The 1980s


A - J

Blum, William. "Ronald Reagan's Legacy: Eight Years of CIA Covert Action." Covert Action Information Bulletin 33 (Winter 1990): 8-11.

Petersen: "Critical of CIA and U.S. policy."

Breckinridge, Scott D. "Post Iran-Contra Question." Foreign Intelligence Literary Scene 12, no. 3 (1993): 1-2.

The author asks: Why -- if the summaries of the joint congressional report on the Iran-Contra Affair are correct -- was the rationale of the Boland Amendment and the cut-off of support to the Contras that the CIA had failed to notify Congress of the harbor-mining program?

Brock, David. "Spies Are Back in U.S. Arsenal." Insight, 23 Jun. 1986, 6-15. [Petersen]

Buhite, Russell D. Lives at Risk: Hostages and Victims in American Foreign Policy. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 1995.

Surveillant 4.4/5 notes that the author's cases studies include the Pueblo crisis, the hostages in Iran, and the torture of CIA station chief William Buckley in Beirut in 1984.

Bury, Jan. "Assembling the Puzzle Game: The Jacek Jurzak Spy Case." Cryptologia 36, no. 3 (Jul. 2012): 215-229.

"This article is devoted to the analysis of a 1983 case conducted by the Polish security service, which culminated in the detection and compromise of a U.S. asset [Jacek Jurzak]. The achievement was made possible thanks to the cooperation of various communications intelligence branches of the communist Polish security service."

Cannon, Lou, and Bob Woodward. "Gates to Withdraw as CIA Nominee; Reagan's Choice Facing Senate Rejection." Washington Post, 2 Mar. 1987, A1.

Controversy about his role in Iran-Contra stalls Robert M. Gates' nomination as DCI.

Codevilla, Angelo. "Ignorance vs. Intelligence." Commentary 83, no. 5 (1987): 76-80.

Peterson: "Critical review" of Burrows' Deep Black.

Coll, Steve. Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. New York: Penguin, 2004.

Clark comment: Heavy and nuanced, this is a compelling work. Reading it is somewhat like watching the rerun of a train wreck the results of which you already know. This book is well-written but still is not easy going because of the massive amount of detail included. However, skim reading did not seem to work because the narrative is so tightly woven. Although there is no indication anywhere on the cover or inside, the "Afterword" of my paperback copy makes plain that it is a second edition with some changes from the first edition.

Bamford, Washington Post, 29 Feb. 2004, says the author has produced "a well-written, authoritative, high-altitude drama." Coll "is at his best when describing the convoluted relationships among the Afghan warlords and the resident spooks." Grasso, NIPQ 20.3, calls this "possibly the most comprehensive study available on the subject of Afghanistan, Bin Laden and the CIA's activities in South West Asia." The author "manages to dispassionately present the facts and circumstances so that political coloration will come solely from the reader.... While the story that Coll tells is a fascinating and engaging read, it is the research that makes his book so valuable."

For Latif, NWCR 58.3 (Summer 2005), the author "provides a useful, if overly long, chronology and analysis of pivotal events, missteps, indecision, apathy, and ultimately tragedy up to the day before the [9/11] attacks.... Coll meticulously documents every player and agenda in this drama.... One of the major strengths of Ghost Wars is how it skillfully captures the interagency debates within the U.S. government on Afghanistan ... which were wide-ranging and often contentious."

Corn, David. Blond Ghost: Ted Shackley and the CIA's Crusades. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994.

Theodore (Ted) G. Shackley, retired CIA Associate Deputy Director for Operations, died on 9 December 2002 at the age of 75. He was a three-time recipient of the Distinguished Intelligence Medal. J.Y. Smith, "Theodore Shackley Dies; Celebrated CIA Agent," Washington Post, 13 Dec. 2002, B8.

Clark comment: The "discovery" that CIA officers respond and act according to bureaucratic behaviors well-established in the literature of public administration is somewhat labored. To suggest that the CIA should somehow be immune to such behavior patterns is to ask more of its people than an unrelenting critic has any right to expect.

Frank, WIR 13.2, notes that the author is "known for his decidedly left-of-center views ... [and] for many years shared sympathies with the Christic Institute." To Chambers, the book is "hostile and muddle-headed. It's strange that Shackley rose as high as he did if he screwed up as badly as Corn would have us believe." For Halpern, Periscope, Feb. 1995, the book "is a work that mixes fact and fiction.... More often than not he and his researchers have not understood and have rejected valid documentary evidence of the truth.... This reviewer believes the work is so biased ... and contains so many errors of fact that reading it is not worth the effort."

John Barron, WIR 13.3, writes: "I have never heard anyone refer to Shackley as the 'Blond Ghost.'" Corn has produced "turgid prose and puerile reportage." Worse than that, however, he "displays ignorance of elementary intelligence procedures and terminology." In essence, Corn represents "virtue as vice" and accuses "by innuendo without evidence." On the other hand, for NameBase, the book's "70 pages of end notes[] and chapters liberally sprinkled with unpublished CIA names" make it "a durable contribution to intelligence history." And McGehee, CIABASE Jan. 1995 Update Report, praises Blond Ghost as "one of the few excellent books on the CIA."

