and Congress: The Untold Story from Truman to Kennedy. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2005.

Clark comment: This work is a triumph of scholarship. If the author does not turn previous assessments of Congressional oversight for this period upside down, he at least has turned them away from a deeply rutted path. Given the immense amount of detailed material presented here, it was easy to expect the writing to slip into tediousness. However, except for infrequent lapses, that did not happen -- which can be attributed to Barrett's strong sense of where he was going, combined with energetic writing. For a work of this size and depth, The CIA and Congress reads quite easily. His careful descriptions of what he could not find -- and therefore does not know -- are in some instances as important as what he did find.

DKR, AFIO WIN 33-05 (29 Aug. 2005), says that the author finds that "Congress was a firm, if not always wise, taskmaster in the agency's early decades. The CIA was repeatedly criticized for Intel failures, harassed by budget cutters and witch hunts, and pressed by legislators to slant analysis on politically charged issues.... Barrett has written a trenchant study of Congressional oversight that is in sharp contrast to a widespread, popular image of the CIA."

For Scheuer, Washington Post, 27 Nov. 2005, this work is "is a triumph of research." Faced with "widely dispersed research materials," the author has "displayed sound analytic sense and balance in their use." Along the way, he provides "superb portraits and assessments of the key players." Nolen, IJI&C 21.1 (Spring 2008), lauds the author as "a master at culling the important details of secret history hidden in the dusty attic archives of America.... Barrett tells new tales of congressional oversight, reinterprets the old, and whets the appetite for more to come."

Snider, Studies 50.1 (Mar. 2006), finds that the author paints "a far richer picture" of the Congress-CIA relationship "than we had before. Intriguing tidbits are scattered throughout," and "almost every chapter reveals something that we did not quite appreciate before.... [T]he DCI and other senior CIA officials appeared far more often before congressional committees ... than was previously understood. In 1958, for example, DCI Dulles appeared a surprising 27 times before 16 different committees.... Still, as Barrett's account documents, a great deal of what passed for oversight during this period was informal and less than rigorous."

To Platt, I&NS 22.4 (Aug. 2007), the author provides "a detailed, comprehensive, and highly persuasive examination of congressional oversight" of the CIA "during the early Cold War.... Barrett's lengthy, somewhat densely written tome convincingly demolishes the myth of congressional deference to and salutary neglect towards the CIA from its founding in 1947 to the Bay of Pigs debacle in 1961."

Finding the author's study "both fascinating and provocative," McCarthy, H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews [http://www.h-net.org], Sep. 2008, opines that "it is unquestionably one of the most important books ever published on the early history of the CIA.... In the hands of a less talented author, this would have been an incredibly tedious book. Barrett, however, has a good eye for revealing quotations and fun anecdotes."

[CIA/40s/Gen, 50s/Gen, 60s/Gen; Oversight/00s]

Barrett, David M. "Congress, the CIA, and Guatemala, 1954." Studies in Intelligence 10 (Winter-Spring 2001): 23-31.

The author shows that, despite conventional wisdom to the contrary, Congress did play a "role in bringing about CIA's involvement in ridding Guatemala of the Arbenz government." Congressional oversight of CIA through the 1960s "was limited and informal in comparison to the current oversight system.... But limited oversight was not 'no oversight.'"


Barrett, David M. "An Early 'Year of Intelligence': CIA and Congress, 1958." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 17, no. 3 (Fall 2004): 468-501.

"If 1975 ... was a year of firestorms [for the CIA], 1958 might be characterized as a year of serious grassfires which led to persistent questioning in Congress of the CIA's competence." Events impacting on the CIA's relationship with Congress in 1958 included the fallout from the launching of Sputnik by the Soviet Union, Vice President's Nixon's trip to Venezuela, and the Iraqi coup.

[CIA/50s/Gen; Oversight]

Barrett, David M. "Glimpses of a Hidden History: Sen. Richard Russell, Congress, and Oversight of the CIA." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 11, no. 3 (Fall 1998): 271-298.

