The Ghosts of Langley: Into the CIA’s Heart of Darkness

In This Review

The Ghosts of Langley: Into the CIA’s Heart of Darkness
By John Prados
New Press, 2017
320 pp.

There are few government agencies as controversial as the CIA, and few researchers have brought as much passion and determination to understanding it as Prados. His story begins with the Office of Strategic Services (the precursor to the CIA, established during World War II), continues through the disastrous CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, and gains energy and detail when it arrives at the Iran-contra scandal of the Reagan years and the George W. Bush administration’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” after the 9/11 attacks. Prados’ research and unrelenting search for the truth are admirable, and his conclusions command respect, if not always assent. He highlights serious problems at the agency but says very little about any successes it has enjoyed. The secrecy and isolation of the CIA can lead to excessive suspicion among outsiders; it can also lead to a hothouse environment inside the agency, in which flawed planning can lead to serious mistakes. The Ghosts of Langley is not the last word on the CIA, but it contains information and perspectives that those concerned for the future of this important institution would do well to consider. 

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