Memoir Literature

T - Z

Taber, Sara Mansfield. Born Under an Assumed Name: The Memoir of a Cold War Spy's Daughter. Dulles, VA: Potomac Books, 2012.

Peake, Studies 57.4 (Dec. 2013), concludes that despite the author's skewed view of the CIA, the book "is good reading for those interested in Agency life."

Tenet, George J., with Bill Harlow. At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA. New York: HarperCollins, 2007.

Click for comments and reviews.

Theurmer, Angus MacLean. "My Stasi File: Tattered Cloak, Not Much Dagger." Christian Science Monitor, 13 Jul. 1998, 11.

See T. Rees Shapiro, "Angus Thuermer dies at 92; former journalist, CIA official," Washington Post, 9 May 2010, C8.

The author was CIA chief of base in West Berlin from 1975 to 1978. He wrote to the West German office in charge of old East German intelligence documents, and received his Stasi file -- 18 pages of tailing reports. He was still waiting for his FBI file.

Trabue, Alan B. A Life of Lies and Spies: Tales of a CIA Covert Ops Polygraph Interrogator. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2015.

For Goulden, Washington Times, 26 May 2015, this is a "thoroughly engaging book."

Tripodi, Tom, with Joseph P. DeSario. Crusade: Under Cover Against the Mafia and KGB. Washington, DC: Brassey's (US), 1993.

McFarlane, I&NS 10.2: This is "not a scholarly work," but presents "an interesting account" of Tripodi's 25-year career with the DEA and CIA. The book "is largely anecdotal and offers little real analysis ... [but it] is worth consideration owing to the interesting perspective it offers." Tripodi joined the CIA's Office of Security in 1962, where he became involved in the Nosenko case. He "remains convinced that Nosenko was a plant, but the evidence in support of this view is not persuasive." Tripodi's attributing much of the U.S. cocaine problem to Che Guevara "stretch[es] credibility." After 1978, Tripodi worked in Italy in a joint U.S.-Italian operation against the Mafia.

Turner, Stansfield. Secrecy and Democracy: The CIA in Transition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1985. JK468I6T87

Halpern, IJI&C 1.1, argues that Turner holds "simplistic views of espionage, counterintelligence, and covert action ... [with] little understanding or appreciation ... that people, and their handling, are the essence of intelligence.... [He] had little appreciation for the people, the organization, the history, or the activities of the service he headed and did not take the time to learn." The book constitutes a "defense by Turner of his efforts as DCI.... [O]ne should not be too logical in examining his recommendations on organization, or take them too seriously."

Clark comment: This is an overly harsh assessment of Stansfield Turner the person (as opposed to Stansfield Turner the DCI). I do not argue that Admiral Turner was the best possible match for the job of DCI. However, I am not sure who would have been at the juncture when he assumed office, given the attitude toward intelligence that his boss brought to his job. With regard to Halpern's views of Turner's recommendations on organization, a review of the literature on "reorganization" of the CIA, which has become so prevalent in the 1990s, certainly does not cast Turner's thoughts on the matter in a particularly negative light.

Turner, Stansfield. Terrorism and Democracy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991.

Charters, I&NS 9.3, sees this book as a "combination of insider memoir, policy critique, and policy prescription." However, it is "not a comprehensive attempt to explore the fundamental issues arising from the challenge of political terrorism." Of the book's 28 chapters, 17 are devoted to the Iran hostage crisis. "The portrait of the president is hardly flattering: an indecisive man given to procrastination.... The chapters covering the Reagan era, nine in all, are by far the weaker components of the book.... Scholars of intelligence and terrorism ... will find no new insights in this book."

Seeing Turner's work differently, Rosenfeld, WPNWE, 10-16 Jun. 1991, calls it "a tersely written, personally unsparing and otherwise exceptionally valuable study of how the United States has handled and should handle incidents of international terrorism."

Walters, Vernon A. [LTGEN/USA(Ret.)] Secret Missions. New York: Doubleday, 1978.

Lt. Gen. Vernon A. Walters died on 10 February 2002 at the age of 85. J.Y. Smith, "Gen. Vernon A. Walters; CIA Official, Diplomat," Washington Post, 14 Feb. 2002, B6. See Henry R. Appelbaum, "In Memorium: Vernon Walters -- Renaissance Man," Studies in Intelligence 46, no. 1 (2002): 1-2.

Denis Clift tells the following story about Walters: "In April 1974, Dick Walters and I would share adjoining seats on Air Force One as we flew home from Paris with President Nixon following the funeral for President Georges Pompidou. Shortly after we were airborne, he fished into a carry-on satchel for a book and began to read. A half-hour later he fished again for another. He had my wonderment and admiration, as he was relaxing by reading foreign dictionaries." [footnote omitted] A. Denis Clift, "The Play of Intelligence: With Presidents at the Summit," Defense Intelligence Journal 11, no. 1 (Winter 2002): 108.

