Beyond the CIA's Veil
Lyndon Johnson is also a fascinating presence in the book.
He desperately wanted the CIA to find out a way to win the war in Vietnam. They never had a spy close to Ho Chi Minh. What they could tell him was that we were not going to win the war. They got Vietnam less wrong than anybody else in the U.S. government from 1966 onward. They reported it high up the chain of command, and that took intellectual and moral courage.
They weren't rewarded for it.
Presidents don't like to be told what they don't want to hear. Johnson had a very vivid memo of how he regarded the CIA. It involved milking a cow and having the cow swing its unclean tail through the pearly white milk in the pail.
There are eerie echoes of the past in controversies today, such as domestic eavesdropping.
We now know, 30 years after the fact, precisely the ways in which three presidentsKennedy, Johnson, and Nixonabused the power of the CIA to spy on Americans. We will know in 30 years if, when, and how this White House abused its powers to spy on Americans. We have no idea today.
But this is not an anti-CIA book.
Having covered them off and on for 20 years, I'm convinced that we need to get good at espionage. Not at covert action, not at overthrowing regimes, but at espionageat figuring out what's going on without being detected.