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Hunt, ever a true believer -- in himself

BOOK REVIEW

American Spy My Secret History in the CIA, Watergate and Beyond E. Howard Hunt with Greg Aunapu Wiley: 340 pp., $25.95

February 28, 2007|Tim Rutten | Times Staff Writer

Not long after hearing Moynihan make that point in person, I happened to lunch with the newly appointed Director of Central Intelligence, William H. Webster. The collapse of the Soviet regime was then in progress and I asked whether he had seen any report by any agency analysts that forecast anything like those events.

He smiled wanly, shook his head and said, no. Nobody got it right? I asked. Well, there was one person, Webster said. Could we speak to him, I wondered? No, the director laughed. (Shortly afterward, then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney would complain that Webster's briefings on the ongoing Soviet disintegration were making it hard to win congressional support for the administration's defense budget. It's somehow comforting to know that some things -- and some people -- never change.)

At the end of the day, the real lesson in all this recent history is that there is no special "gnosis," no secret knowledge, no higher truth that only an elite can comprehend. If memoirs like Hunt's "American Spy" have any value, it is as a cautionary rather than prescriptive tale.

timothy.rutten@latimes.com

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