Memoir Literature


Ackerman, E.C. ("Mike") Street Man: The CIA Career of Mike Ackerman. Miami, FL: Ackerman & Palumbe, 1976.

Adams, Samuel A.

1. "Vietnam Cover-up: Playing with the Numbers -- Statistics on Viet Cong Strength Ignored by the CIA." Harper's 250 and 251 (May and Jul. 1975): 41-45, 62-73; and 14-16.

Clark comment: This article launched the public side of Sam Adams' crusade after he left the CIA in 1973; he would cover much of the same ground in his posthumously published War of Numbers

Petersen calls Adams a "mid-level CIA analyst [who] was a vocal critic of alleged misuse of intelligence information. The July segment includes letters by VADM Rufus L. Taylor, DDCI, 1966-1969, & analyst James C. Graham, disputing Adams' claims & Adams' reply."

See James J. Wirtz, "Intelligence to Please? The Order of Battle Controversy during the Vietnam War," Political Science Quarterly 106, no. 2 (Summer 1991): 239-263. Wirtz concludes that not only were Sam Adams' accusations of conspiracy unfounded but that Adams' estimates were themselves wrong.

2. War of Numbers: An Intelligence Memoir. Hanover, NH: Steerforth, 1994.

Valcourt, IJI&C 7.2, notes that Adams died in 1988, and this is "his incomplete manuscript [put] into publishable form without significant alteration.... [This is] not an anti-establishment protest. Instead, Adams appears to have been searching for objective information to support the American war effort.... [H]is contentions about what he called a 'curious story of numbers' must be seriously considered when making any assessment of policymaking during a most controversial and destabilizing period of American history."

According to Ford, I&NS 10.1, this book provides "a unique and interesting insight into the inner workings of the US intelligence community during the Vietnam War. Unfortunately,... it provides no new information [beyond that in his 1975 article in Harper's].... A man of honesty, integrity, and loyalty to his country,... [Adams'] story represents in candid detail what can happen to intelligence and those who produce it when the relationship between policy and intelligence breaks down."

Allen, Intelligencer 6.2, argues that "Sam Adams paints a dreary, but not unwarranted picture of the sort of multifarious bureaucratic infighting ... that can result when intelligence is 'politicized'.... Adams' rather narrow perspective was that of one who slogged in the analytical trenches and of a crusader searching for 'villains' for what he viewed as treasonable falsification of intelligence." Whether Adams made his case for revising upward the strength of enemy forces in Vietnam remains in dispute. Nevertheless, it is "doubtful that, on the eve of the 1968 elections, any amount of evidence could have persuaded the Johnson Administration to approve publication of a national estimate that reflected how dim was the much touted 'light at the end of the tunnel.'"

Halpern, Surveillant 4.1, believes that the "lack of an agreed methodology" does "not support charges of deliberate conspiracy or deception." Neither Col. David Hackworth's introduction nor Adams' text provides any evidence of deliberate deception or conspiracy. This "was a case of differing approaches and different views of a situation.... Charging those who cannot be convinced with being devious does not advance one's cause." Nevertheless, War of Numbers "is a valuable addition to the literature of intelligence."

Chambers calls War of Numbers a "passionate retelling of Adams' side of the VC strength story. Insights into the work of the intelligence analyst should be interesting to the general reader." See also, Hiam, Who the Hell Are We Fighting? (2006).

Agee, Philip.

Agee died on 7 January 2008 in Havana. Joe Holley, "Philip Agee, 72; Agent Who Turned Against CIA," Washington Post, 10 Jan. 2008, B7.

1. Inside the Company: CIA Diary. Bungay, Suffolk: Chaucer Press, 1974. New York: Stonehill, 1975. New York: Bantam, 1976. [pb]

Chambers calls Inside the Company a "disaffected agent's story" that is "willfully inaccurate in places.... One wonders if Agee was bored or in the pay of someone else." Pforzheimer argues that because "of the plethora of names and pseudonyms ... in his operational discussions, and the writer's polemical style, the book is tedious reading."

According to Constantinides, there is a "polemical quality" to Agee's writing "that reflects on the reliability of what he writes and also shows his ideological bias.... [Also,] there are errors in the book that justify caution regarding Agee's infallibility." Nor does Agee "explain adequately his conversion to Marxism or his relations with the Cubans after he left CIA."

See also, Kenneth J. Campbell, "A Profile of Philip Agee," Intelligence Quarterly 3, no. 2 (1987): 6-9.

2. On the Run. Secaucus, NJ: Lyle Stuart, 1987.

Valcourt, IJI&C 2.1 sees the author giving an "unconvincing explanation of his decision to leave" the CIA; "something doesn't ring true in this conversion narrative.... [He] eagerly excuses the arbitrariness and brutality of communist gov'ts ... [and] 'affluent living' certainly invites speculation on his sources of income.... [Agee] displays monumental smugness and arrogance.... [R]eaders receive ... a full dose of Agee's continuing bitterness, animosity, and leftist rhetoric."

NameBase notes that "[w]hile 'Inside the Company' chronicles Agee's activities as a CIA officer, 'On the Run' is part two of his autobiography. It covers the years between his resignation and the publication of his memoirs, and the succession of legal problems in a number of European countries once he became a celebrity. Besides reading almost like a thriller, this book is also valuable as a history of the anti-CIA movement."

3. "Why I Split the CIA and Spilled the Beans." Esquire 83 (Jun. 1975), 128-130.

Allen, George W. None So Blind: A Personal Account of the Intelligence Failure in Vietnam. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2001.

Cohen, FA 81.1 (Jan.-Feb. 2002), notes that the author was "a leading intelligence analyst, who worked on Vietnam from 1949 through 1968." It is not surprising that he "vindicates positions taken by the CIA and is scathing about many U.S. military leaders." A Publisher's Weekly, 18 Jun. 2001, reviewer calls this a "wide-ranging, illuminating memoir.... Allen makes a strong case that the 'failure' of the book's subtitle was not one of misreported or incorrect analysis; it was of not being able to convince the [various] administrations that they were pursuing the wrong course."

To Peake, JIH 4.2, this book "is one of the most important accounts of intelligence in [the] Vietnam war even though it does not have source citations." Peake, Studies 47.3 (2003), adds that "Robert McNamara's role gets the attention it so richly deserves and the Sam Adams order-of-battle numbers controversy is treated with fairness.  If the reader can only read one book about the problems of strategic intelligence in Vietnam, make it None So Blind." Whaley, Bibliography of Counterdeception (2006), agrees with the latter opinion, terming Allen's a "perceptive and scathing account of the rampant political and personal distortions and indeed outright PR fakery of intelligence during the Vietnam War."

Moise, H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews, Jul. 2002 [http://www.h-net.org], states that despite "occasional defects, George Allen has produced one of the best and most informative memoirs this reviewer has seen. It has very sophisticated analysis, and many interesting details, about what actually happened in Vietnam during the period covered. It also says much about how the events were understood and discussed in Washington." James J. Wirtz, "Reflections on a Lost War," International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 15, no. 3 (Fall 2002): 460-463, presents some thoughts on Allen and his relationship to the Vietnam War.

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