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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

3.22  ·  Rating details ·  162 ratings  ·  27 reviews
As never before, the American public is fascinated by how the United States government gathers intelligence. And there is no one better than Admiral Stansfield Turner, CIA Director under President Carter, to reveal the politics and personal issues that can interfere with how the President of the United States deals with the Intelligence Community and the CIA Director in pa ...more
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Published October 15th 2005 by Tantor Media
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Austin Grady
Oct 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
T.R. Cross
The book suffered by providing only surface level details on the history of the DCI, the CIA, and their relationship with the presidency. 270 pages are simply not enough time to cover 80 years of history. What's there is a brief description and thesis before moving on to the next era. This seems to get worse as the book goes on as if the writer was losing patience. The section covering 9/11, Iraq, and the 9/11 Commission covered all of two pages. The book offers tantalizing glimpses into a fasci ...more
Noah Fisher
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.
Benjamin Wetmore
Dec 30, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written before the current stand down between President Donald Trump and his intelligence opposition, this previous chief of intelligence talks about the history of intelligence chiefs since the 1950s when the CIA was first created.

He discusses in real terms the power of the intelligence apparatus has over the President of the United States and how that conflict has manifested in the past.

He Openly admits to intelligence failures, intelligence community cooking the books in order to get the poli
Pete Zilla
Great book on the history of the position of Director of Central Intelligence and the DCI’s relationship with their President. Good lessons on leadership styles, working in bureaucracies, leading change, and working for a boss that may or may not care about what you do. The book ends with radical recommendations for changes to the organization of collection and analysis within the ODNI.
If it is at all possible to be subjective on a subject like this, Stansfield Turner has come close.
Aug 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sooo much great info from someone who led the CIA! Loved it!
Kathleen Hulser
Dec 30, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 13, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Another one for the Cosmic Ironists.
Shelves: cia, history, biography
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
Nov 26, 2012 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
May 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 31, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Peter Sprunger
Jan 04, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 12, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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 02, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
great book. best part is his opinion of the other DCIs and their working relationship, or lack there of, with each President.
Rob Ramos
Aug 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
His history was thorough and informative, although I don't agree with the solutions he proposed at the end.
Mike Schneider
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.
Oct 08, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
could not finish
Kathy Wittig
So far, I am sensing a bias, but I'll keep an open mind and press on.
B Kevin
Oct 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Frank discussion of the history, failures, and realtionship btw the CIA and the White House by a former CIA Director. Well worth reading.
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