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Cold War spying had much in common with the colonial era

Influenced by Kipling’s Kim, early CIA officers combined a love of overseas adventure with a whiff of imperial paranoia, says Hugh Wilford

29 June 2024

9:00 AM

29 June 2024

9:00 AM

The CIA: An Imperial History Hugh Wilford

John Murray, pp.368, 25

The CIA, this fascinating new history notes, is ‘possibly the most infamous organisation on the planet’. Its hidden hand is often presumed to be everywhere, pulling the strings. That’s pretty impressive, given that it only has, by most estimates, around 20,000 employees. (The exact number is, naturally, classified.) At the same time, it’s routinely portrayed as comically inept – a bunch of ‘clowns’ and ‘a refuge for Ivy League intellectuals’, as Richard Nixon put it.

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