Tim Weiner is a reporter specialising in intelligence matters for the New York Times. His history of the CIA escorts readers through all the routine sites of left-wing indignation, from Guatemala and Santiago via Teheran to Vientiane, although given the colossal incompetence Weiner describes, it seems miraculous that the CIA could ever help mount a Third World coup, let alone spy on the Soviets. Any credit is invariably chalked up to foreign intelligence services, from the Israelis getting hold of Khrushchev's secret 1956 denunciation of Stalin down to MI6 persuading Colonel Qaddafi not to develop nuclear weapons.
For this is not a balanced history of the CIA, but rather an exercise in knocking copy, in which the warts obscure the Agency’s entire face. The book is promiscuously researched and written in a sinuous American journalistic style, and will doubtless be rewarded with a Pulitzer Prize; but is