The 1980s


K - Z

Kerr, Richard J., and Peter Dixon Davis. "Ronald Reagan and the President's Daily Brief." Studies in Intelligence (Winter 1998-1999): 51-56.

The CIA Office of Current Intelligence was able to establish a pattern of daily briefings early in the transition period after Reagan's election.

Responding to a comment in the Kerr-Davis article that the Reagan-Bush transition team had no contact with the PDB briefers, Samuel J. Watson, "Commenary," Studies in Intelligence 9 (Summer 2000), 105-107, does not find that situation unusual. "Transition teams serve a different purpose [than PDB briefers].... The work of the transition team [is] aimed at preparing the incoming president on the form, function, and activities of an agency."

Kessler, Ronald. Escape from the CIA: How the CIA Won and Lost the Most Important KGB Spy Ever to Defect to the U.S. New York: Pocket Books, 1991. [pb]

Clark comment: Escape from the CIA concerns the defection and redefection in 1985 of KGB First Chief Directorate officer Vitaly Yurchenko. The title clearly exaggerates Yurchenko's relative importance.

Fein, FILS 11.6, says that Kessler's "indictment of the CIA ... seems vastly exaggerated" and his "starry-eyed view of Yurchenko is ... discredited." The author "betrays an acute anti-CIA bias." Allen, DIJ 2.1, adds that Kessler is "unconvincing.... While the account reads well it often does not seem credible." On the other hand, Surveillant 1.4 finds "numerous insights" in the book, gained "from interviews Kessler had with Yurchenko in Moscow."

Dick Gay, "Yurchenko, Bona Fides or Bogus," CIRA Newsletter 31, no.1 (Spring 2006), reprints his entry on Yurchenko from Encyclopedia of Intelligence and Counterintelligence (2005), followed by his thoughts "Between the Lines," in which he suggests that the defection was an act to take the attention away from Aldrich Ames.

Kramer, Mark. "US Intelligence Performance and US Policy during the Polish Crisis of 1980–81: Revelations from the Kuklinski Files." Intelligence and National Security 26, no. 2 & 3 (Apr.-Jun. 2011): 313-329.

"[I]t is simply not true ...that the distribution of Kuklinski's reports and documents within the intelligence community was too limited." The problem was "that analysts at the CIA and State Department did not make better use of it."

Landis, Fred. "CIA Psychological Warfare Operations: Case Studies in Chile, Jamaica, and Nicaragua." Science for the People, Jan.-Feb. 1982, 6-11, 29-37.

Perry, Mark. Eclipse: The Last Days of the CIA. New York: Morrow, 1992.

Clark comment: The collection of review comments below reflects the ambivalence knowledgeable readers have about this work. It is the fullest account we have on this period in the CIA's organizational life, but includes details the sourcing of which seems questionable. The author appears to have listened to everyone with a personal ax to grind, while those more knowledgeable about some events either were not talking or were not consulted. Small factual errors (the covert operations in Iran [1953] and Guatemala [1954] did not occur in the same year) lessen Perry's credibility on more important matters. It is also a little tiresome to hear that Agency morale was terrible following each organizational upheaval. Morale may have been a concern in portions of the most affected component; but, for the most part, the rank and file barely noticed or were unaffected by what was going on at the top. All that said, Perry adds considerably to what we know about the Webster years; and he gets much of it right. Many of the CIA's problems in the years after his narrative ends are clearly presaged in Eclipse. In fact, the book's title makes more sense today than it appeared to when it was published.

According to Surveillant 2.6, Eclipse "examines the bitter internal debate over CIA policy and leadership from the death of director William Casey in 1987 to the swearing-in of Robert Gates in '91." Perry "staunchly defends Casey's immediate successor, former FBI head William Webster." The book's "highlights are thinly supported."

Choice, Jan. 1993, says that Perry's is a "critical but balanced analysis" which makes a "unique contribution" in "highly readable prose." On the other hand, Fein, FILS 12.1, sees Perry making "uninformed judgments of the agency ... on issues worthy of more serious discussion." Many of his "verdicts are either groundless or seriously arguable." The book contains "analytical and factual errors ... [which] are serious barriers to sophisticated understanding."

For Bates, NIPQ 9.2, the author's "method of documentation leaves a lot to be desired," while Powers, NYRB (13 May 1993) and Intelligence Wars (2004), 295-320, thinks the book is "oddly titled." To Allen, DIJ 2.1, Perry "has difficulty analyzing his material in a broader perspective." It is difficult to take "at face value an otherwise remarkable and revealing collection of anecdotes."

Minnick, NameBase, notes that President "George Bush is depicted as a novice in his understanding of the CIA, despite the fact that [he] was once CIA director. CIA director William Webster is slower still, apparently lacking even in his knowledge of world geography.... The work includes an excellent bibliography and chronology for further research."

Pincus, Walter. "Hung Out to Dry with the Dirty Linen?" Washington Post National Weekly Edition, 16-22 Sep. 1991, 33.

The two CIA officers, James L. Adkins and Joseph Fernandez, forced to leave the agency in the wake of the Iran-Contra affair "believe they were made scapegoats for more senior agency officials who wanted to protect their own careers."

Ransom, Harry Howe. "Congress Never Intended the CIA to Spy at Home." First Principles 7 (Feb. 1982): 13-16. [Petersen]

Simmons, Robert Ruhl. "Intelligence Policy and Performance in Reagan's First Term: A Good Record or Bad?" International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 4, no. 1 (Spring 1990): 1-22.

"In the final analysis, an exceptionally good record was marred by several extraordinarily bad decisions," specifically, the Nicaraguan harbor mining incident and the resulting rupture with Congress. Lowenthal sees this article as "most useful for insights into clashes between Congress and DCI Casey than about the extent and limits of oversight."

Weiser, Benjamin. "A Secret Warsaw Pact with the U.S. in the Cold War." Washington Post National Weekly Edition, 21-27 Feb. 1994, 18-19.

In an "extraordinary intelligence effort coordinated by the CIA," the United States acquired "advanced Soviet weapons from Warsaw Pact countries" during the 1980s. Poland was "the most significant collaborator in the program," but Romania also was a source and one deal in 1987 involved the purchase of 12 T-72 Soviet battle tanks from Czechoslovakia and East Germany.

Wines, Michael, and Ronald J. Ostrow. "Cuban Defector Claims Double Agents Duped U.S." Washington Post, 12 Aug. 1987, A8.

Woodward, Bob. Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987. New York: Pocket Books, 1988. [pb] UB351U5W66

Simmons, IJI&C 2.2, argues that Woodward's "errors of fact ... are few and far between and, more often than not, involve narrative embellishments of a situation rather than mistakes in substance.... Probably the greatest value ... are his brilliant descriptions of the bureaucratic conflict between the legislative and executive branches in the arena of U.S. intelligence activities.... He captures the flavor of this struggle."

For Hartung, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Jul. 1988, the "real subject" of this book "is Casey and his efforts to build U.S. intelligence capabilities across the board." Woodward has produced a "readable and at times engaging account of U.S. intelligence activities during the 1980s." Blum, NameBase, notes that the book "is famous for its corny ending.... Other portions ... contain numerous nuggets of interest to historians, but it treats its stated subject entirely unsystematically -- various bits and pieces about each 'war' are scattered here and there."

To Powers, NYRB (19 Nov. 1987) and Intelligence Wars (2004), 283-294, the author has a typical "set piece -- detailed, suggestive, and fragmentary." The central account here is Casey's covert activities, and Woodward "for the most part only adds new details to stories that have already had their day in the press. His story requires close reading. It suggests more than it claims."

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