Covering the Central Intelligence Agency's less-than-stellar reputation over its 60-year existence, this work by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author is based on more than 50,000 documents, primarily from the archives of the CIA itself, and hundreds of interviews with CIA veterans.
... Weiner deftly and succinctly shows how the agency has navigated the first sixty years of its existence ... Among the more shocking revelations of the book are the many urban legends that are, in fact, true ... Weiner masterfully exposes the incompetence of the agency and the men who’ve led it. Using a relentless narrative style that dispenses with lengthy biographies of even the most important individuals, he pushes through a staggering amount of raw information in relatively short order. His prose is sharp, and never condescends to the reader ... For all its weight, the book has surprising moments of humor ... One can’t help but share Weiner’s frustration about the CIA’s past, as well as his fear for what its failures mean for America’s future. Legacy of Ashes is the rare book that should be read by every American, especially in an election year. Luckily, it’s also a thoroughly enjoyable book, one that’s hardly a chore to read.
The stories of ineptitude are so staggering that readers will have to laugh to keep from crying ... isn't packed with revelations, but its page-turning litany of abuses and blunders has a cohesive, cumulative force that make it essential reading ... Weiner asks, 'How do you run a secret intelligence service in an open democracy?' The CIA, in its hubris, has tried haplessly to answer that rhetorical question.
... prodigiously researched ... [Weiner] has written a powerful exposé of a secret arm of the American government without using anonymous sources, off-the-record interviews or blind quotes. Legacy of Ashes is the best book I've yet read on the CIA's covert actions ... What distinguishes Legacy of Ashes from most other books about the CIA is that it places the agency's assassination attempts, coups d'état and other covert actions within a real political context. By tracing the relations between successive presidents and the CIA, Mr. Weiner refutes the paranoid myth that the agency was an out-of-control, rogue entity or, as some claim, a kind of shadow government ... a fascinating and revealing history -- a jewel of a book, to borrow a term.