The Central Intelligence Agency an Encyclopedia

Title:                      The Central Intelligence Agency an Encyclopedia

Author:                 Jan Goldman

Goldman, Jan (2015), ed. The Central Intelligence Agency: An Encyclopedia of Covert Ops, Intelligence Gathering, And Spies. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, an imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC

LCCN:    2013042649

JK468.I6 C457 2015 Alc



  • 2 volumes
  • Volume 2 has title: Documents.

Date Posted:      March 8, 2017

Complied and Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake[1]

Volume One of this encyclopedia contains 216 entries about the CIA, with supporting evidence in the form of 98 primary sources reproduced in Volume Two. The purpose of the volumes is to “state objectively and with clarity the history of the CIA,” (p. xiii) based on “the use original or primary sources.” (p. xix) Does it meet these self-imposed conditions?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes and no. It does indeed have entries about various CIA collection (which it calls “gathering”) activities written by an assortment of academics and scholars. And each entry provides suggestions for further reading; some make reference to documents reproduced in Volume Two. But there is some ambiguity about the book’s overall purpose. For example, the Preface states that the encyclopedia “is not just a history of the CIA.” (p. xiii) This is followed a few pages later with the comment that the work “is not about the history of the CIA but instead is an encyclopedia of entries and documents on covert operations and spies.” (p. xix) No clarification is offered.

The entries themselves are of mixed quality. Sourcing is a problem on two counts. First, references to primary source documents at the end of an entry—and not all entries have them—are often not relevant to the entry topic. For example, the entry for Anatoliy Golitsyn lists three documents in Volume Two, but they have nothing to do with the case. (p. 162) Likewise, the entry for Kim Philby refers to document #66; but it discusses greater openness at CIA. (p. 294)

A second, more serious aspect of the entries is their accuracy. While most are presented as factual, too many have errors due to poor fact-checking. For example, KGB defector Yuri Nosenko is referred to as a “double agent” instead of a suspected provocation [sic. Does Peake mean provocateur?] Moreover, the claim that he “spied for the CIA in Moscow” is inaccurate, according to the sources cited in the entry. And the Philby entry is inaccurate in many small details: Golitsyn didn’t provide proof of Philby’s espionage; he was not rehired as a member of SIS after his initial resignation; his wife died in London, not Beirut; and he received the Order of the Red Banner in 1965, not the Order of Lenin. (p. 293) On the topic of CIA and the Cold War, the author writes that “Truman appointed legendary OSS spymaster William ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan as the first CIA director”—perhaps the greatest blooper of intelligence history. (p. 76) A quick look at the CIA webpage (search for directors) tells a different story. And Congress “was not vague in defining CIA’s mission”—it didn’t define it at all (though it did approve the mission proposed in the National Security Act of1947). A final area worth close attention is the terminology employed; it is often inaccurate. For example, the definition of double agents is wrong; the commentary provided applies to recruited agents and genuine double agents. And the statement that a “digital espionage division” was created in March 2015, is incorrect; though a Directorate of Digital Innovation was created at that time. (p. xxxix)

The number of important topics overlooked altogether is surprising. For example, there is no entry for agency organization and no mention of analysis. Moreover, the coverage after 9/11 is spotty; the bibliography is weak and not up to date; and the main source for the Nosenko case is not included.

In sum, while there is a great deal of information about the CIA in the encyclopedia, it should be used with caution. Fact check any entry of interest. Caveat lector.


[1] Hayden Peake in The Intelligencer  (22, 2, Fall 2016, pp.  117-118).  Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations. Most of these reviews appeared in recent unclassified editions of CIA’s Studies in Intelligence. Other reviews and articles may be found online at

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