John Prados

N - Z


Prados, John. "Neglected Intelligence: The Japanese in the Solomans Campaign." U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 139, no. 8 (Aug. 2013): 66-71.

"Though the Imperial Navy developed the same intelligence techniques as its adversaries, its sense of the limited utility of such information inclined the Japanese against devoting an effort equivalent to that of the Allies, and their intelligence never evolved into the same kind of supple instrument wielded against them."


Prados, John. "No Reform Here." Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 52, no. 5 (Sep./Oct. 1996): 55-59.

Prados, John. "Notes on the CIA's Secret War in Afghanistan." Journal of American History 89, no. 2 (Sep. 2002): 466-471.


Prados, John. The Presidents' Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations Since World War II. New York: Morrow, 1986. Presidents' Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations Since World War II Through Iranscam. New York: Morrow, 1988. [pb] Presidents' Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations from World War II Through the Persian Gulf War. Rev. ed. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1996.

Valcourt, IJI&C 1.3, says Prados has produced an "extremely well researched volume," but he "tarnishes his objectivity with the bias of some distorted criticism... which ... reduce[s] his work to a political tract under the guise of scholarship." Nevertheless, there is a "considerable amount of worthwhile information.... As a guide to the literature of the field, it is a gold mine." However, in his criticisms, he "fails to put the situation in perspective."

Although he finds the work somewhat numbing, Smith, I&NS 2.4, also believes The Presidents' Secret Wars "will be highly useful because Dr Prados has done serious archival work.... In one stroke this volume moves the study of covert operations to a higher and more sophisticated plane."

[CA/80sGen & 90s/Gen]

Prados, John. Safe for Democracy: The Secret Wars of the CIA. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2006.

Clark comment: This work began life as The Presidents' Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations Since World War II, published in 1986 with 480 pages. It saw renewed life as Presidents' Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations from World War II Through the Persian Gulf War, published in 1996 with 576 pages. This version drops the more accurate title that clearly identifies the real begin point for covert "wars" -- U.S. Presidents -- for the presumably more saleable subtitle of Secret Wars of the CIA, with neither presidents nor the Pentagon seemingly interesting enough to make it into the title or subtitle. In addition, the work has now grown to 752 pages.

Peake, Studies 51.2 (2007), states flatly that "[t]his is not an objective study. Prados clearly held negative views of covert action before he set pen to paper, and set out to prove his point. Even the covert support given to ... anti-Soviet fighters in Afghanistan is a negative; the Soviet Union would have collapsed in any event in Prados' view. Still, this is thorough review of covert action, and readers may well reach different conclusions."

For Arpin, NWCR 60.4 (Autumn 2007), this is "a detailed, if somewhat disjointed, chronology of CIA covert actions since the inception of the agency." Prados "generally takes a negative view of covert actions, maintaining (for the most part) that they are antithetical to American ideals.... The author’s treatment is not balanced," but this "long and detailed book" remains "a valuable book for students of intelligence activities."

Freeman, Booklist (via, sees this as "a comprehensive and superbly researched effort.... Some of the topics covered are familiar ground,... [b]ut Prados also details lesser-known CIA activities in Guyana, Eastern Europe, and even Western Europe in the aftermath of World War II." [Clark comment on review: This review raises serious questions as to whether the reviewer is familiar with Prados' earlier work mentioned above.]

This massive volume apparently deserves an equally massive review. While this reader is always interested in the take of B. Hugh Tovar on matters of which he has close and even intimate knowledge, his review of Safe for Democracy: The Secret Wars of the CIA in IJI&C 21.1 (Spring 2008) is one of the longest I remember in this journal. Yet, nowhere does Tovar make the point (of which he is without doubt aware; see his review of Prados' Lost Crusader: The Secret Wars of CIA Director William Colby [2003]) that much of this material is recycled from Prados' multiple efforts of the past. Tovar refers to such matters as the author's "rollicking fast-moving style that characrizes much of the book"; "[a]s usual, [Prados] musters great detail, but it is not always clear where that detail came from"; "[h]is long-running narratives are interesting, sometimes fascinating, but always frustrating because linking a striking, even sensational, statement to a specific source in his endnotes is often impossible"; "[a] lot of good material is already in the public domain on the war in Laos, and Prados would have done better to draw upon it"; and the author "delights in details of the type that reflects an insider's knowledge and then leads him to make mistakes."

