The CIA File

Title:                      The CIA File

Author:                   Robert L. Borosage

Borosage, Robert L. (1976) and John Marks, eds. The CIA File. New York: Grossman Publishers

LCCN:    75033961

JK468.I6 C3 1976


Date Updated:  February 1, 2017


The papers of a 1974 conference on “The CIA and Covert Action” have little to add to recent revelations (viz. Philip Agee’s Inside the Company, p. 879) of some of the CIA’s shadier activities, but the brief articles do form a useful introduction to the issues involved.

David Wise reviews CIA history and congressional and legal controls on the Agency, concluding that many secret operations must be eliminated because of their inevitable overflow into domestic politics. Former Kissinger aide Roger Morris and Indochina specialist Fred Branfman give accounts of CIA operations in several specific countries.

Herbert Scoville, an erstwhile CIA scientist, explains how new listening, satellite and code-breaking technology has made old-style espionage obsolete. Morton Halperin, one-time National Security Council staffer, describes how clandestine actions fit into government policy-making and the difficulties which arise in trying to monitor such programs for effectiveness and sanity. He calls for the CIA’s division into a controlling intelligence-evaluation group and a small undercover actions section.

Writer Richard Barnet points out the spread of “dirty tricks” at home in Watergate and elsewhere. Former CIA director William Colby appears to read a statement and debate some of the panelists. Some of the material is already outdated by the latest revelations of assassination attempts and drug experiments. Certainly this book does not compare with Marchetti and Marks’ The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence or Wise’s The Invisible Government. Still, The CIA File provides a compact handbook of arguments from the Agency’s more outspoken critics.

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

Under the sponsorship of the Center for National Security Studies, a two-day conference was held in 1974 on CIA covert operations. This is a collection of the essays presented and some later complementary pieces. The editors characterize the participants as “generally critical” of such covert-action operations. In fact, the conference and the papers were made up by what might be called the anti-intelligence establishment. Besides the editors, such well-known critics of CIA as Marchetti, Halperin, Ross, Congressman Harrington, Raskin, Ellsberg, Branfman, and Barnet either were present, presented papers, or addressed the conference. Reading this collection helps one capture some of the mood of the times in certain circles toward intelligence. Barnet expressed this mood frankly in his essay when he observed that “in the climactic year of Watergate it is not hard to make a strong case against secret intelligence operations.” William Colby’s remarks and the question-and-answer session following his talk vividly provide further proof of the atmosphere of hostility to secret operations and to CIA in particular that prevailed at the conference. The attitudes toward intelligence held by the majority at this meeting influenced popular and political attitudes in the United States toward CIA and secret intelligence for the next half decade. Thus, the student of intelligence needs to be familiar with the philosophical and other underpinnings of the participants’ positions.

This is a review by the Defense Intelligence School.[2]

In September 1974, a two-day conference was held in Washington under the sponsorship of the Center for National Security Studies, an arm of the Fund for Peace. The subject of the meetings was “The CIA and Covert Action.” This book presents reports given at the conference, virtually all hostile to covert action. The participants included Victor Marchetti , David Wise, Fred Bronfman, Thomas Ross, Richard Falk, and Morton Halperin, inter alia. Mr. William Colby, then Director of Central Intelligence, spoke at the end of the conference, presenting the CIA position. Mr. Colby’s paper is also included, as well as the questions from the participants and his answers to them following his formal presentation.

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[3]

For two days in the fall of 1974 journalists, scholars, and former CIA officers met in Washington, D.C., under the auspices of the Center for National Security Studies, to discuss the way CIA conducts its covert operations. Edited by Borosage, director of the center, and Marks, coauthor of The CIA And The Cult of Intelligence[4], the book contains some of the proceedings of the conference in the form of essays. Former CIA Director William E. Colby’s rebuttal to the proceedings is included. In general the essays charge the CIA with damaging the best interests of the nation through its secret political operations.

[1] George C. Constantinides in Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press (1983), p. 91

[2] Defense Intelligence School (1981). Bibliography of Intelligence Literature: A Critical And Annotated Bibliography of Open-Source Literature (7th ed, rev.). Washington, D.C. : Defense Intelligence School, p. 9

[3] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., p. 194

[4] Marchetti, Victor (1990) and John D. Marks. The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence. New York: Knopf



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One Response to The CIA File

  1. Pingback: The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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