REVIEW: The American Agent. My Life in the CIA


The American Agent: My Life in the CIA

By Richard L Holm, 462pp, St Ermin's Press

Richard L Holm features in no indexes in books about the CIA that I could find, apart from Bob Woodward's Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA. Woodward mentions him as a respected operations officer who once briefed him on the Middle East – off the record, claims Holm, who was angry that Woodward's namecheck had blown his cover.

By then – this was the mid-1980s – Holm was an expert in counter-terrorism, one of the spooky boys off most index lists who worked at the sharp end, though you would not guess it from these memoirs, a combination of censored memoranda in need of expanding and regurgitated domestic diaries in need of censoring. What he really got up to is left in the book's elisions; what we get fails to explain the discrepancies between ideology and practice.

The CIA leaks more memoirs than the SAS, most specialising in what the agency calls "limited hangout", half owning-up to some bad stuff to conceal the deeper game, but Holm, staunch team man, offers a no-hangout account of 30 years as a cold warrior. His biggest problem was that the enemy..

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