Inside the CIA

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The Central Intelligence Agency, unlike Gaul, is divided into five parts. INSIDE THE CIA, the latest effort in espionage nonfiction from Ronald Kessler, examines each of the four directorates and the office of the director historically and contemporaneously. Kessler discusses the failures, the successes, and the individuals who make up this most controversial of agencies of the central government.

INSIDE THE CIA is not a hatchet job which presents the agency in the most unfavorable light possible. In fact, those addicted to conspiracy theories will discover that the CIA doesn’t exercise the malevolent control over the American government frequently attributed to it by those who compose novels of the thriller variety. Neither is it staffed by James or Jane Bond types who surmount impossible odds to save the world, or at least the United States from the forces of evil.

More than anything else, INSIDE THE CIA resembles the type of account one might find on a table at a career-day function. The work deals with each of the four directorates with an emphasis normally associated with a recruiting manual, albeit in a slightly more candid manner. Kessler is quite clear that the agency violated its charter in times past, and suspects it might do so again given the proper circumstances.

Still, INSIDE THE CIA does not propose that the agency should be disbanded or that another organizational structure would render superior service. Espionage is one of the oldest activities engaged in by the human community, and the end of the Cold War does not mean that information about friends and foes is any less valuable to those who occupy policy-making positions in the U.S. government. INSIDE THE CIA promises more than it delivers insofar as revelations are concerned, but it nonetheless does lift the veil of secrecy just a tad, and that is all for the better. It is most important in a free society that the citizenry not only know who the watchers are but also how they are selected and who keeps track of their activities.