The Secret History of the CIA by Joseph J. Trento

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Prima Lifestyles; 1st edition (October 23, 2001)
  • ISBN: 978-0761525622

The Secret History of the CIA by Joseph J Trento is a revealing look at the origin of the Central Intelligence Agency, and its evolution over the years.  Joseph J Trento presents the CIA as an organization full of corruption, self-serving bureaucracy, and an almost cultural denial of the facts.

The picture Trento paints of the CIA is a bleak one.  After World War II, the CIA was formed almost behind the back of President Truman, as former intelligence agents from World War II continued their covert operations without the government’s permission.  Truman eventually relented and the CIA was born as an official government agency.

Almost from the beginning, the Soviets penetrated the CIA, operating as double agents and spies for decades, through the Cold War and beyond.  The CIA itself is presented as almost incapable of recruiting their own agents–those they do recruit are almost universally revealed as double agents working for one arm of the Soviet government or another.

The most fascinating parts of the book, however, are the revelations about the CIA’s recruitment of Nazi war criminals after the end of WWII; the disturbing facts surrounding the Kennedy brothers (who Lyndon B. Johnson dubbed Murder Inc.) as well as the Soviet-sponsored assassination of J.F.K. which was certainly an eye-opener for me.  I won’t give away too much, here.  Suffice to say, it is a tale of Byzantine complexity, involving the Soviet coup against Khrushchev; the failed CIA assassination attempts ordered by J.F.K and his brother against Fidel Castro; and one Lee Harvey Oswald of questionable loyalties and even more questionable history.

After reading this section of the book, you will never be able to watch another Oliver Stone movie again–his butchering of the J.F.K. assassination is laughable at best.

Trento follows the secret documents of the CIA and KGB up to near-present days, chronicling the failures of various individuals within the ranks of the CIA, as well as the organization itself.

It is a highly captivating read–and while one should never accept the opinions or biases of one historian, or one history, it is as informative a glimpse at our Nation’s intelligence fiascos as any I have read.  It is a complicated narrative, with a vast cast of historical figures, whose loyalties are never black and white, and whose qualities are more often than not their fatal flaws as well.  This dynamism gives the book a depth rarely found even in fiction.

I highly recommend the book to anyone with some time to spare, and curiosity to match.  You won’t regret the hours spent, or the sleep lost, reading it to the very end.

The Secret History of the CIA can be purchased at

~read more at NeoConstant 

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