Joel Rosenthal, president of the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, introduced this symposium on the book Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, Tim Weiner’s exposé on the mismanagement and failures of the Central Intelligence Agency.
William R. Keylor, a BU professor of international relations and history, then presented a summary of the key arguments in Weiner’s book, including charges that the CIA repeatedly failed in its mission to gather intelligence.
In response, former CIA agent Arthur S. Hulnick offered a counterargument in defense of the agency, saying Weiner’s book largely ignored the context of the information presented and played to the belief that writing about failures and scandals is the only way to get a story on page one.
And CIA Executive in Residence Joseph Wippl conceded the CIA has faults in both its organization and its historical activities, but he argued that similar critiques could be made of any large institution, including The New York Times, where Weiner is a Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter.
Elbridge A. Colby of the RAND Corporation discussed relevant issues in intelligence and policymaking. He argued that contrary to popular understanding, intelligence operations are limited in their abilities. He said national security strategies that depend heavily on intelligence are irresponsible, and he emphasized the inherently unpredictable nature of the international political scene.