The Family Jewels: The CIA, Secrecy, and Presidential Power

Univ. of Texas. (Discovering America). 2013. 336p. notes. index. ISBN 9780292737624. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780292752931. HIST
In 2007, a compilation of CIA documents describing its illegal domestic activities was declassified. This notorious collection is referred to as the CIA's "Family Jewels." Prados (senior fellow, National Security Archive; How the Cold War Ended: Debating and Doing History) has worked to bring the contents of these documents to public attention. Prados broadens his title's scope beyond the documents themselves, casting a light upon the political context in which the illegal activities occurred. He pays particular attention to the role of various presidential administrations, from the 1970s to the present, in condoning or encouraging illegal activities from domestic surveillance to torture and assassination. Prados is passionate and compelling on the point that these abuses are a threat to a democratic society. His book does, however, suffer somewhat from an excess of information. Readers who are less familiar with Washington politics in the 1970s and 1980s may quickly find themselves adrift in a sea of names and events.
VERDICT Prados writes with obvious passion, and his topic couldn't be more important or timely. Those unaware of the history of the events discussed may find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer amount of detail provided, but this volume is recommended to those who can stay the course.

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