A Spy's Journey: A CIA Memoir, by Floyd L. Paseman
St. Paul, MN: Zenith Press, 2004. Pp. 315. Illus., gloss., biblio. $24.95. ISBN:0-7603-2066-7.
For thirty-five years, Floyd Paseman served his country as an employee
of the Central Intelligence Agency. Two decades of his distinguished career
were spent in foreign countries as an officer in the Directorate of Operations
(DO), now known as the National Clandestine Service. The DO is tasked with
collecting human intelligence (HUMINT), as opposed to imagery, signals, and
other types of intelligence from technical sources. Paseman passed away from
bone cancer in 2005. His book is a highly readable and entertaining account of
his experiences, from the Cold War battlefields of East Asia and the beer halls
of Germany to bureaucratic infighting at Langley and political backbiting in
As with many of his generation, Paseman began his government service in
ROTC and a brief stint in the US Army. He writes that this experience helped
him liaise later on his career with his military counterparts. An opponent of
the Vietnam War and a proponent of the afro haircut, Paseman clearly took great
pride in his independent personality, regaling the reader with amusing (and
sometimes infuriating) tales of how he stood up to higher-ups he feels were
rude and?in many cases?downright wrong.
Readers who are looking for in-depth discussions of specific operations
or detailed explanations of sources and methods will be sorely disappointed.
Paseman is extremely, perhaps overly, careful in his memoirs. Countries and
people won?t be identified by name, but from the context a reader armed with
Google should be able to figure things out. Instead, Paseman?s book is largely
a collection of chronologically-organized anecdotes. Some of these stories
provide fascinating glimpses of famous people: Senator John Warner, the
distinguished statesman Vernon Walters, and Oliver Stone (who ?will never get
another nickel from me?). Other vignettes feature Jan Karski, a Polish freedom
fighter who tried to alert the West about the Holocaust; German intelligence
chief Bernd Schmidbauer, AKA ?008?; and a CIA employee nicknamed Moneypenny.
Readers of StrategyPage will be particularly interested in Paseman?s
chapters summarizing his views on each DCI under whom he served, beginning with
Richard Helms and ending with George Tenet. James Schlesinger and Stansfield
Turner, both of whom dramatically cut personnel from the DO receive the lowest
marks; Paseman argues that ?Turner?s cuts set our human intelligence networks
back for decades? and reports that ?Schlesinger forcibly fired and retired over
1,500 CIA employees,? precipitating a ?rock bottom? collapse of Agency morale.
James Woolsey, probably the most visible and politically active former DCI,
?was arguably one of the smartest DCIs ever,? and ?there probably has never
been a DCI who was loved as much as Bush was.? Paseman was also a fan of George
Tenet, writing, ?I believe history will judge George Tenet as one of the best
directors in CIA history.?
Paseman also provides a similar rundown of American presidents. He
praises the use of intelligence during Desert Storm, declaring, ?No president
has ever been served better by intelligence than President Bush was during the
war that followed,? but carefully points out that one lesson to be learned from
that conflict was that ?there are limits to what intelligence of all sorts can
do.? He criticizes the use of covert action by the Reagan administration,
mining Nicaraguan harbors and the Iran-Contra scandal, as well as the Nixon
administration?s bungled attempt to prevent Chilean Marxist Salvador Allende?s
election in 1970. His harshest criticism seems to be reserved for the Clinton
administration, whose ?attitude toward intelligence in its eight years? he sums
up in one word: ?neglect.?
Reviewer: Tristan Abbey
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