In reading the reviews of Legacy of Ashes, The History of the CIA, by Tim Weiner, I come across this tidbit. This section is from the middle of the review.
From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com
Reviewed by David Wise
But Weiner, a New York Times correspondent who has covered intelligence for years, cannot be accused of kicking the agency when it is down. It is his thesis, amply documented, that the CIA was never up. He paints a devastating portrait of an agency run, during the height of its power in the Cold War years, by Ivy League incompetents, "old Grotonians" who lied to presidents -- an agency that, more often than not, failed to foresee major world events, violated human rights, spied on Americans, plotted assassinations of foreign leaders, and put so much of its energy and resources into bungled covert operations that it failed in its core mission of collecting and analyzing information.
To compare some of the agency's antics revealed in this book to the Keystone Kops is to do violence to the memory of Mack Sennett, who created the slapstick comedies. My personal favorite is an episode in Guatemala in 1994, when the CIA chief of station confronted the American ambassador, Marilyn McAfee, with intelligence, as she recalled, that "I was having an affair with my secretary, whose name was Carol Murphy." The CIA's friends in the Guatemalan military had bugged McAfee's bedroom, Weiner reports, and "recorded her cooing endearments to Murphy. They spread the word that the ambassador was a lesbian." The CIA's "Murphy memo" was widely distributed in Washington. There was only one problem: the ambassador was married, not gay and not sleeping with her secretary. " 'Murphy' was the name of her two-year-old black standard poodle. The bug in her bedroom had recorded her petting her dog."
Forty years earlier, the CIA had overthrown the legally elected government of Guatemala, a covert operation long touted as one of the intelligence agency's grand "successes." It was even called Operation Success. Guatemala was made safe for United Fruit -- talk about banana republics -- but not for democracy. A series of military dictators followed the CIA coup, with death squads and repression in which perhaps 200,000 Guatemalans perished.
Weiner's study is based on a prodigious amount of research into thousands of documents that have been declassified or otherwise uncovered, as well as oral histories and interviews. And one of the truly startling, eye-opening revelations in Legacy of Ashes is just how close even the agency's avowed triumphs came to disaster. As Weiner documents, both the Guatemalan operation and the overthrow of the government of Iran (Operation Ajax) in 1953 teetered on the edge of catastrophe. They were run by old boys whose management skills seemed to combine Skull and Bones with the Ringling Brothers.
And of course the "success" in Iran, restoring the Shah and his notorious secret police, the SAVAK, to power, was all about oil, grabbing it back from Mohammed Mossadeq, who had nationalized it. The coup, run by the CIA's Kim Roosevelt, Teddy's grandson, was followed in 1979 by the takeover of the ayatollahs, arguably a direct outcome of Islamic resentment of the agency's meddling in that country. Today, Iran, with its ominous nuclear weapons program and defiance of the West, looms as a much greater foreign policy challenge to the Bush administration, and to world peace, than Iraq ever was. Thanks a bunch, Langley.
The review ends with this:
Legacy of Ashes succeeds as both journalism and history, and it is must reading for anyone interested in the CIA or American intelligence since World War II. Weiner quotes Dean Acheson's prophecy about the CIA to good effect: "I had the gravest forebodings about this organization . . . and warned the President that as set up neither he, the National Security Council, nor anyone else would be in a position to know what it was doing or to control it."
Copyright 2007, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.
Do I dare say, "Have a nice day," after reading this. Bella is here in the chair next to me. I would hate to think my endearments to her were recorded for all to analyze and hear. : )