John Prados

Lost Crusader:

The Secret Wars of CIA Director William Colby


Prados, John. Lost Crusader: The Secret Wars of CIA Director William Colby. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Wise, Washington Post, 27 Apr. 2003, comments that "[a]lthough written in generally dry, academic style, Prados's study is richly detailed (sometimes overwhelmingly so)." The author "has mined newly declassified documents and scores of interviews to reveal some previously undisclosed gems.... If at times Prados is too admiring of his subject, there was nevertheless much to admire.... [Colby] paid dearly for revealing the agency's transgressions, but he was comforted by the knowledge that what he did was right for his country and his conscience. By portraying William Colby's life in all its nuances, Lost Crusader makes an important contribution to intelligence literature."

For Bath, NIPQ 19.4, this work is as much about the Agency as it is about Colby. Prados is "firm in his conclusion that Colby's basic strategy [during the 1970s troubles] was to reveal only enough information to preserve the CIA." The amount of detail included by the author, while "germane to his arguments," is "sometimes difficult for the uninitiated to follow. However, the value of the book lies in this detail." Karabell, FA 82.4 (Jul.-Aug. 2003), finds that this is a "comprehensive (although often dry) account of the strange career of Colby." However, "much of [Colby's] life and personality remain veiled, and Prados ... does not succeed in fleshing out his personality."

Tovar, IJI&C 17.1, notes that in covering the assassination of Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, "it is hard to escape the thought that Prados's real target" is the CIA. Elsewhere, the author "worries the Indonesian bone through many pages of supposition and speculation." With regard to the public problems of 1974-1975, Tovar believes that "Prados reports the events of those turbulent times even-handedly," but at the same time does not agree with the author's interpretation of either the events or Colby's rationale for dealing with them.

To Leary, I&NS 18.4, this work "constitutes the best defense to appear to date on the actions of the beleaguered director" in 1975. The author "knows what he is talking about, and his judgments are balanced." He "deals well with Colby's public career, but not his personal life, or the interaction between the two."

Robarge, Studies 47.4 (2003), sees the author handling "the narrative of Colby's curriculum vitae in a workmanlike fashion.... But in a biography, the less captivating attributes of the main character or lacunae in the documentary record of his career cannot be offset with lengthy accounts of Agency operations and bureaucratic developments with which, at least based on the material presented, Colby's involvement can only be discerned by inference.... Surprisingly for a researcher of Prados's diligence, Lost Crusader contains many factual errors and questionable interpretations."

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