Review: Trento’s Secret History of the CIA

One of many, many book reviews I wrote for a livejournal account long, long ago.

The Secret History of the CIA
Joseph Trento

If you want a trashy, gossipy, book full of stories of drunks and mistresses and bat-shit crazy people in charge of our nation’s espionage, then this is your book. It’s a one sided tale, for sure, and that side is of those with nothing good to say about the C.I.A.. It trashes the famous “Berlin Base” CIA operation, defends James Angelton and makes a case for the CIA being a basically inept organization that lost out big to the Russians during the Cold War. It is also not the most reliable book I have ever read.


Trento spends a bunch of time hinting that the Agency was involved in the assassination of JFK and a bunch more time questioning the apparent suicides of a number of agents. I find these segments of the books more than a little doubtful. The book is basically a diversion and should be taken with a couple of grains of salt, and is not a particularly reliable history of the CIA. Still, it’s a fast read, and nicely diverting if espionage is your thing (and it is among my many things). Not to be taken too seriously and really, in hind sight, not recommended.


About seanv2

Scholar, gentleman, jock. I run the website Milo and the Calf. There you will find the Boston Qualifier Questionnaire where runners share their stories of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. You'll also find my thoughts on endurance sports, ancient history, Judaism, and hundreds of book reviews.
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2 Responses to Review: Trento’s Secret History of the CIA

  1. Andy says:

    I’m about to finish this book myself. Trento seems to take righteous stands on very controversial subjects, like whether or not Penkovski defected or was sent by the GRU/KGB. My interest in the book diminished significantly when Trento started to blame the assignation of JFK on Khrushchev’s enemies within the USSR. I agree in not recommending the book.

    • seanv2 says:

      Agreed, there’s some good stuff in here, but there’s also much better espionage book out there, I think. What espionage books do you like?

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