An aspect of this book that Johnson, I&NS 23.2 (Apr. 2008), finds "weak is its inattention to the burgeoning scholarly literature that has crystallized around the subject of intelligence, including covert action.... As with the earlier version, Safe for Democracy is a treasure trove of personalities, facts, and policies related to the CIA's (and therefore various presidents') secret and mostly failed wars."

[CA/00s/Gen & Begin]

Prados, John. "'Slow-walked and Stonewalled.'" Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 59, no. 2 (Mar.-Apr. 2003).

"The Joint Inquiry issued its final report on December 10. It contained factual, systemic, and related conclusions, along with recommendations, but proposed no legislation.... The major recommendation was that the jobs of CIA chief and overall intelligence chief be separated by establishing a Director of National Intelligence as a new, Cabinet-level official with full authority over both the Pentagon and CIA intelligence budgets."


Prados, John. The Soviet Estimate: U.S. Intelligence Analysis and Russian Military Strength. New York: Dial Press, 1982.

Although he believes that some of the author's assertions and even his general treatment of the material can be questioned, Pforzheimer still accepts Prados' treatment as "a timely, relevant, and informative book. Unfortunately, it must be read with some caution because of some errors of fact." Lowenthal notes that the book is based solely on open sources. Nevertheless, it is "a useful history and analysis of the estimative process."

For Powers, The Atlantic (Apr. 1982) and Intelligence Wars (2004), 235-242, this is a "fine history" that "is certain to become a standard work in the field.... Intelligence professionals will consult [t]his book to find out what's in the public domain and what's still secret.... [O]rdinary readers ... will find it too hard, too dense, too filled with numbers, tables, and acronyms, too dull, too obsessive in its attempt to gather in one place every fact and echo of contention in the strategic intelligence business.... Prados's excellent bibliography, the most comprehensive I have seen, lists hundreds of items."


Prados, John. "US Intelligence and the Japanese Evacuation of Guadalcanal, 1943." Intelligence and National Security 10, no. 2 (Apr. 1995): 294-305.

"One of the key factors that enabled South Pacific Theater forces to beat the Japanese in numerous encounters over and on Guadalcanal, or on the approaches to that island, was a substantial intelligence advantage.... Thus it remains startling that, given the Allied advantages which existed, the Imperial Navy was able to pull off the Guadalcanal evacuation almost without interference. The Japanese evacuation turned into one of the worst Allied intelligence failures of the Pacific war."


Prados, John. Vietnam: The History of an Unwinnable War, 1945–1975. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2009.

Laurie, Studies 55.2 (Jun. 2011), comments that Prados's portrayal of the CIA "tends to reflect the antiwar, anti-Establishment view so often heard since the 1970s." He gives "little or no attention to publicly available CIA-commissioned histories of the period.... Other available works ... are cited but not extensively used.... Unused and uncited are a number of well-documented and rich treatments of Agency programs that give fuller and more positive perspectives -- although not without criticism -- on its efforts during the period and at the same time more accurately reflect the environment in which the Agency operated at home and abroad." (Footnotes omitted)

For Drew, A&SPJ 26.3 (Fall 2011), this is "the most comprehensive, authoritative, and readable single-volume narrative history of the American war in Vietnam yet seen." It is "a narrative history of remarkable scope and considerable depth that weaves together military threads with political, social, economic, and foreign policy threads.... The reader should be sure to check the endnotes, for it is there (rather than in the basic text) that Prados directly takes on the revisionists."


Prados, John. "You Call that Intelligence?" Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Mar.-Apr. 1997, 20-21.

This is an interesting piece of sophistry. While admitting that "the weight of the evidence seems to exonerate the CIA" of charges of complicity in importing crack cocaine into the United States, the author manages to use this false charge to support his argument for "intelligence reform."


Prados, John, ed. America Confronts Terrorism: Understanding the Danger and How to Think About It. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2002.

Scott-Smith, JIH 4.2, notes that this work brings together "the major US government documents of the past fifteen years that have examined and analysed the terrorist threat." Prados "lets the documents speak for themselves, only adding minimal (but generally telling) observations at the beginning of each section." However, much of the "content [of this collection] has since been superceded by the 2004 report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States and other assessments."


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