The Bureaucrat Spy, Review of Robert M. Gates' From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996).
Chatting together, former Central Intelligence Agency officers, now old men but once pioneers who built CIA and ran it for the first twenty-five years, on occasion nod in agreement and say, "We had the best of it, my friends." The veteran CIA men recall the zestful years when CIA was the leader in pursuing a heady Cold War mission, when the organization was still unencumbered by a restrictive bureaucracy, when Congress exercised a benign and cooperative oversight, and when the American press was friendly and respectful in its dealings with the agency charged with anticipating foreign threats to the nation's security.
Robert M. Gates entered CIA toward the end of this halcyon period, and the history he recounts of the ensuing twenty-odd years is strewn with untidy crises and a mix of CIA successes and disasters, brilliant insights, and woeful miscalls. Gates describes these various episodes even-handedly and in great detail. Despite a reputation he is purported to have among some CIA colleagues as aggressive and confrontational, his tone throughout this account is equable, reasoned, and dispassionate.