The focus here is Russell's and Congress' relationship with the CIA during the Eisenhower presidency. The author concludes that "[t]here can be no doubt that Russell was powerful in relation to the CIA; the question that remains largely unanswered is the extent to which he exercised that power." In the absence of the release of relevant records by the government, "[t]he well-known contention that no effective congressional oversight of the CIA existed in this and other parts of the 'era of trust' is not yet proven."

[CIA/50s/Gen; Oversight]

Barrett, David M. "A New Intelligence Director's Diary: President Truman, a Young JFK, Ho Chi Minh's 'Beheading,' and Other Challenges." Intelligence and National Security 22, no. 3 (Jun. 2007): 380-383.

Notes from a work diary (with entries made by an aide) of Adm. Roscoe Hillenkoetter, who headed the CIG and then was DCI.


Barrett, David M. "NSA Programs Do Keep Letter of Law." Politico, 11 Jun. 2013. [http://www.politico.com]

"There has been a certain amount of hysteria about the news" that NSA "has been collecting vast amounts of data regarding telephone calls made in the United States" and "also monitoring emails and other Internet activity.... Americans should have a debate about this program, but not about its legality. The NSA program was well within legal bounds, with direct involvement from the president and oversight by Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Any claim to the contrary is false and misleading."


Barrett, David M. "NSA Secrets Revealed -- in 1960." Washington Post, 21 Jun. 2013. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

Professor Barrett's Op-Ed piece reviews the Mitchell-Martin defection in 1960. He notes: "Whereas Edward Snowden's recent revelations have provoked significant debate about whether the NSA's activities are legal, properly monitored by Congress and justifiable, such a debate did not occur in 1960.... [E]xcept for having to change its security clearance procedures, the NSA was largely unscathed by the controversy."


Barrett, David M. "Secrecy, Security, and Sex: The NSA, Congress, and the Martin-Mitchell Defections." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 22, no. 4 (Winter 2009): 699-729.

It "seems fair and accurate" to say that congressional oversight of NSA from late1952 through the summer of 1960 "was almost nonexistant.... When Martin's and Mitchell's spectacular defections and press conference in Moscow unfolded, the 'alarms' set off in the United States were sufficient to provoke a relatively assertive response from Capitol Hill which did, indeed, result in changes of NSA policies and procedures. Having said that, no available evidence suggests that monitoring of the NSA by legislators became even close to comprehensive during the remainder of the 1960s."

[NSA/Through80s; Oversight/To90s; SpyCases/U.S./Mitchell&Martin]

Barrett, David M., and Max Holland. Blind over Cuba: The Photo Gap and the Missile Crisis. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2012.

Chapman, IJI&C 26.2 (Summer 2013), finds that this book about how the 45-day gap of air surveillance of western Cuba developed "is not a pretty story." The authors cover the aftermath of the missile crisis -- "[t]he hearings, the charges, and the administration's defenses" -- "in remarkable detail."

For Coffey, Studies 57.2 (Jun. 2013), it is unfortunate that the authors "treat the failure to discover the photo gap as something of a cold case. They focus on McCone's internal assessment of missile crisis coverage, a CIA Inspector General investigation, a review board report, and congressional hearings. This overreliance on reports and prepared testimony ... makes the narrative sound like such a report."

Jasper, Proceedings 140.3 (Mar. 2014), argues that "the book fails to weigh the most basic human psychological processes as they have been studied and applied to the intelligence communisty as explanations for perceived failures."


Barrett, David M., and Raymond Wasko. "Sampling CIA's New Document Retrieval System: McCone's Telephone Conversations during the Six Crises Tempest." Intelligence and National Security 20, no. 2 (Jun. 2005): 332-340.

The CIA Records Search Tool (CREST) at the National Archives II in College Park, Maryland, "uses computer terminals in the Archives' library at which researchers enter keywords. This brings up a list of document titles from which a reader chooses. After examining the ... document on the screen, he or she may then print it, at no cost, on an adjacent printer." The benefits of the system include "its sheer ease" -- it "is notably simple to operate.... [I]t works well in delivering the documents in the collection released by CIA" since 2001.


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