John Ranelagh's study of the Central Intelligence Agency is the latest revision in the history of the problematic and secret mechanism that is once again looming behind the rhetoric of America's foreign policy and its war on terrorism.
In its way, the work by London author Ranelagh is meticulous in research, detail and chronology. The documentation and range of interviews, together with a huge bibliography, appear to be exhaustive. Critics and apologists are given ample if not equal scope, and distinctions of personality are drawn in the profile and studies of the succession of directors of Central Intelligence that make up the spine of this work. And yet . . . in the end, a question remains: Has Mr. Ranelagh got it right?
The Ranelagh book correctly informs us that, after the war, from Sept. 20, 1945, until Jan. 22, 1946--"one of the fiercest bureaucratic battles Washington has ever known raged. . . ." At issue was the future of U.S. intelligence, and, more profoundly, the future of the United States' self-concept of its power and its responsibility.
The author provides a wealth of detail as he charts the struggle that blazed around President Truman over who would have the secret control of America's new and far-flung influence and technical assets in the postwar world. What is less clear is whether the conflicting values underlying this struggle were ever resolved. There is much evidence that they were not. Curiously, this study contains vital clues as to the ongoing secret war within the CIA, but the author fails to draw the conclusions of his own research.