To Warner, WPNWE, 7-13 Nov. 1994, Shackley is "less interesting than the covert world of which he was a part." The image here is one of Shackley as "an organization man," but "the real subject is the CIA as a working bureaucracy." Corn's "writing style veers from the competent to the eloquent and back again." Overall, this is an "impressive feat of research." The author "appears to have a latent personal bias against Shackley that ... colors his judgments of Shackley's successes and failures." Nevertheless, the book "greatly enlarges our understanding of the CIA as an organization."

Easterbrook, Washington Monthly, Sep. 1994, calls the book "an amazing compendium of C.I.A. fact and lore.... But every so often you run across a well-researched, well-written book that some reason doesn't quite click. This is one.... Corn's book seems to have trouble coming to conclusions beyond straightforward ones, such as that intelligence operations should be lawful.... Blond Ghost needed more conclusions, and fewer accounts of whose names were on what memos."

Warren, Surveillant 4.1, comments that this is a "meticulously researched biography of a relatively obscure civil servant ... [which] neither interests nor informs the reader.... Corn's lack of understanding and his biases show.... But in the end, Corn's book fails because of a lack of consistent focus and because of a plethora of details to no apparent purpose."

Dujmovic, Nicholas. "Reagan, Intelligence, Casey, and the CIA: A Reappraisal." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 26, no. 1: 1-30.

And a reappraisal it is, with a particular emphasis on Reagan's interaction with intelligence matters: "According to the old narrative, Reagan simply could not have been the architect of anything positive that happened while he was President. But that perspective has changed forever and is marked by the continually improving regard historians have for Reagan.. The preponderance of direct and indirect evidence ... conclusively demonstrates that he was an engaged and appreciative 'First Customer' of intelligence who carefully read and used what he learned from intelligence products....

"Contrary to the conventional wisdom at the CIA, the Agency's fortunes and influence during the Reagan administration do not appear to have rested entirely or even mostly on a close personal relationship between the DCI and the President. Far more likely is that the CIA was influential because it served a President who understood intelligence and its importance, who appreciated how it would help him in policy decisions, and who appreciated the product the CIA provided."

Engelberg, Stephen. "Webster Dismisses or Disciplines." New York Times, 18 Dec. 1987. [http://www.nytimes.com]

According to administration officials on 17 December 1987, DCI William H. Webster "has dismissed two field operatives and disciplined three senior officials for improper actions during the Iran-contra affair.... Webster acted after receiving a report from Russell Bruemmer, the lawyer he named as special counsel to examine the role of agency officials in the sale of arms to Iran and the diversion of some profits to the contras." Although Webster's statement did not name the two dismissed officials, administration officials said they "were Joe Fernandez, the former station chief in Costa Rica, and the chief of base in Honduras, whose identity has not been publicly disclosed."

Administration officials said that the "senior officials disciplined ... were Alan Fiers, chief of the Central America Task Force, who was reprimanded; Duane C. Clarridge, head of the C.I.A.'s counter-terrorism unit, who was stripped of that job, reprimanded and urged to take early retirement; and Charles Allen, a national intelligence officer, who was reprimanded. A reprimand means the employee cannot be promoted or given a bonus for two years." The text of Bruemmer's report "is classified and was not released."

Epstein, Edward Jay. "The Spy Who Came Back From The Dead." Life, Sep. 1986. [http://www.edwardjayepstein.com/archived/spy.htm]

The author finds parallels between the defection/redefection of Vitaliy Sergeyevich Yurchenko in 1985 and the defection of Yuri Nosenko in 1964.

Evans, Rowland, and Robert Novak. "Congress Is Crippling the CIA." Reader's Digest, Nov. 1986, 99-103.

Fischer, Benjamin B. "Solidarity, the CIA, and Western Technology." International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence 25, no. 3 (Fall 2012): 427-469.

Want to learn about covert aid to Solidarity? Here is the place to start. "Foreign aid, especially money, equipment, and materials, poured in from the West during the critical period of 1982-1988 through clandestine channels.... The CIA's covert action program was unilateral.... The CIA provided sophisticated equipment, especilly printing and broadcasting capabilities."

Hoffman, David E. "Reagan Approved Plan to Sabotage Soviets: Book Recounts Cold War Program That Made Technology Go Haywire." Washington Post, 27 Feb. 2004, A1. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

In his new book At the Abyss: An Insider's History of the Cold War, Thomas C. Reed, a former Air Force secretary who served in the National Security Council from January 1982 to June 1983, says that President Reagan approved a CIA plan in January 1982 "to sabotage the economy of the Soviet Union through covert transfers of technology that contained hidden malfunctions." This included "software that later triggered a huge explosion in a Siberian natural gas pipeline."

See also Gus W. Weiss, "The Farewell Dossier: Duping the Soviets," Studies in Intelligence 35, no. 9 (1996): 121-128; and "The Farewell Dossier: Strategic Deception in the Cold War." Intelligencer 11, no. 2 (Winter 2000): 23-28.

Return to CIA 1980s Table of Contents