Clark comment: Whatever your feelings about the military, military people, and particularly generals, Vernon Walters qualifies as an unique individual with an inordinately interesting life. He tells his stories of a lifetime as facilitator, organizer, interpreter, and go-between among the high and mighty of the world with (in Walter Pforzheimer's words) "all of [his] brilliance as a raconteur." And he does this without ever giving away anything that could be considered a "secret." When reading Walters' story, it is easy to wish for at least a little indiscretion.

Petersen notes that there is "[l]ittle on intelligence despite author's service as DDCI 1972-1976," while Constantinides says that Walters' "many anecdotes ... are of interest but mostly unrelated" to intelligence operations.

Waters, T. J. Class 11: Inside the CIA’s First Post-9/11 Spy Class. New York: Dutton, 2006.

Clark comment: The author provides an interesting and fun read. I recommend it for anyone who would like to know how CIA case officers are initiated into their calling. It also makes plain the stresses that are placed -- even in the beginning phase of one's work life -- on the personal lives of those who choose the clandestine path. However, Waters' constant harping on the uniqueness of Class 11 becomes a bit annoying, if only because most classes (perhaps, every class) to go through the various versions of CIA training tended to regard themselves as unique. In addition, my class in the old JOT program of the mid-1960s certainly was not made up of a bunch of male-only, twentysomethings with no real-world experience (however true that may have been for me). That said, however, I laughed out loud at some of the events portrayed as they brought to mind similar (or even more outrageous) situations from a now-distant past. It seems to me that old Agency hands cannot avoid enjoying this book, even though they may not have experienced every element described. If the general public learns something from it, that is extra gravy.

LJ, AFIO WIN 15-06 (10 Apr. 2006), comments that the author recounts his days as a student learning the espionage trade and provides fascinating details about how contemporary spies are trained." Nolan, IJI&C 22.1 (Spring 2009), finds that the author's "description of the training he and his classmates underwent gives a tremendously detailed look at what is expected of the new recruits." However, there is no "serious analysis of the CIA's ills or those of the Intelligence Community overall."

For Lehman, Washingon Post, 26 Nov. 2006, this is a "very readable account of the first wave" of the rebuilding of the CIA's clandestine service. The author "offers a rare glimpse into what it is like to join this cadre and how its tradecraft is taught.... Waters has done an excellent job recounting his experiences." Johnson, I&NS 24.2 (Apr. 2009), says that "[s]ome of the more enjoyable aspects of the book are Waters' descriptions of various instructors and former case officers who attempt to teach these new recruits the tricks of the trade." This is a "highly readable and engaging book."

Waugh, Billy, with Tim Keown. Hunting the Jackal: A Special Forces and CIA Ground Soldier's Fifty-Year Career Hunting America's Enemies. New York: Morrow, 2004. Hunting the Jackal: A Special Forces and CIA Soldier's Fifty Years on the Frontlines against Terrorism. New York: Avon, 2005. [pb]

From amazon.com: "In remarkable detail [Waugh] recounts his participation in some of the most important events in American Special Operations history, including his own pivotal role in the previously untold story of the CIA's involvement in the capture of the infamous Carlos the Jackal."

Clark comment: Did Billy Waugh do all the things he chronicles in his book? I am assured by those who know more about him than I do that Waugh has done so much that there would be no need for him to make up the stories told here. If he had not already been a Special Forces legend, going to war in Afghanistan in 2001 at the age of 72 would have established a special place for him in the pantheon of real-life action figures. It is doubtful that we would want Waugh sitting in Washington making policy; but as a warrior in the field, it is good thing that he is on our side.

White, Lawrence K. "Red"

See James Hanrahan, "Interview with...."

Wilber, Donald N. Adventures in the Middle East: Excursions and Incursions. Princeton, NJ: Darwin, 1986.

Haglund, I&NS 4.3, notes Wilber's claim to have both developed the concept for Operation Ajax and played a major role in making that plan operational. Nevertheless, there is "not ... much new information about US intelligence operations in the Middle East, either during the 1950s or during the war, when Wilber was an OSS agent in Iran."

Wilson, Valerie Plame. Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007.

Linzer, Washington Post, 20 Oct. 2007, notes that there were CIA-mandated redactions to Wilson'a book, which she "fought ... in federal district court and lost."

Cooperman, Washington Post, 22 Oct. 2007, comments that, "[t]o put it kindly, the memoir lacks the sheen of a ghostwriter's work and has the voice of an ordinary person caught up in extraordinary events. It doesn't help that the CIA redacted the manuscript heavily before approving it for publication.... The book is, however, greatly assisted by an afterword by Laura Rozen, a reporter for the American Prospect. Rozen ... fills in many of the censored dates, places and other details from published sources. Readers would be smart to turn to the afterword first, before tackling Wilson's disjointed narrative."

See also Joseph C. Wilson, IV, The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's C.I.A. Identity -- A Diplomat's Memoir (New York: Carroll & Graf, 2004).

Return to CIA Memoirs Table of Contents