The Spymasters: How the CIA Directors Shape History and the Future

Scribner. Sept. 2020. 400p. ISBN 9781982106409. $30. POL SCI
Award-winning journalist Whipple (The Gatekeepers) brings his insight on White House foreign relations to this overview of the CIA and its chief director position. Whipple describes how the agency was founded in 1947, as a successor to the Office of Strategic Services, in order to collect, analyze, and present factual evidence, as far as possible, to the U.S. president. The author notes how this created a continuing problem for agency directors pressured to produce analysis that supports what the president they serve wishes to achieve. During his research, Whipple had access to nearly every living CIA director, as well as some of their spouses. Along with profiling each director, from Richard Helms to Gina Haspel, the author examines their interpersonal relationships and political acumen and discusses changes within the agency under different leaders. A short chapter explores the Trump White House. The work is thoroughly footnoted, with interviews and published materials.
VERDICT Whipple has written another incisive work that is full of detail and sure to benefit all interested in learning more about this important role within the world’s most secretive agency.
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