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REVIEW - The Wizards of Langley: Inside the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology by Jeffrey T. Richelson.
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CLICK TO ORDER The Wizards of Langley: Inside the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology by Jeffrey T. Richelson.

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

For many, the CIA conjures up a shadowy world of spies, international intrigue, and secret corridors of power. While this image may be partially accurate, the primary function of the agency is less romantic: the collection and analysis of information. To this end, the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology is indispensable. As the group responsible for creating the tools that allow the spymasters to do their jobs, the DS&T has been "a key element in the history of both the CIA and the entire intelligence community," writes Jeffrey Richelson, a specialist on American intelligence operations. In The Wizards of Langley, he traces the directorate from its inception in 1947 to the present, analyzing each aspect of its activities and responsibilities in exhaustive detail, along with the infighting and political wrangling that have accompanied its growth.

As Richelson points out, there were some missteps, such as administering LSD to scientists without their knowledge (one committed suicide as a result), employing cats as bugging devices, and the use of psychics, but overall the DS&T has made "an enormous contribution to U.S. intelligence capabilities and national security." Notably, the directorate has developed the U-2 spy plane and some of the U.S.'s most important surveillance satellites, and has been a pioneer in photointerpretation, the collection of signals intelligence, and foreign missile and space programs analysis. Some innovations have even had significant effects beyond the intelligence community, such as lithium batteries for pacemakers and methods for the detection of breast cancer. The book also offers a wealth of anecdotes, giving readers a rare look at top-secret operations and spy games of the cold war. Though the sheer amount of detail sometimes bogs down the narrative, this is a gold mine for those interested in the largely unsung heroes who have enabled the CIA to work so effectively. --Shawn Carkonen

From Publishers Weekly

In recent years, the media have presented several reports on the tragic and scandalous 1953 death of army scientist Frank Olson. Ten days before Olson died, a Central Intelligence Agency researcher had slipped a dose of LSD into the unwitting Olson's drink. The hapless army scientist quite literally went mad and leapt to his death from the window of his New York hotel room. Press accounts have couched Olson's death as the work of a sinister CIA. In Richelson's even presentation, the Olson case, horrific as it was, is less representative of a CIA run amok than it is of a paranoid Cold War mentality in which the nation's premier intelligence agency was tasked with developing extraordinary measures for extraordinary times. The directorate responsible for those measures is the focus of this fine and meticulously researched study by master Langley-ologist Richelson (The U.S. Intelligence Community, etc.). Richelson places into context the directorate of science and technology's operations, from sci-fi-style remote-viewing experiments to very practical scientific advances that would eventually find application in heart pacemaker technology. Espionage aficionados will recognize a set of familiar project code names: JENNIFER, MKULTRA and others. Familiar spy personalities are also in abundance: Ray Cline, William Colby, Richard Helms. But Richelson expounds on what's already known, giving new insights into such matters as the development of U.S. aerial and space reconnaissance systems. The evolution of the aircraft that would become the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane is particularly fascinating, as is the story of the New York Times's investigative reporter Seymour Hersh's apparent agreement to a 1972 request from the CIA to withhold the true mission of the Glomar Explorer, a spy ship that had been dispatched to recover a sunken Soviet submarine. Photos. (Sept.) Forecast: As the scientific wing of the agency takes on increased importance in the new race for space, this book, if hand-sold as a solid, conservative perspective on the agency's history, could turn out to be a steady seller.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Merely the most famous, and not nearly the largest, of the government's several intelligence agencies, the CIA has had a history of turf wars throughout its existence as it has sought to be the manager of the country's high-tech intelligence collection systems. One of its three main divisions, the Directorate of Science and Technology, was created in 1963, and Richelson offers this chronological narrative of its leaders and known activities. The text is peppered with code names as Richelson tracks the course of projects, such as the U-2 and its successors in the overhead reconnaissance role, spy satellites. Alongside stories of the CIA's fencing with the military over the years for operational control of these expensive spacecraft, Richelson relates specific international incidents in which satellite-gathered intelligence figured, as well as the stories of sundry eavesdropping technologies, such as "emplaced sensors." Straightforward and heavily detailed, this account is best suited to those already interested in the spy business. Gilbert Taylor

Copyright American Library Association. All rights reserved

From Library Journal

The CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology developed powerful tools such as the U-2 and reconnaissance satellites for collecting intelligence as well as more mundane items like small but long-lasting batteries, which eventually found their way into pacemakers and other medical devices. It also conducted controversial experiments with LSD on unsuspecting human subjects and explored the use of psychics for intelligence work. Richelson (fellow, National Security Archive; A Century of Spies) provides a richly detailed account of the agency's work from its founding in 1948 through the first days of George W. Bush's administration. The book's focus is on the development of spy hardware, much of it using cutting-edge technology. However, the infighting between the CIA and the military over who would control America's intelligence network provides an even more fascinating angle. Based on interviews and archival research, Richelson's book expands on the coverage provided in Ronald Kessler's Inside the CIA (LJ 9/1/98) in giving readers a look at one of the most secretive parts of the U.S. government. For public and academic libraries. Stephen L. Hupp, West Virginia Univ., Parkersburg

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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