Secret Empire: Eisenhower, the CIA, and the Hidden Story of America’s Space Espionage
By Philip Taubman
Simon & Schuster, 2003, 464 pp.
During the 1950s and early 1960s, the development of first the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft and then spy satellites transformed the world of intelligence. Although the outlines of this story are well known, particularly concerning the U-2, Taubman provides a wealth of detail on all aspects of these projects, based on many interviews and copious research. He weaves together complex strategic, organizational, and engineering issues, managing to convey the drama and excitement of a race to find some way of getting consistent and reliable intelligence on Soviet nuclear missiles at a time when the United States was widely assumed to be falling behind. The story shows Dwight Eisenhower at his most decisive and shrewd, ready to listen to the advice of tough-minded outsiders, such as James Killian of MIT and Edwin Land of Polaroid, and to hand over critical projects to the CIA.2