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Burn Before Reading: Presidents, CIA Directors, and Secret Intelligence
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Burn Before Reading: Presidents, CIA Directors, and Secret Intelligence

3.25  ·  Rating Details ·  129 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews
In this "thoughtful, entertaining, and often insightful" book, a former CIA director explores the delicate give-and-take between the Oval Office and Langley.

With the disastrous intelligence failures of the last few years still fresh in Americans minds--and to all appearances still continuing--there has never been a more urgent need for a book like this.

In Burn Before Readi
Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 10th 2006 by Hachette Books (first published 2005)
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Benjamin Wetmore
Mar 11, 2010 Benjamin Wetmore rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Austin Grady
Oct 19, 2016 Austin Grady rated it really liked it
Helped me brush up on American History by examining the development of the CIA overtime. Personal anecdotes were sometimes distracting and came across as tangents. Interesting overall.

The fact that all of his recommendations were lumped into the W. Bush presidency chapter and not in a separate bothered me.
Kathleen Hulser
Jan 01, 2011 Kathleen Hulser rated it really liked it
News flash: Central Intelligence isn't centralized. The amazing Admiral Turner, surely the only frank director of the CIA we are likely to see, offers critiques, anecdotes, personality profiles, insider institutional analysis and policy recommendations. Weirdly enough, the only way for the Dir. of Intelligence to be successful is to be close to the president and to be SEEN to be close to the president. But at the same time, this very closeness makes for the greatest risks and intelligence failur ...more
Sep 27, 2015 John rated it it was ok
Shelves: espionage
I had stopped writing reviews for a bit but after reading this book, I felt like I should provide a few general thoughts, particularly on a book that I believe to be subpar. The topic is a good one, but the author is not the most objective person to write this. He does a bit of a hatchet job on a number of the folks that served in the same position as he did, both before and after. It's not to say that each of these individuals didn't have their own shortcomings, but it felt like he was overly h ...more
Sep 17, 2007 Nathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Another one for the Cosmic Ironists.
Shelves: biography, cia, history
Admiral Turner was Jimmy Carter's Director of Central Intelligence. In Burn Before Reading, Turner captures and comments on the relationship between each President and their DCI from the inception of the CIA in 1947 to the Bush - Tennet years. He touches on scandals, covert ops, illegalities and dirty tricks pulled by the CIA, and he doesn't pull many punches in his analysis of his own agency's blunders. Amazingly, at the end of the book, Turner calls for the CIA to be disbanded. It is hard to d ...more
Feb 20, 2013 Ray rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book's title, "Burn Before Reading", might imply that it will be filled with relevations of inside secrets of the CIA, contain details of exciting exploits of CIA operatives, etc., but that really isn't the case. Written by a former CIA Director, Stansfield Turner, it's much more a history of the Agency, it's management and budgeting issues, its growth and setbacks. It might be better to consider it as a listing of Who's Who in the CIA from its formation through the G.W. Bush Administration ...more
Feb 05, 2013 Luc rated it really liked it
Admiral Stansfield Turner(ret.) wrote a very interesting account of the relationship between the Presidents of the United States of America since Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) and their chiefs of the intelligence community. The main question that the author tries to address is how to attain maximum efficiency and reliability within the intelligence community in order to serve the office of the President of the USA to its full potential. The new position of director of national intelligence will tr ...more
Jun 03, 2008 Wizzard rated it really liked it
A good book, fun to read. A little too much bogged down in acronyms and organizations. The book covered post WW2 American history by showing the effects of major and minor events on Intelligence, Covert actions, and Data gathering. I appreciate how the book was organized President-by-President so we could see the personalities change and shift.
Peter Sprunger
Jan 04, 2013 Peter Sprunger rated it liked it
Shelves: history
If I were to rate this book on the content it would only get two stars due to the lack thereof. However, Turner (Carter's Director of Central Intelligence) does stick to his premise and provides an overview of the history of the head of the US intelligence community. Chapters are broken down into Presidencies and each discusses the relationship the President had with the intel community, the authorities bestowed upon the head of the intel community by the President, and the lasting effects the t ...more
May 22, 2014 Jen rated it it was ok
It was a somewhat interesting history, but came across dry and pedantic. I was listening to the audio version and the only reason I got two hours in was due to the narrator's voice. I felt like I was listening to a radio broadcast from the 1930s. That, however, was not amusing enough to keep my interest when I have a whole stack of titles waiting to be read/listened to. Add this one to the stack of books I started and didn't have an interest to finish (which is, admittedly, a very small stack).
Nov 04, 2010 Tom rated it it was ok
The book was certainly one DCI's opinion of the performance and relationships that DCIs had with the respective presidents (and vice versa). I'm sure that each DCI would have a different opinion as to the relative effectiveness. Are anecdotes really proof of a hypothesis (actually, no).

The book was, in fact, okay. It covered a lot of ground, so it did not go in detail.
Mark Terry
Jun 20, 2010 Mark Terry rated it liked it
Explores the relationship between Presidents and the intelligence community since Roosevelt. It's interesting political history that relates to current debates about the role of CIA, DNI and other players. Not really a spy story, but fascinating stories about the political dimensions of national intelligence from a former DCI.
Martin Spriggs
Jan 03, 2010 Martin Spriggs rated it did not like it
While the book is well written and obviously by an insider (a former DCI), the material is rather dry and focuses on relationships and the role of the DCI in each administration. Not much detail on CIA actions. A little disappointing.
Oct 03, 2008 Eric rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was really interesting...and extremely frustrating. The relationships between the CIA directors, Presidents, and other branches of intelligence have been so fractured, and it's all because of egos. Just stupid.
Fred Platten
Jun 27, 2015 Fred Platten rated it it was amazing
great book. best part is his opinion of the other DCIs and their working relationship, or lack there of, with each President.
Robert Ramos
Aug 06, 2015 Robert Ramos rated it really liked it
An interesting history of the CIA and how it fits into the Washington DC power structure. A bit dry at times, but filled with amazing stories from our nation's history.
Jan 26, 2008 Erin rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
His history was thorough and informative, although I don't agree with the solutions he proposed at the end.
Mike Schneider
Jan 22, 2016 Mike Schneider rated it liked it
A good overview of the CIA; including how/why it got to where it is today and where it needs to go in the future.
B Kevin
Oct 18, 2012 B Kevin rated it really liked it
Frank discussion of the history, failures, and realtionship btw the CIA and the White House by a former CIA Director. Well worth reading.
Noah Fisher
Jan 11, 2010 Noah Fisher rated it it was ok
I thought this book was very interesting but kind of boring in parts. I liked the in depth storys told with a lot of detail and they told about some cool stuff the CIA has done.
Paquito rated it really liked it
Feb 05, 2012
Mike Gabor
Mike Gabor rated it liked it
Jan 22, 2012
Satine Dali
Satine Dali rated it really liked it
Mar 01, 2015
Rachael rated it liked it
Apr 13, 2011
Just1MoreBook rated it really liked it
Dec 23, 2011
Jonathan Schilling
Jonathan Schilling rated it really liked it
Jun 04, 2010
Christina rated it really liked it
Mar 06, 2013
Paul rated it it was amazing
Dec 07, 2012
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Jan 22, 2009
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Feb 28, 2012
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