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Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987 (1987)

by Bob Woodward

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975315,201 (3.25)5
Veil is the story of the covert wars that were waged in Central America, Iran and Libya in a secretive atmosphere and became the centerpieces and eventual time bombs of American foreign policy in the 1980s.
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The first 160+ pages are devoted to petty office politics and interpersonal squabbles, which I think gives a petty good indication of the sort of work you're in for. After that as things begin to get into motion Wooward acts as court historian presenting the administration and agency official views and justifications for their illicit acts and deals with monsters that was the hallmark of the 1980s, never contradicting them and rarely challenging - a highlight for me was revealing that Casey and many administration officials were devoted to the writings of Claire Sterling and absolutely convinced by her claims about a worldwide Soviet conspiracy that was centrally coordinating all revolutions, terrorist groups, and their attacks. They refused to believe CIA analysts that her claims were not only unsupported but some of her sources were stories that the CIA had itself planted in the foreign press. I highlight this minor episode because its one of the few times critical analysis of what was going on was presented to the reader, the rest of the book reminded me of a line from The Grapes of Wrath: "a communist is any man who wants 10 cents an hour when we're paying 5 cents." ( )
  LamontCranston | Aug 8, 2020 |
Woodward provides deep journalism on the work of the US Central Intelligence Agency, "CIA". President Ronald ("Nancy") Reagan appointed William J. Casey as DCI ("Director of Intelligence"). The book covers the period of Casey's service from 1981 to 1987 when he was forced to resign.

Casey was DIA Director and responsible for the dramatic expansion of programs unprecedented in American traditions: He conducted (1) Covert wars, involving actual boots on the ground, and (2) Disinformation campaigns, which deliberately lied to the American people and destroyed the Congressional oversight required by the Constitution. The unauthorized wars, and disinformation, coupled with clandestine relationships with both domestic and foreign powers created "time bombs" with both immediate and long-term effects. Woodward documents the conduct as well as the harmful impacts.

I was left with the conviction that the Reagan administration was not only left un-informed, because of a failure of intelligence, but was also deliberately and intentionally subverting the Constitutional structure of oversight and rules of law.

The specifics revealed by Woodward are convincing. He enjoyed access to Casey himself in numerous interviews, even long after he had resigned in disgrace and was dying in the hospital. Morever, since the book was written, the data has been largely corroborated by writers whose work is more associated with "history" than with Woodward's "journalism", such as Kessler ("CIA at War"), and admissions by Wm Donnelly, the CIA Head of Administration.

The entire Reagan administration came under scrutiny and most of the officials at the highest levels were convicted of perjury and other felonies. Many of these crimes were enabled or solicited by Casey, and Iran-Contra was only the tip of an iceberg of expensive and wrongful abuses of power.

Woodward had the opportunity to meet with Casey after the facts and cover-ups had been exposed, hoping there would be "an admission of some kind or an apology" acknowledging the damage or his understanding. [506] "It hurts", Casey said. "What you don't know." ( )
1 vote keylawk | Jul 23, 2015 |
2105 Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA 1981-1987, by Bob Woodward (read 30 Oct 1987) This is a journalistic work and one doesn't know how much to believe, but it is fascinating reading. It revolves around Bill Casey, who served six years as head of the CIA--1981 to 1987. He was a dedicated and unusual man, but he sure never hesitated about means. The book of course ends with the Iran/Contra affair, which I watched so much testimony about. ( )
1 vote Schmerguls | May 11, 2007 |
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Epigraph
VEIL: The top-secret code word for covert operations undertaken in the latter years of the Reagan Administration to influence events abroad
Dedication
To Elsa
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The alarm woke the Director of Central Intelligence, Admiral Stansfield Turner.
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One person, clearly out of step with an audience made up of conservative academics, asked, "What is the difference between the contras and the PLO?" Casey asked angrily, "What?" After the question was repeated, Casey stumbled around and finally said, "The contras have a country and are trying to get it back, the PLO doesn't have one."
The DCI spoke with some conviction about having a stand-alone, off-shore, self-financing entity that would operate independently of Congress and its appropriations. It would operate in real secrecy, either alone or jointly with other friendly intelligence services. Apparently he had in mind the Saudis and Israelis. Plausible deniability would be reestablished. In the best tradition of capitalism, this would be a revenue producer, "a full-service covert operation," Casey called it. Not just the ransoming or rescue of hostages; not just counterterrorism but other operations; North had given code names to some proposals, TH-1, TH-2, TH-3. From their experience, Casey and North knew they had to have the ability to instantly move into action. As Casey said, "You want something you can pull off the she,f and use on a moment's notice."
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Veil is the story of the covert wars that were waged in Central America, Iran and Libya in a secretive atmosphere and became the centerpieces and eventual time bombs of American foreign policy in the 1980s.

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