The Spymasters: How the CIA Directors Shape History and the Future (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

If you enjoy reading about political history and real life spies you'll enjoy "The Spy Masters" The book chronicles the recent history of the most recent CIA chiefs and how politics altered how they played the game. It's a fast moving narrative you won't want to miss.

— Helen


From the New York Times bestselling author of The Gatekeepers, a remarkable, behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to run the world’s most powerful intelligence agency, and how the CIA is often a crucial counterforce against presidents threatening to overstep the powers of their office.

Only eleven men and one woman are alive today who have made the life-and-death decisions that come with running the world’s most powerful and influential intelligence service. With unprecedented, deep access to nearly all these individuals plus several of their predecessors, Chris Whipple tells the story of an agency that answers to the United States president alone, but whose activities—spying, espionage, and covert action—take place on every continent. At pivotal moments, the CIA acts as a brake on rogue presidents, starting in the mid-seventies with DCI Richard Helms’s refusal to conceal Richard Nixon’s criminality and continuing to the present as the actions of a CIA whistleblower have ignited impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump.

Since its inception in 1947, the Central Intelligence Agency has been a powerful player on the world stage, operating largely in the shadows to protect American interests. For The Spymasters, Whipple conducted extensive, exclusive interviews with nearly every living CIA director, pulling back the curtain on the world’s elite spy agencies and showing how the CIA partners—or clashes—with counterparts in Britain, France, Germany, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Russia. Topics covered in the book include attempts by presidents to use the agency for their own ends; simmering problems in the Middle East and Asia; rogue nuclear threats; and cyberwarfare.

A revelatory, behind-the-scenes look, The Spymasters recounts seven decades of CIA activity and elicits predictions about the issues--and threats—that will engage the attention of future operatives and analysts. Including eye-opening interviews with George Tenet, John Brennan, Leon Panetta, and David Petraeus, as well as those who’ve just recently departed the agency, this is a timely, essential, and important contribution to current events.

About the Author

Chris Whipple is an acclaimed writer, journalist, documentary filmmaker, and speaker. A multiple Peabody and Emmy Award–winning producer at CBS’s 60 Minutes and ABC’s Primetime, he is the chief executive officer of CCWHIP Productions. He is a frequent guest on MSNBC and CNN, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post. The author, most recently, of The Gatekeepers, he was the executive producer and writer of Showtime’s The Spymasters: CIA in the Crosshairs.

Praise For…

The best book about the CIA I’ve ever read.  Its revelations are eye-popping, alternately exhilarating and depressing…How Whipple managed to pull so much history together, how he extracted such a wealth of detail from his principal sources—the CIA leaders themselves—is quite simply mind-boggling.  This is an important book.  And one hell of a story.”
—Christopher Buckley, New York Times bestselling author of The White House Mess and Thank You for Smoking

“Compelling…Chris Whipple does for the CIA and Washington DC what Plutarch did for those whose job it was to expand and defend the glory of Rome—paint an indelible portrait of how the servants of government seek to know and control the world….One theme emerges from the career of each director—how difficult it is to tell presidents anything they don’t want to hear.”
—Thomas Powers, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard Helms and the CIA

"An expert chronicle of the CIA through the actions of its directors….This lively, opinionated history makes it clear that presidents and CIA directors sometimes deserve each other.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Riveting…a timely reminder of the outsized influence of our nation’s intelligence bureaucracy—and the men and women who live in this wilderness of mirrors. ‘They were all asked to do things they shouldn’t do,’ says Cynthia Helms, wife of the legendary CIA Director Richard Helms. Whipple explores these ethical quandaries with nuance and fairness.”
—Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames

“Fascinating…Whipple parts the curtains on the dark art to show the triumphs and failures, the personalities and rivalries of those who work in the shadows of espionage.”
—Tom Brokaw, Special Correspondent for NBC News and bestselling author of The Greatest Generation

“Chris Whipple is an accomplished historian, hard-nosed journalist, and master storyteller…A must-read for anyone interested in America’s intelligence gathering and national security.”
—James A. Baker, III, 61st U.S. Secretary of State

“Whipple makes excellent use of insider accounts and provides enough color to keep readers turning the pages. This well-written and accessible survey illuminates a neglected role in American history.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Provides astute profiles of the men, and one woman, in charge of the modern Central Intelligence Agency, and the presidents for whom they have worked…Accurate, fair and informative.”
—John W. Dean, Nixon Administration White House Counsel and bestselling author of Conservatives Without Conscience

“Better than anyone, Chris Whipple knows how to root out the secrets buried deeply in the federal bureaucracy…When he gives the most secret of our agencies a good shaking the headline stories and secrets come tumbling out…This is the CIA with the bark off, and Washington reporting at its best.”
—Bob Schieffer, CBS News

“Engrossing…Whipple is at once clear-eyed and fair-minded while giving us a riveting read.”
—Evan Thomas, New York Times bestselling author of The Very Best Men: The Daring Early Years of the CIA

“A highly readable, fair, and well researched history of the CIA over the past fifty years. Whipple comes neither to pillory the CIA nor to praise it but, rather, to understand it—and he fully succeeds.” 
—Max Boot, New York Times bestselling author The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam
Product Details
ISBN: 9781982106409
ISBN-10: 1982106409
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: September 15th, 2020
Pages: 400

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