REVIEW: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the CIA


By Allan Swenson and Michael Benson.  Indianapolis, IN:  Alpha Books, 2003.  315 pages.


The Guide to the CIA is a lighthearted, if not flippant, treatment of a subject well known to most Studies in Intelligence readers, though it should be of value to family members, friends, students, potential employees, and interested laymen.  Although filled with clichés—the “second oldest profession,” for example—it gives a good overview of the organization, mission, history, and functions of the Agency.  A number of helpful appendices clarify abbreviations and provide definitions (e.g., “spookspeak”), a bibliography, and a list of other relevant intelligence organizations.  The historical facts sprinkled throughout should not, however, be accepted on faith.  For example, there were five, not four, Cambridge spies; no names appear next to the memorial stars in the CIA’s main lobby; Allen Dulles did not recruit the agents needed to arrange the Nazi surrender or form Operation Paperclip; and it was not Seymour Hersh’s article..

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