(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In his most controversial book thus far, Bob Woodward uses information obtained from various interviews with Casey to reconstruct the underside of United States foreign policy since 1981. As Woodward tells it, Casey was determined to restore the morale and capabilities (both intelligence gathering and paramilitary) of a CIA devastated by the revelations of the 1970’s and consequent congressional regulations. Believing that he knew Reagan’s international agenda better than the president himself, Casey and his agency wielded uncommon influence over the formulation and implementation of foreign policy.

In Casey’s mind, the State Department could not and the Defense Department would not undertake the bold fight for democracy and capitalism. The CIA, therefore, became the prime supporter of anti-Communist rebels in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, and Nicaragua. It also sponsored a joint effort with Egypt to overthrow Muammar Qaddafi and plotted an unsuccessful assassination attempt against Muslim leader and terrorist Sheikl Fadlallah, which resulted in the death of eighty innocent Lebanese.

Although the accuracy of Woodward’s account has been questioned--why would an Office of Strategic Services veteran, steeped in the tradition of silence, reveal state secrets to an inquiring journalist?--VEIL is nevertheless a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the antagonisms both within the administration and between the administration and Congress. Woodward also offers an interesting glimpse at an editor, Benjamin Bradlee, deciding whether to print information on CIA operations, the exposure of which, federal officials claimed, would damage national security.