Review — The Spy Masters

Brad Hubbard
2 min readDec 27, 2021

I read Chris Whipple’s other book The Gatekeepers’ a few years ago and his latest one, ‘The Spy Masters’, falls into the same kind of ‘inside baseball’ for DC bureaucrats which is not to say that it isn’t interesting. In fact it’s incredibly interesting but you gotta be into wanting to know this kind of stuff. Fortunately for me I very much am.

Whipple is a good writer. He moves through things quickly but he also has several drawbacks. He does insert his opinion/perspective a little too much for me and it takes away from the book. Another drawback is that while he doesn’t tell a solid narrative he is able to connect the past to what is happening at the time and I do appreciate that because it gives some good context. It allows the reader a quick refresher and see that we really are making some mistakes again. For example, President Nixon was never a big fan of the CIA and had his administration try to get the CIA to do some of his dirty work (they refused) which is similar to the not to distant past where President Trump or President Bush’s administration was pushing the agency to find intelligence to go along with their narratives.

Whipple’s book covers the CIA from its inception until now. He even interviews the current CIA director if you pick up the paperback. One of those directors was Leon Panetta who was also in his last book as he served as Chief of Staff for President Clinton. Panetta had one of the better quotes in the book and it really does sum up the position of CIA Director pretty darn well:

“In the end, what you do has to be based on what your gut tells you is right. That’s really what it’s all about. You have to be true to yourself — and just hope that ultimately God agrees with you.” -pg. 251.

Panetta is clearly a favorite of Whipple’s and for good reason. He was great a political close combat, didn’t say things he didn’t mean and was just a good guy which is clearly hard to find in Washington.

‘The Spy Masters’ is a good read and gives the reader a good overview of the history of the CIA Directors role in American Foreign Policy and American history for that matter. You do have to take parts of it with a grain of salt but you’ll figure out where those are when you get to them. Overall it’s a good read.